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In the Country of Women

4.22  ·  Rating details ·  119 ratings  ·  32 reviews
In inland Southern California, near the desert and the Mexican border, Susan Straight, a white self-proclaimed book nerd, and Dwayne Sims, an African American basketball player, started dating in high school. After college, they married and drove to Amherst, Massachusetts, where Straight met her teacher and mentor, James Baldwin, who encouraged her to write. Once back in R ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published August 6th 2019 by Catapult
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Average rating 4.22  · 
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 ·  119 ratings  ·  32 reviews

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Last night I allowed each of my daughters to have a sleepover. It’s the first time I’ve had all three have a friend over at the same time, and the house was full of girls of assorted ages. All weekend I have girls in and out of the house, and I joke to my husband that our house is the Grand Central Station of the neighborhood. In light of our weekend open door policy, I find it appropriate that I chose to read a new memoir by gifted California novelist Susan Straight. She notes that the journeys ...more
Aug 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: california
Susan Straight is one of the best things ever to come out of California writing, author of nine remarkable novels including A Million Nightingales, Between Heaven and Here, The Gettin Place, and Highwire Moon, a finalist for the National Book Award. Most of them deal with her tough patch of emotional real estate, Riverside California, where she was born and continues to live, despite her prominence, her literary success, a full professorship in the UC Riverside English Department and frequent pu ...more
Feb 04, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fall-2019, 2019
In the Country of Women is a valuable social history and a personal narrative that reads like a love song to America and the nation's indomitable women, written by National Book Award finalist and Guggenheim Fellow Susan Straight.
Cherise Wolas
An extraordinary memoir about migration, forced and otherwise, about a place, Riverside, California, about race, black, white, and everything else, about the melting pot we each are individually, and as a clan, about family and families, about slavery, violence, love, poverty, the indomitable spirit of women, and so much more. It's an intense genealogy of the Sims and Straight families, and sometimes it's hard to keep the various people clear in one's mind, but it doesn't matter. I was born and ...more
Rachel Watkins
May 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Susan Straight's memoir traces the immigration and history of the women who came before her three daughters. A moving tribute to ancestors, IN THE COUNTRY OF WOMEN is a book about resilience and love that beautifully celebrates the American immigrant story. This book touched me deeply.
Vanessa Hua
Aug 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
One of my favorite books this year! This memoir captivated and astonished me, both in its scope, spanning generations, yet its intimacy, too, as Straight takes us through the sprawl of her family's history that reflects the richness and pain and love and violence these women and men have endured and survived. Its examination of race is timely and timeless and urgent. Though clear-eyed and unflinching, there is also hope, something that I've valued in Straight's fiction, how she finds beauty and ...more
Aug 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This was a wonderful read, at the intersection of so many things I love: sprawling multigenerational stories; history, especially women's history; mother and daughter stories; and stories with strong senses of place. Novelist Susan Straight, herself white, has three daughters by her African American ex-husband. This memoir is addressed to them—a woman empowering her daughters with their history, especially their female forebears' long, hard roads—odysseys—from places like the American South, the ...more
Diane Payne
May 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
To some degree, this is a love letter to the author's three daughters, a letter of their history, of their tributes, of their memories. Susan Straight writes an honest memoir of her own upbringing, her relationship with her husband and his family, and her discovery of self. She must have been upset with her ex-husband during the chapter she referred to him as her ex instead of by his first name, which was how he was addressed throughout the memoir. That felt a bit off kilter since we don't learn ...more
Csimplot Simplot
Jul 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Excellent book!!!
Holly Robinson
Aug 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Our contemporary literary canon overflows with memoirs written by women who have experienced and overcome adversity of all kinds. The very best of these stories are about something bigger than the authors themselves, throwing light on themes like prejudice, domestic violence, substance abuse, and religion. Susan Straight's dazzling memoir breaks that mold completely. Written as a love letter for her three mixed-race daughters, this book describes not only Straight's own life and her unique journ ...more
Kristen Mcknight
Aug 14, 2019 rated it really liked it
I vacillated between 3 and 4 stars with this book. The book got quite in depth with the genealogies of both her family (Swiss and Canadian) and her ex-husband's family (African American) and it was impossible for me to keep all the ancestors straight (so I quit trying).
The parts I found fascinating included the strength of the women (especially on her ex-husband's side), the radical differences between the two extended families, and the stories about the relationships between the author and her
Bobby  Title
Sep 26, 2019 rated it liked it
Recommended to Bobby by:
I found this a very interesting book, but feel it definitely was written for her family, not so much for the reading public. I am a genealogist and a reader, and I found myself having to push through not understanding who it was in the family being talked about. The myriad of folks were in and out of the stories way too much to keep track of. Consequently in the latter half of the book I just had to let the folks be interesting on the surface but I know I missed a lot by not remembering where an ...more
Sep 09, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Right now this book is one my lifetime top ten list. While it is Susan Straight's memoir, it is the story of six generations of women. It is also the story of six generations of American history. It is deeply personal, drawing more from her husband's family than her own. It's not an easy story, but one which gives me belief that love will conquer all, that people can be loving, accepting and inclusive. This book has changed me for the better.
S. Murphy
Sep 03, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I love the novels of Susan Straight, and when this memoir was released, I assumed I would devour it quickly. I didn't. The writing is so rich and pure, I found myself stopping often to re-read a sentence or a paragraph. I called friends to read them sections aloud. Sometimes, I stopped to reminisce; I spent my teen years in Riverside also. Sometimes I stopped to wipe tears away; my sons are biracial. We, too, had those painful but necessary conversations about when--not if--they would get pulled ...more
Oct 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Ah, what a very beautiful book.
It WAS slow, and, at times, easy to put down, I couldn’t really keep the relatives straight, and parts of this memoir felt repetitive, but its message of epic family, kinship, tradition, love, home, and strong women, along with the love of reading, story, and food results in my 5/5 star rating. Please do give the book a try when you have focused time to give it.

Susan Straight, a white author who has lived in Riverside, California for almost her whole l
This book should come with a WARNING: When you read this book, create a family tree with lots of space around each person's name to take notes.

I very much enjoyed and found coherent Straight's story when she wrote about her life with her husband and daughters, but found myself often confused and frustrated when she inserted information about her many relatives. I could only keep a few of them straight and wished, after a while, I had started taking notes on the first page.

Larry Siegel
Sep 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Susan Straight is a highly unusual woman who has lived an unusual life. She is a petite blond who married a tall African American basketball player from her high school. The two of them brought three girls into the world, each with her own beauty, and Susan, a compulsive storyteller, shares years of stories from both her extended families. Her Swiss mother's side is a modest group, still with its struggles and strengths. Her husband's family numbers in the hundreds, largely the progeny of a cadr ...more
Toby Neal
Sep 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Enjoyed this memoir by literary luminary Susan Straight as she writes about the generations of women whose blood combined to create her three biracial daughters in Riverside, California...A place people go to begin again. Many thought provoking moments in this carefully researched book spanning the whole United States. In a way, In the Country of Women: A Memoir is a universal one. We all came from somewhere, and ended up somewhere. Susan just cared enough to write that story for her family in a ...more
I'm in awe of Susan Straight's writing. I finished this book 2 days ago and still feel the power of the women who have shaped family, community and history in Straight's world. I'll come back and complete my thoughts here. But this one is pure gold. Thank you S Kay Murphy for recommending it -- your suggestions are always spot on.
Virginia Walter
Oct 14, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: adult-nonfiction
The novelist writes a memoir that is full of rich descriptions of growing up poor in a diverse working class neighborhood in Riverside County southeast of Los Angeles. She marries into a big, close-knit African American family and raises her own three daughters in that same place. This is a book about family, place, and the traditions that sustain us. I loved it.
Sep 23, 2019 rated it liked it
I really loved her stories of her family but I needed a family tree as there were so many names.

Great quotes from book
We are the result of the love of thousands.
Slavery, migration, borders, violence, poverty- clan will always reclaim humanity.
Biraderi something like clan entailing greater responsibility and connection. A untranslatable word from Pakistan

Aug 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Amazing story of an extended family.
All them women and how they survived for generations.
Author is a Swiss ;heritage white woman who married a black man in the U.S.
They have 3 girls.
So much love in this book, between these people.
All the family stories.
All the time spent braiding hair.
So much love.
Ann Pearlman
Sep 12, 2019 rated it really liked it
Memoir of a interracial American family and the love, food, exploration, that holds them together. It is a homage to the women in the family, (with lots of genealogy) with praise for the strength and grit of ancestors. Much tale of America needed now in the our divisive era.
Sep 27, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Incredibly beautiful writing with a unique perspective. Straight captures the melancholy and joy that come with family and community over time, all within the context of a tumultuous historical time period.
Linda Gaines
Sep 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Interesting memoir of Susan Straight's life in connection with ancestors. She especially writes about the families of her ex-husband and directs it to their three daughters. Life is hard for others in poverty but great things come from that with desire and determination.
Tina Miller
Aug 24, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Made me want to know much more about the times they all lived through because the characters were both so vivid and so connected to the present. I also wanted to know about James Baldwin.
Sep 20, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am awestruck by this stunning book. Overwhelmed with admiration and touched to my core.
Sep 17, 2019 rated it liked it
Huge fan of Straight's fiction. Found the number of names coupled with non-linear construction of story-telling here made it a more burdensome read that diminished the power of the women described
Sep 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
such an interesting memoir - such an interesting family. I couldn't stop reading.
Aug 18, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a beautiful, powerful memoir. I couldn't put it down.
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Susan Straight's newest novel is "Between Heaven and Here." It is the last in the Rio Seco Trilogy, which began with "A Million Nightingales" and "Take One Candle Light a Room." She has published eight novels, a novel for young readers and a children's book. She has also written essays and articles for numerous national publications, including The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, The Nation and