Under the Perfect Sun

The San Diego Tourists Never See

An anti-tourist guide that debunks San Diego’s sunshine myth for locals and visitors alike

“Let’s just say there was a good liaison between city government and business.” —ex-mayor of San Diego Frank Curran, on the 1960s

For fourteen million tourists each year, San Diego is the fun place in the sun that never breaks your heart. But America’s eighth-largest city has a dark side. Behind Sea World, the zoo, the Gaslamp District, and the beaches of La Jolla hides a militarized metropolis, boasting the West Coast’s most stratified economy and a tumultuous history of municipal corruption, virulent antiunionism, political repression, and racial injustice. Though its boosters tirelessly propagate an image of a carefree beach town, the real San Diego shares dreams and nightmares with its violent twin, Tijuana.

This alternative civic history deconstructs the mythology of “America’s finest city.” Acclaimed urban theorist Mike Davis documents the secret history of the domineering elites who have turned a weak city government into a powerful machine for private wealth. Jim Miller tells the story from the other side: chronicling the history of protest in San Diego from the Wobblies to today’s “globalphobics.” Kelly Mayhew, meanwhile, presents the voice of paradise’s forgotten working people and new immigrants. The texts are vividly enhanced by Fred Lonidier’s photographs.


“Definitely not on the Approved Reading List of the Convention & Visitors Bureau. . . . A provocative, in-your-suntanned-face history of San Diego.”
San Diego Union-Tribune
“A left-leaning, fascinating history of San Diego that debunks the notion of America’s Finest City.”
San Diego Magazine

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Jim Miller, Kelly Mayhew

Goodreads Reviews