Home Baked: My Mom, Marijuana, and the Stoning of San Francisco

Home Baked: My Mom, Marijuana, and the Stoning of San Francisco

By:  Alia Volz

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A blazingly funny, heartfelt memoir from the daughter of the larger-than-life woman who ran Sticky Fingers Brownies, an underground bakery that distributed thousands of marijuana brownies per month and helped provide medical marijuana to AIDS patients in San Francisco—for fans of Armistead Maupin and Patricia Lockwood

During the '70s in San Francisco, Alia's mother ran the underground Sticky Fingers Brownies, delivering upwards of 10,000 illegal marijuana edibles per month throughout the circus-like atmosphere of a city in the throes of major change. She exchanged psychic readings with Alia's future father, and thereafter had a partner in business and life.

Decades before cannabusiness went mainstream, when marijuana was as illicit as heroin, they ingeniously hid themselves in plain sight, parading through town—and through the scenes and upheavals of the day, from Gay Liberation to the tragedy of the Peoples Temple—in bright and elaborate outfits, the goods wrapped in hand-designed packaging and tucked into Alia's stroller. But the stars were not aligned forever and, after leaving the city and a shoulda-seen-it-coming divorce, Alia and her mom returned to San Francisco in the mid-80s, this time using Sticky Fingers' distribution channels to provide medical marijuana to friends and former customers now suffering the depredations of AIDS.

Exhilarating, laugh-out-loud funny, and heartbreaking, Home Baked celebrates an eccentric and remarkable extended family, taking us through love, loss, and finding home.

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  • Format: Hardcover

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780358006091

  • ISBN-10: 0358006090

  • Pages: 432

  • Price: $27.00

  • Publication Date: 04/20/2020

  • Carton Quantity: 12

Alia Volz

Alia Volz

ALIA VOLZ is the author of Home Baked: My Mom, Marijuana, and the Stoning of San Francisco, winner of the 2020 Golden Poppy Award for nonfiction from the California Independent Booksellers Alliance. Her work has appeared in The Best American Essays, The New York Times, Bon Appetit, Guernica, The Best Women's Travel Writing, and many other publications. She's received fellowships from MacDowell and Ucross. Her family story has been featured on Snap Judgment, Criminal and NPR's Fresh Air. She lives in San Francisco, CA.
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  • reviews

    Winner of the California Bookseller Association's Golden Poppy Award for Nonfiction 

    Finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award for Autobiography 

    One of Entertainment Weekly's "Books to Read in April" 

    One of Lambda Literary's "Most Anticipated LGBTQ Books of April 2020" 

    One of Reader's Digest's “Best Reads From the 2020 Quarantine Book Club” 

    One of She Reads' "Most Anticipated Memoirs of 2020" 

    One of Alma's "Favorite Books for Spring 2020" 

    Included on 7x7's "Spring Reading List: Books by Bay Area Authors" 


    “The subtitle, ‘My Mom, Marijuana, and the Stoning of San Francisco’ tells you much of what you need to know in terms of content. But as a portrait of a heroics, innovation, grit, and pot-baking in an epidemic (in this case, the AIDS crisis), it's also strikingly relevant. And beautifully written, too.” 

    Entertainment Weekly, “Books to Read in April”

    "A beautiful evocation of the Bay Area in the years before tech bros and big money changed the city...Like Stefan Zweig’s The World of Yesterday, this is a narrative about a time that is now gone: San Francisco as circus, where pot was both ubiquitous and as illegal as heroin. Under Volz’s careful attention, all of it—the era, the place, and her own parents—is rendered clear, bright, and beautiful." 

    Paris Review, Staff Pick 


    "An earnest yet comic memoir by the daughter of the owner of the Sticky Fingers bakery, purveyor of pot brownies and crusader for legalization." 

    New York Times, "New and Noteworthy Audiobooks"  


    "A raunchy and rollicking account of a vanished era told by someone who paid very close attention to her larger-than-life parents. I gobbled it up like an edible." 

    —Armistead Maupin 


    "I devoured this book! Sex, drugs, rock-n-roll, a savvy business woman, a social and medicinal revolution: What’s not to love? This is a story Alia Volz was born to tell." 

    —Rebecca Skloot, bestselling author of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks


    "[A] nostalgic, thoroughly entertaining new romp of a memoir...[An] intensely personal portrait of an unconventional childhood, as well as a rigorously reported account of a kaleidoscopic time in San Francisco history, an era of exuberant highs and pitch-black lows." 

    San Francisco Chronicle 


    "While a memoir, Home Baked is also an intensively researched book on San Francisco and the burgeoning cannabis culture surrounding Sticky Fingers Brownies, based on archival research and hundreds of hours of interviews with LGBT activists, cannabis advocates and, of course, Volz's parents. Home Baked also provides a timely contrast with both modern San Francisco and the blossoming cannabis industry, which can now offer safe and legal access to the drug, although significant reforms to the war on drugs have not materialized." 



    "Ample, skillfully researched, and cleanly narrated, Volz's debut is really five books in one . . . Alia in tow, Mer and her peers travel among San Francisco, Humboldt County and Marin, connecting an essentially agricultural project to an urban counterculture; they also weave together less and more responsible ways to raise a kid, almost as Volz herself weaves together her archives of the post-hippie-era Bay Area with her own vivid memories." 

    Literary Hub 


    "A coming-of-age memoir like no other." 

    Shelf Awareness, Starred Review


    “Proves sometimes truth is stranger than fiction…[This] heartwarming, sharply witty book details the author’s life as the daughter of an underground baker who mixed up thousands of brownies infused with medical marijuana for AIDS patients in mid-80s San Francisco. It’s a touching story of eccentric families and the unusual bonds that bring people together.” 

    Reader’s Digest, “The Best 14 Reads From the 2020 Quarantine Book Club”


    "Weaving together oral history, archival research, and her own personal memories, Volz uncovers the connections Sticky Fingers had to a wide range of historical events from the assassination of Harvey Milk to the Jonestown Massacre and the AIDS crisis. Through her examination of Sticky Fingers and the circles it operated in, Volz masterfully documents the history of San Francisco’s LGBTQ+ and artist community in the 1970s and ’80s." 

    Electric Literature


    "Volz has written a refreshing kind of family memoir — one that presents the messier truths of her family’s life without pushing to create martyrs and villains...Home Baked will envelope you in its warm, generous heart." 

    Chapter 16 


    "A spirited, rollicking ride full of the vibrant characters, neighborhoods and rebel 'outsider' sensibilities that make [San Francisco] so special...[Volz is] wise enough to understand that the city will always be magic." 

    San Francisco Chronicle, "San Francisco: the eternal book subject"


    "In Home Baked, Alia Volz manages not only to write about her parents with clear-eyed compassion and empathy, she also gives us a rich history of San Francisco in the 1970s and 1980s. As I read, her family and the city came alive for me: every person and street were vivid, complicated, tragic, and beautiful. I loved this engrossing, informative, funny, and heartbreaking book. Volz is a true talent." 

    —Edan Lepucki, bestselling author of Woman No. 17, California, and others


    "A hilarious, heartfelt, and unforgettable debut. I gobbled it up like a pan of fresh-baked brownies. Having come of age in the Bay Area when the Sticky Fingers operation was at its height, I devoured every last morsel of this evocative and occasionally heartbreaking tale, which is as much a deep dive into San Francisco’s weird and fast-evolving weed scene as it is about Volz’s unforgettable family. 'Eat it, baby!' was the bakery’s motto: for Alia’s wonderful book, I say 'Read it, baby!'" 

    —Julia Flynn Siler, bestselling author of The White Devil’s Daughters, The House of Mondavi and others 


    "Home Baked is a deeply touching, funny, wise, and magical book. By telling

  • excerpts
    Prologue: On the Barge

    When I was nine, my public elementary school participated in a program best known by the slogan, “D.A.R.E. to keep kids off drugs!” It was one of Nancy Reagan’s pet projects, a prong of her Just Say No campaign. One afternoon per week, the entire fourth grade crowded into the cafeteria, where a uniformed policeman lectured us about the perils of narcotics like marijuana. We learned techniques for deflecting peer pressure and identifying and avoiding dealers. And we broke into groups to playact situations. I was careful to follow the program’s script. 

          I knew how to keep a secret. 

          At home, there were giant black garbage bags of Mendocino shake crammed into the closet of our spare bedroom, along with pounds of fragrant, manicured buds sealed in gallon Ziplocs. My mom had operated Sticky Fingers Brownies—a massive, profoundly illegal marijuana-edibles business—since before I was born. Throughout my infancy, she and her partners distributed upward of ten thousand brownies per month; it was the first known business of its kind to operate at that scale in California. By the age of nine, I was helping my mom bake and individually wrap brownies on weekends. Sometimes I tagged along on deliveries after school. 

          We were the people the cop warned my class about. 

          By 1987, the year of my first D.A.R.E. lessons, AIDS was ravaging my hometown. People I loved as surrogate aunties and uncles were suffering gruesome, agonizing illnesses. Cannabis eased their Equal parts therapist’s couch, executive boardroom, and ladies’ lounge, the barge was a place for sharing and intimacy. It was also where my mom counted stacks of hundreds and fifties. 

          I can still see her enveloped in a miasma of pot smoke, blue-green-amber eyes gleaming with her latest anecdote or an old favorite. And then flopped over on her back, wheezing with laughter and slapping the covers. I remember how the barge trembled with a good punch line, and how steady it felt when you were down and needed reassurance. 

          There have been countless barges over the years—from mattresses so well-worn they were permanently imprinted with my mom’s shape to hotel beds that carried us for a night or two. Wherever my mom “gets horizontal” for a heart-to-heart talk with someone she loves, that’s the barge. It’s a state of mind as much as a place. 

          That’s where this book began. Sometime around 2007, I started taping my mom’s best stories on a handheld cassette recorder. At first, I was just archiving for myself. But as she unspooled the yarns of Sticky Fingers, I became curious about how her contribution to cannabis history fit into the broader legalization movement and the story of my hometown, even my country. I wanted to understand the historical moment and social pressures that created the secretive world I grew up in. And to know why she risked her freedom—and my safety—to blaze trails in this illegal industry during the drug war. 

          To find out, I barged with my godmother and then my dad, both of whom helped build the business. The conversations began with people close to my heart, but the circle soon widened exponentially; it’s the nature of drug dealing to radiate outward. The Sticky Fingers crew guided me to former customers, who brought their friends into the project. Some came to me, and others I had to hunt. Several people have passed away in the years since we talked, leaving me with staticky recordings of their memories. A hollow silence remains in place of the voices of our many friends lost long ago to AIDS. 

          Since beginning my recordings, I’ve conducted hundreds of hours of interviews with cannabis farmers, dealers, customers, activists, artists, business owners, city officials, and law enforcement—all of whom were somehow touched by this family-run pot-brownie business. I’ve sought to corroborate their memories with historical records, archival research, and contemporary news sources. All scenes and conversations are re-created with guidance from the original participants. Throughout, I’ve hoped to retain the sweetness of our early conversations. My “interviewing,” if I must call it that, is relaxed and informal, as close to barging as I can manage. 

          Before I could spell my own name, I understood that I came from an outlaw family. If I ever revealed what my parents did for a living, I knew that they could go to prison and I could become a ward of the state. Whenever adults asked, I said my folks were professional artists—a true statement, though incomplete. 

          As of this writing, California is among eleven states (plus D.C.) to authorize the recreational use of cannabis for adults. Thirty-five states permit varying degrees of medicinal use, and another two states allow controlled preparations of CBD. Only Idaho and Nebraska still practice total prohibition. Marijuana laws are shifting so quickly that the landscape will likely be different by the time this book is printed. This sea change began in my lifetime; it began in my hometown of San Francisco, among my mom’s close friends and associates; it began with a plague and the bravery and determination of those who fought for what their bodies needed. 

          The statute of limitations expired on my family’s crimes years ago. The federal government still classifies marijuana as a Schedule 1 narcotic—more tightly controlled than cocaine or pharmaceutical opioids—but no one is going to do time because of this story. I’m writing with the consent and collaboration of those involved. 

          I vividly remember my mom dissuading me from taking a “cola” bud the length of my forearm to kindergarten show-and-tell. Now, as I enter my forties, I’m eager to break the silence I grew up with. I can finally bring Mom’s home-baked brownies to share with the rest of class.

Available Resources

Related Categories

  • Format: Hardcover

  • ISBN-13/EAN: 9780358006091

  • ISBN-10: 0358006090

  • Pages: 432

  • Price: $27.00

  • Publication Date: 04/20/2020

  • Carton Quantity: 12

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