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Summer Brenner

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Summer Brenner was raised in Georgia and drifted northeast to Boston, over the Atlantic, out west to New Mexico, and eventually to the Bay Area where she has been a long-time resident.

Currently, she works in Richmond, California, focusing on literacy and youth. She is author of a dozen books of poetry and fiction, including the noir thriller from PM, I-5, A Novel of Crime, Transport, and Sex; and short story collection, My Life in Clothes. Forthcoming from PM is Nearly Nowhere, first published in France by Gallimard's la serie noire.

Works for young people include Richmond Tales, Lost Secrets of the Iron Triangle, winner of 2010 Historic Preservation award from the City of Richmond; and recently from Reach & Teach/PM, IVY, Homeless in San Francisco, Silver Award Winner for the Children's Literary Classics Book Awards in the category of pre-teen fiction.





Ivy, Homless in San Francisco also was recently awarded the Bronze medal in the Moonbeam Children's Book Awards, in the category of pre-teen fiction.


Click here for an interview with Summer on KPFK or get the podcast of her interview with David Wilk on Writers Cast.

For more information, visit

Check out Summer Brenne, M. Dante, and Steven Jay Schwartz at The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, October 15th, 2015

Check out Summer Brenner talking about Jewish Noir on Mosaic November 15th, 2015

Purchase Link


Nearly Nowhere
Author: Summer Brenner
Publisher: PM Press/Switchblade
ISBN: 978-1-60486-306-2
Published August 2012
Format: Paperback
Size: 8 by 5.5
Page count: 200 Pages
Subjects: Fiction

With her teen daughter Ruby, Kate Ryan moved to the secluded village of Zamora to have a quiet life off the grid beside her poor neighbors, the Spanish farmers of northern New Mexico. When Kate invites the wrong drifter home, the delicate peace of her domain shatters. Troy is the bad smell that refuses to go away.

Finally, Kate bribes him into leaving with a few hundred dollars and a ride to Santa Fe. In town, Troy hustles his way into another woman's life and returns to Zamora to prove he's not the man Kate thinks he is. No? He's way worse. After Troy is shot and Ruby disappears, the village erupts with fear and confusion.

Like a Greek chorus, the Spanish farmers camp outside the Ryan house and offer their comments, both quixotic and profound, on mayhem, murder, invasion, conquest, and drought. Meanwhile, coming and going are the sheriff, the local doctor, Ruby's friend, his mother, and the clinic's nurse, each with a different theory on Troy's assailant, Ruby's kidnapping, and the discovery of an unidentified corpse. Steadfast throughout is Kate's love for her daughter and her willingness to risk everything to find her.

Brenner writes in prose as stark and beautiful as New Mexico's landscape where violence bursts in starts and fits like the summer monsoons. All the more terrifying for its understated brutality, Nearly Nowhere is filled with ominous surprises as it travels the back roads from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to Idaho’s Bitterroot Wilderness.


“With her beautifully wrought sentences and dialogue that bring characters alive, Summer Brenner weaves a gripping and dark tale of mysterious crime based in spiritually and naturally rich northern New Mexico and beyond.” —Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, author of Roots of Resistance: A History of Land Tenure in New Mexico

“Summer Brenner's Nearly Nowhere has the breathless momentum of the white-water river some of her characters must navigate en route from a isolated village in New Mexico to a neo-Nazi camp in Idaho. A flawed but loving single mother, a troubled teen girl, a good doctor with a secret, a murderous sociopath—this short novel packs enough into its pages to fight well above its weight class.” —Michael Harris, author of The Chieu Hoi Saloon

"It’s because the characters are so richly drawn, the writing so elegant, the rural Western landscape so exquisitely described, that you don’t realize at first what Brenner has done to you; how she’s loaded up the dory, strapped you in, and loosed you down this terrifying river. And, then, of course, it’s too late. Nearly Nowhere is a beautiful and chilling novel." —Benjamin Whitmer, author of Pike

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 Ivy, Homeless in San Francisco
Author: Summer Brenner
Illustrator: Brian Bowes
Publisher: PM Press / Reach And Teach
ISBN: 978-1-60486-317-8
Published June 2011
Format: Paperback
Size: 9 by 6
Page count: 176 Pages
Subjects: Fiction, Social Science (Ages 10 and up)


In this empathetic tale of hope, understanding, and the importance of family, readers face the difficult issue of poverty and the many hardships of being homeless through an inspiring young heroine named Ivy. Ivy is the story of a young girl who finds herself homeless on the streets of San Francisco when she and her father, Poppy, are evicted from his artist loft.

Struggling to survive day to day, Ivy and Poppy befriend a dog who takes them to the ramshackle home of quirky siblings Eugenia and Oscar Orr, marking the start of some amazing adventures. Blending a spoonful of Charles Dickens' Oliver Twist with a dash of Armistead Maupin's Tales of the City and a few pinches of the Adventures of Lassie, Ivy's tale will appeal to young readers as well as give adults material to discuss with children.


“Lolitas, Oliver Twists and Huckleberry Finns live on, and now, Ivy’s tale of hope lives right alongside them.” —Robin Clewly, San Francisco Chronicle

“A quirky, clever story about a young girl’s journey through the streets and homeless shelters of San Francisco… Ivy is fictional, but her circumstances are honest reflections of life for the many homeless children.” —San Jose Mercury News

"All the parts fit in so well that I almost forgot that I was reading a book. It was as if I was watching a movie and could hear their thoughts… I think this book is great for all ages. Ivy is both fun and moving."  —Anna Moss, age 12  Boston, MA

"Ivy was one of the best books I have ever read. I liked it because it taught an important lesson of faith and trust." —Rachel Hodge, age 13. Savannah, GA

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Upcoming Events

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The Latest News:

  • The Book Launch Party for “Ivy”
    Last week was the book launch party for my first published YA Book, Ivy: Homeless in San Francisco published by Reach and Teach, and PM Press. Read on for an excellent account by Artist and Illustrator Brian Bowes.
  • Bay Area Switchblade Launch
    Last night near downtown Berkeley, a small Victorian house was crowded with well-wishers for the launch of Switchblade Books and the publication of The Jook by Gary Phillips and I-5 by Summer Brenner. Usually, a sizeable party would spill onto the...
  • Behind I-5
    MARCH 2009 The seed for I-5 was planted by a local news story: the 1999 death of an East Indian teenager, asphyxiated in a Berkeley apartment by a leaky gas pipe. News of the tragedy was unveiled by two persistent high-school journalists, Meg Gree...


Radical Noir: 26 Activist Crime Novels: Revolutionaries, Agitators, and Organizers in Crime Fiction
Crime Reads
May 1st, 2018

This may be the strangest item on this list, given this short story collection’s…variable…subject matter. Part of PM Press’ hard-boiled and socially engaged Switchblade imprint, Send My Love and a Molotov Cocktail! (SMLAAMC!) contains a number of activist-oriented tales, including “Orange Alert,” by Summer Brenner, in which an act of civil disobedience is planned by a group of radical retirees, and “Murder…Then and Now,” by Penny Mickelbury, a tale of revenge against an FBI informant decades after a black revolutionary organization is torn apart by the spy in their midst. And then, there’s the wacky novella “Gold Diggers of 1977” by Michael Moorcock, wherein his staple character Cornelius and co. somehow come into conflict with the Sex Pistols’ manager, all set to a raging punk soundtrack.

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A Delightful Book with an Important Message about Homelessness
Children's Literary Classics
Monday July 4th, 2011

Ivy, Homeless in San Francisco, is a delightful book with an important message.  Following her mother's death, young Ivy and her father are evicted from their home in San Francisco.  Ivy does her best to keep her homelessness a secret to most of her friends at school; yet, her secret is not easily kept.  Ivy and her father, Poppy, encounter many wonderful and caring people as they struggle to survive.  But they also encounter many people who make inaccurate assumptions about them, often causing them great harm in their quest to rise from the desperation of their current situation.  Often witty, occasionally heart-wrenching, this book offers insight into the lives of those who must endure living in shelters and on the streets. 

Summer Brenner's account of a homeless girl and her father living on the streets is both revealing and heartwarming.

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You should be reading Summer Brenner
The Economist
December 13, 2010

Given the many virtues of this book, it is puzzling to see it released by a small (albeit reputable) publisher. It is something that fans of Nora Ephron would be elated to discover, if they were to discover it, and which all bookstores and libraries should stock. It shouldn't be long before Ms Brenner finally gets the attention she deserves. (Her previous novel, a slim noir volume about the sex trade in California called "I-5", was also brilliant.) But until then, readers are advised to scoop up her work wherever they can find it.

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Author Portfolio


Brenner, Summer. Dancers and the Dance. Minneapolis: Coffee House Press Books, 1990.

Brenner, Summer. Ivy: Tale of a Homeless Girl in SF. Berkeley: Creative Arts Book Company, 2000.

Brenner, Summer. My Life in Clothes. Pasadena: Red Hen Books, 2010.

Brenner, Summer. One Minute Movies. Berkeley: Thumbscrew Press, 1996.

Brenner, Summer. Presque nulle part. Paris: Gallimard, 1999.

Brenner, Summer. The Missing Lover. New York, Spuyten Duyvil (limited art edition with collages by Lewis Warsh), 2006.

Brenner, Summer. The Soft Room. The Figures, 1978.


Brenner, Summer. Everyone Came Dressed as Water. Atlanta: Grasshopper Press, 1973.

Brenner, Summer. From the Heart to the Center. The Figures, 1977.

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