‘Life in Malibu’ Captures the History and Wonder of Our 21 Miles

Suzanne Guldimann has lived in Malibu all her life and “grew up in a family of activists” dedicated to saving the town from over-development. Back in the day, she said, her father, in particular, worked hard to support the Coastal Act, create the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, push for Malibu cityhood and quash a large proposed boat marina at Paradise Cove “that would’ve turned Malibu into Marina del Rey.” 

All of this history, as well as her love for the environment and local Chumash heritage, not to mention the destructive power of wildfires and the presence of earthquake faults, culminated in writing a book about what she knows best—”Life in Malibu.”  

Guldimann describes the book as, “A love letter to Malibu—it’s the Malibu I grew up in and the one that I love, the one that people for generations now have felt so strongly about and fought so hard to protect. It was a project from the heart. I loved working on it and people are going to enjoy reading it.” 

The self-published paperback, available on Amazon, is 148 pages with rare photos, divided into 15 chapters of various topics about Malibu. It’s an intelligent and entertaining book filled with interesting, little-known facts and is well-researched—it even includes a chapter on the Woolsey Fire.

Guldimann said the idea for the book started when the Malibu Surfside News, the local paper where she wrote for years, was sold.

“I missed doing the long-form journalism I’d done for publisher Ann Soble—the essays and history pieces—so I started a blog called ‘The Malibu Post,’ which gave me the opportunity to do long-form pieces, and over the years I put together quite a lot of them,” she described. “And I thought it would be nice to put the history of Malibu in a more permanent, less ephemeral form, and started organizing it into a book in my head, but it took a while to get the gumption to do it.”

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“It grew as it began to be laid down on the page, and expanded out in every possible direction,” Guldimann laughed. 

“I wanted to include some Malibu history because right now there’s not much out there with a comprehensive overview of it, so I started with that, and I also wanted an overview of some of my favorite natural history things, like whales and how to identify marine organisms in tide pools,” she shared. “The book is a sampling of the real Malibu–there are no celebrities in here.” 

“There’s a lot about the battle to make Malibu a city, and the battles to save the Santa Monica Mountains and the coast,” she added. Guldimann’s activist father, the owner of a local jewelry store, passed away in 2017; another of her goals for the book was to document what he did.

“I saw a lot of the history of Malibu unfolding in our living room where they held meetings,” she said. “My father worked hard, along with a group of ordinary people, and they really accomplished a lot by working together and pushing back against some things that would’ve really changed this community.”

The book was due at the printers just as the Woolsey Fire burned through western Malibu, so Guldimann postponed the printing until she could write a chapter about the fire. 

“I feel strongly the fire has changed Malibu forever—the Malibu I wrote about in the book is not the same Malibu we’re living in now,” Guldimann observed. She had an opportunity to come through Malibu for a press event shortly after the fire, and was shocked. “It felt like Mordor (the dark, evil land in J. R. R. Tolkien’s “Lord of the Rings” series),” she said. “It was surreal.”

“I’m already thinking about a second book, because so much has changed and there are so many stories to tell that came out of the fire. You looked at a familiar landscape and felt lost because all of your landmarks were gone,” she continued. “We were blessed that our neighbors saved our house.” 

Guldimann is currently associate editor of the Messenger Mountain News in Topanga (relaunched in 2017) and a member of Malibu’s Parks & Recreation Commission.

A book signing with Suzanne Guldimann will be held Wednesday, April 24, from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the Red Ladder Gallery, 3832 Cross Creek Rd., Malibu, with lights snacks provided by Vintage Grocers and a Q&A by gallery owner Eamon Harrington beginning at 7 p.m. Books will be available for purchase for $34.95 by cash or check. 

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