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Susan Straight's exquisite debut: A collection of short fiction about a hardscrabble town whose inhabitants try to reconcile their old ways with some disconcerting new ones These fourteen interconnected stories take place in Rio Seco, a fictional city in California based on the author's hometown of Riverside. With its fire-prone mountains, palm trees, and pig farms, the languid pace of life in Rio Seco has the distinct air of the South, and indeed many of the town's older residents hail from Mississippi. But despite a vibrant sense of community, both old and young are hemmed in by poverty and strife. Young people struggle to survive shootings, siblings are lost to cigarettes laced with embalming fluid, and older relatives are pushed out of their homes to make way for development. With exemplary compassion, Straight brings these characters' stories to searing life.
Glorette Picard is dead. Her body was found in the alley behind a taqueria, half-hidden by wild tobacco trees, but no one-not Sidney, who knew she worked that alley, not her son Victor who memorizes SAT words to avoid the guys selling rock out of dryers in the Launderland, not her uncle Enrique, who everyone knows will be the one to hunt down her killer-saw her die. As the close-knit residents of Rio Seco, California react to Glorette's murder, it becomes clear that her life and death are deeply entangled with the dark history of the city, and the untouchable beauty that, finally, killed her.Just as Faulkner spent years populating his fictional Yoknapatawpha County, Susan Straight has captivated readers with her rich portrait of Rio Seco in novels such as A Million Nightingales and Take One Candle Light a Room. Rio Seco is a town deep in the groves, heavy with the sweet tang of citrus and the smell from the old morgue; it's a place some will never leave. In Between Heaven and Here, the final novel in her Rio Seco trilogy, Susan Straight tells a story of unforgettable intimacy and intensity.
A young fireman battles to provide for his family--and struggles to avoid the traps of crime and poverty that surround himDarnell Tucker has more to think about than the average twenty-year-old. A resident of impoverished Rio Seco, California, he works part-time as the lone black member of the fire department, and is soon to be a father. Though he loves his job, cutbacks to the state budget force him to search for new work, and the low-paying positions he finds rival firefighting in their peril. On two of the jobs, he's mistaken for a criminal by the police; coming home from another, he's shot at by a gang. His path blocked by economics, institutionalized racism, and the very dangers of the place where he lives, how can he provide for his baby daughter, who has changed his life? Blacker Than a Thousand Midnights is a stark and thoroughly convincing portrait of life on the margins.
Sharron was five when her father gave her the Friskative Dog. And just like the best-loved toys fromThe Velveteen Rabbit,Sharron has made the Friskative Dog real through her love and devotion. Now Sharron is nine, and her father is missing, and the Friskative Dog is more necessary to her than ever. Her father walked out about a year ago and has been lost to her ever since. If he were a dog, he'd be able to find his way home, Sharron thinks. But people don't have the same homing instincts as dogs. And you can't train them to be true. The Friskative Dogis about a young girl coming to accept that families can take all different shapes and sizes, and learning to live with hope and patience. Susan Straight has written a spare, delicate story, rich in metaphor and meaning, and full of love.
With a new introduction by the authorFinalist for the National Book Award: The story of a young mother deported and separated from her child, and the pair's efforts to locate each other years laterHighwire Moon narrates the journeys of a young mother and daughter divided. Serafina is a Mexican-Indian scraping by in Southern California; detained by immigration officials, she tragically lacks the English to tell them that Elvia, her three-year-old, is resting in a nearby car. After her deportation, Serafina tries in vain to return to the States, while Elvia must survive several foster homes, later to be reclaimed by her father. By the time Elvia is fifteen, she's pregnant and surrounded by drugs. She decides to find her mother across the border--at the very same time that Serafina goes in search of her. Highwire Moon is gritty and affecting, a family saga that couldn't be of more relevance today.
Serafina is an illegal migrant worker living in California when the police catch her and send her back to Mexico-without her three-year old daughter. Twelve years later, with a pair of silver barrettes her only tangible memory of Elvia, Serafina begins a harrowing journey back across the border to find her daughter. At the same time Elvia, now fifteen and pregnant, resolves to track her mother down. They travel a landscape populated by desperately poor migrants moving from harvest to harvest, truckers living hand-to-mouth in seedy motels, and lost children in foster homes. But the memory of love inspires hope, and out of these women's losses-and their determination-Straight has crafted a deeply moving tale of the meaning of home and family.
A historic novel about a young woman forced to grow up quickly, and whose life--as well as those of her twin sons--changes with the current of the timesBeginning in the late 1950s, this novel tells the story of Marietta Cook, a tall girl growing up in Pine Gardens, a Gullah-speaking village in South Carolina. When Marietta's mother passes, she heads to Charleston in search of her uncle--only to find a lover and return pregnant with twins two years later. She raises her sons back home in the low country before moving the family to Charleston, where she takes a growing interest in football and the civil rights movement. The boys grow huge and talented at the game, playing pro football in California. A new world and new travails await, but Marietta's great resilience endures. This is the life of an extraordinary soul, and a novel with a beautifully vivid sense of place.
Haunting and beautifully written, this novel of 19th-century Louisiana is the tale of a slave girl's journey--emotional and physical-- from captivity to freedom.