Straight reads “Highwire Moon”

Award-winning novelist Susan Straight, invited by the department of English, traveled to Southeastern to read excerpts from her National Book Award finalist novel  “Highwire Moon.”  The reading took place on Wednesday, Oct. 26 in the War Memorial Student Union Theater.

“What you need to know about me, before I start reading, is that I look like an ordinary blonde mom and I kind of am,” said Straight. “But there is another part to me. I live three blocks from where I was born. I can see the hospital out of my back window.”

According to Straight, she began writing “Highwire Moon” when she was 19 years old and that her experiences during that part of her life helped shape her as a writer of fiction.

“Part of what it means to be a fiction writer for me is that I grew up in a place that’s really poor, and I still live in exactly the same place,” said Straight. “And I still see a lot of my friends. But the scary part is that the character Larry, in this book, is based on my brother.”

“Highwire Moon” is the story of two generations of women: Serafina, a Mexican-Indian girl who illegally immigrates to California and her daughter, Elvia, who is separated from her mother when Serafina is discovered and deported. The events of the novel depict their struggle to maintain their dignity within the world of migrant farm labor and everyday life in the United States as immigrants.

After reading multiple excerpts of “Highwire Moon,” Straight opened the floor to questions, but also touched on her time spent studying under esteemed author James Baldwin.

“I was so lucky to work with James Baldwin. He really transformed my writing,” said Straight.

Students also asked Straight if there was a consistent theme to her work.

“I guess it’s funny because in this book the daughter sort of passed for somebody else,” said Straight, “She’s a traveler and she’s never at home. The mom gets really mad because she’s not at home. There are two kinds of people in the world. There are people who stay home and there are people who leave. That’s it.”

Following the presentation, students left the theatre with a different view of both “Highwire Moon” and Straight.

“I enjoyed hearing Straight’s thought process while writing the book,” said Helen Jewell, freshman photography major. “She definitely leads an interesting life and it shows through in the books she writes.”