For decades, America has imagined California novels as placed in locations like Hollywood or San Francisco. But, as Susan Straight will discuss in her presentation, other geographies are as beautiful, tragic, and full of narratives set in remote canyons, inland citrus groves, ancient ranchos, and hidden deserts. Straight’s characters, who might be seventh generation Californian or people just arrived, live in the places she’s known forever, hidden kingdoms of love and redemption amid the sycamore trees. Audience Q&A and a reception will follow.
Straight is Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside, where she has taught since 1988. Her most recent novel Mecca (2022) was a finalist for The Kirkus Prize and named a best novel of the year by The Washington Post and NPR, as well as a Top Ten California Book by the New York Times, and it was the winner of the Southwest Book of the Year for Fiction.
Her memoir In the Country of Women (2020) was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence, was a Finalist for the Clara Johnson Prize for Women’s Literature, and named a best book of 2019 by NPR, Code Switch, Real Simple, and others.
She is also the author of the novels Aquaboogie (1990), I Been In Sorrow’s Kitchen and Licked Out All The Pots (1992), Blacker Than a Thousand Midnights (1994), The Gettin Place (1996), and Highwire Moon (2001), which was a finalist for the National Book Award and won the Commonwealth of California Gold Medal for Fiction. A Million Nightingales (2006) was a Finalist for the 2006 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Take One Candle Light a Room (2010) was named a best novel of 2010 by The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, and Kirkus. Her novel Between Heaven and Here (2012) was named a Best Book of 2012 by the Los Angeles Times and The Daily Beast. She has also published numerous essays, articles, and stories in magazines and journals. Her short story “The Golden Gopher” won the 2008 Edgar Award, and her short story “El Ojo De Agua” won a 2007 O. Henry Prize.
In 2021, Straight was named Woman of the Year for the 61st Assembly District by Assemblyman Jose Medina, for her thirty years of writing stories of African-American, Mexican-American, Asian-American, and immigrant life in southern California, and bringing little-known histories, especially of women, into American books, museums, magazines, and libraries. In 2014, Straight received the Kirsch Award for Lifetime Achievement from the Los Angeles Times Book Prize. In 2011, she received the Gina Berriault Award for Fiction from San Francisco State University. Straight received the Lannan Prize for Fiction in 2007 and a Guggenheim Fellowship for Fiction in 1998.
Sponsored by the IHC’s Imagining California series and the Diana and Simon Raab Writer-in-Residence Program