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UCR Professor Nominated For National Book Award

UCR Professor Nominated For National Book Award

(October 11, 2001)

Susan Straight, professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside, has been selected as a finalist for the National Book Award in fiction for her latest work “Highwire Moon.”

The novel, Straight’s fifth, has been well received by critics. It details the lives of Serafina, an undocumented a Mexican-Indian immigrant torn way from her American-born daughter, Elvia, during an immigration raid. “Highwire Moon” traces their struggle to reunite despite grinding poverty, backbreaking toil, the seamy Southern California subculture of methamphetamine addicts and the foster care system.

Straight is one of 20 finalists from the record 1,023 submissions offered this year to the National Book Foundation, the body that has issued the awards since 1950. Finalists will be considered for the awards in four categories: fiction, nonfiction, poetry and young people’s literature. The awards will be conferred at a Nov. 14 dinner in New York’s Marriott Marquis Hotel.

“Highwire Moon” took Straight 20 years to complete, mostly because she said she had yet to experience the bonds of motherhood – a central theme of the story – when she began writing her tale, which was inspired by a news account.

In the interim, Straight bore three daughters and wrote critically acclaimed fiction, including “Aquaboogie,” “I Been in Sorrow’s Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots,” “The Gettin’ Place,” and “Blacker Than a Thousand Midnights.”

Straight sets all her novels in the fictional town of Rio Seco, California, a loose parallel to her home town, Riverside, where she still lives. Among her awards are the prestigious Lannan Foundation Award in 1999 and a 1997 Guggenheim Fellowship.

The University of California, Riverside ( is a doctoral research university, a living laboratory for groundbreaking exploration of issues critical to Inland Southern California, the state and communities around the world. Reflecting California's diverse culture, UCR's enrollment has exceeded 21,000 students. The campus opened a medical school in 2013 and has reached the heart of the Coachella Valley by way of the UCR Palm Desert Center. The campus has an annual statewide economic impact of more than $1 billion.

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