Books by Susan Straight

IN THE COUNTRY OF WOMEN by Susan Straight
NONFICTION
Released: Aug. 6, 2019

"A radiant memoir imbued with palpable love."
A moving family saga celebrates generations of bold, brave, and determined women. Read full book review >
BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HERE by Susan Straight
Released: Sept. 12, 2012

"Straight (who is white but eschews the self-congratulating, cliché-laden condescension of books like The Help) employs glorious language and a riveting eye for detail to create a fully realized, totally believable world."
Set several years before the events of Straight's Take One Candle Light a Room (2010), the third installment of her trilogy concerns the reactions and memories that a prostitute's death stirs up in the tightknit black community in Rio Seco, Calif. Read full book review >
TAKE ONE CANDLE, LIGHT A ROOM by Susan Straight
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Oct. 12, 2010

"Deeply rooted in the African-American experience, yet filled with insights that resonate for anyone seeking to make a better life without disowning the past. Straight writes about the thorny subject of race with sensitivity and nuance."
From National Book Award finalist Straight (Highwire Moon, 2001, etc.), a searing, ultimately redemptive novel about America's legacy of racial violence and a woman's struggle to forge her own identity. Read full book review >
THE FRISKATIVE DOG by Susan Straight
ANIMALS
Released: March 13, 2007

Word-lover Sharron labeled her stuffed dog "friskative" when she was five, because, like its owner, it was both frisky and talkative. Now nine, she is more subdued and reflective. In her small apartment, Friskative has been her pet, helping her cope with the disappearance of her trucker father. When the dog vanishes, too, her patience in coping with loss also disappears. Thanks to helpful friends and adults, Sharron recovers both her dog, taken by bullying girls in her fourth-grade classroom, and her sense of self-worth. More psychological study than plot-driven story, the beautifully written narrative moves slowly to the crisis point, providing ample opportunity for character development and loving descriptive detail about the Southern California setting. In Sharron's multicultural classroom, the privileged bullies are stereotypically blonde and class distinctions are clear. The reminder that wealthier does not equal better is repeated, but the moral is not obtrusive. The friendship and family issues will resonate with those middle-grade readers more interested in emotion than action. (Fiction. 9-12)Read full book review >
HIGHWIRE MOON by Susan Straight
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: Aug. 8, 2001

"Strong physical detail and a carefully rendered cast mostly overcome long stretches of talky description and occasional slips into sentimentality."
Straight (I Been in Sorrow's Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots, 1992, etc.) paints a bleak yet not hopeless landscape as a young girl and her mother, separated by happenstance 12 years earlier, search for each other among the down-and-out of southern California. Read full book review >
THE GETTIN PLACE by Susan Straight
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: June 27, 1996

An ambitious and engrossing portrayal of a black family under siege in white America, by the accomplished young author of the short-story sequence Aquaboogie (1990) and the novel I Been in Sorrow's Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots (1992). The story is set, as are Straight's earlier books, in a racially divided California city: This time, it's (fictional) Rio Seco, where hardworking Hosea Thompson's relative security (he owns an auto salvage and repair business) is threatened when a burning car with two dead white women in it is found on his property and Hosea, protesting police accusations, is shot and wounded, then jailed. The story branches out quickly, and in several fruitful directions. Straight explores the reactions of Hosea's aggrieved and mystified family; his memories of the (historical) race riots of some 60 years earlier in Tulsa, Oklahoma, when his family was terrorized and his father killed; the enlistment of his youngest son Marcus (a high-school history teacher, whom his rough-edged older siblings nickname ``Sissyfly'') to help prove Hosea's innocence; and Marcus's own complicated memories of growing up knowing he wanted a different life, struggling to keep his distance from his family without succumbing to condescension. Straight stumbles only when detailing Marcus's attempts to jog his sullen students' consciences during Black History month; here, and only here, the novel briefly shrinks to the dimensions of a sociology lesson. Otherwise, its power to involve us in the lives of a sprawling clan whose members are all vividly differentiated remains undiminished over more than 400 pages. Nor should it be forgotten that Straight has contrived a fascinating mystery, whose credible and satisfying solution contains a stunning climactic irony. Both dramatic and melodramatic in the best possible senses: another impassioned and powerful performance by one of the best writers to have emerged in this decade. (Author tour) Read full book review >
I BEEN IN SORROW'S KITCHEN AND LICKED OUT ALL THE POTS by Susan Straight
FICTION & LITERATURE
Released: June 2, 1992

Straight (a story collection, Aquaboogie, 1990) here offers a first novel about a black woman and her two professional football- playing sons—in a debut notable especially for its evocation of place and its sure-handed use of patois. Marietta Cook, in 1959, is growing up in the low country of South Carolina, and Straight precisely textures the southern rural detail, ranging from shrimping and fishing in the swamp with a torn and mended net to gathering hanging moss. When Marietta's mother dies, she leaves Aint Sister (the patois includes syntactical and spelling variations as well as quirky naming—Tiny Momma, Baby Poppa, etc.) and goes to Charleston to look for her uncle. Instead, she finds Sinbad (one of those ``Here and gone people'') and eventually returns home pregnant with twin boys. Marietta works- -doing heavy wash, chopping with her hoe—and pays attention to the young civil rights movement on TV until Aint Sister dies, whereupon she returns to Charleston with her two football geniuses and works as a domestic. She learns about football as well as civil rights, and her boys finally get drafted by the Rams. The scene shifts to a black community in southern California as the boys, Calvin and Nate, try to make the cut. Marietta becomes a veritable earth- mother—while Nate shoots up steroids—and, though she's out of her element in dealing with microwaves, structured playtime, and financial consultants, she not only survives but prospers. By story's end, she'll feel at home, upbeat, and at relative peace with the world. A little contrived or sentimental in patches, but affectionately evoking the rhythms and contours of two particular places. An impressive first—from a writer to watch. Read full book review >