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CCSS 2024 Speakers

Exhibit Hall

Narrating Histories and Uncovering Memories: A Conversation with Viet Thanh Nguyen and Susan Straight

Saturday, March 9
9:00 AM  - 10:00 AM



Viet Thanh Nguyen and Susan Straight will discuss the importance of historical fiction and nonfiction to share untold stories with readers of all ages. These award-winning authors will share about their craft and their stories to amplify the historical voices in their texts. Both have written exemplary memoirs, historical fiction, and non-fiction texts about a range of topics including the effects of colonialism, gender stereotypes, and racism. By questioning the influence of historical memory, these authors carefully consider how historical voices are represented in the texts we ask students to read.



Susan Straight’s most recent novel Mecca, was published March 2022 by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, and released in paperback March 2023. Mecca was a national bestseller, 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 winner of the Southwest Book of the Year for Fiction.


Her memoir In the Country of Women: A Memoir (Catapult Books, paperback edition September 2020), was longlisted for the Carnegie Medal for Excellence, as well as a Finalist for the Clara Johnson Prize for Women’s Literature, named a best book of 2019 by NPR, Code Switch, Real Simple, and others. It was a Barnes & Noble September National Choice for Memoir. The book has gone into four printings.


She has published eight previous novels: Aquaboogie (Milkweed Editions, 1990, 2006, fourth printing; Open Road Media, 2013; Counterpoint Books, 2020); I Been In Sorrow’s Kitchen and Licked Out All The Pots (Hyperion, 1992; Anchor, 1993; Open Road Media, 2013; Counterpoint Books, 2020), named one of the best novels of 1992 by both USA Today and Publisher’s Weekly, as well as named a Notable Book by the New York Times, is in its 14th printing; Blacker Than a Thousand Midnights (Hyperion, 1994, Anchor paperback 1995; Open Road Media, 2013; Counterpoint Books, 2020); The Gettin Place (Hyperion 1996, Anchor paperback 1997; Counterpoint Books, 2020); Highwire Moon (Houghton Mifflin, 2001; Anchor, 2002; Open Road Media, 2013, Counterpoint Books, 2019), which was a finalist for the National Book Award and won the Commonwealth of California Gold Medal for Fiction. Highwire Moon was a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller and Los Angeles Times bestseller, and was named one of the year’s best novels by The San Francisco Chronicle and The Washington Post. It is taught in college and high school classrooms around the nation. A Million Nightingales (Pantheon Books, 2006, two printings; Anchor Books, 2007) was a San Francisco Chronicle bestseller. It was a Finalist for the 2006 Los Angeles Times Book Prize and published in a new Spanish translation in 2014. Take One Candle Light a Room (Pantheon, 2010; Anchor, 2011) was named a best novel of 2010 by the Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and Kirkus. Her novel Between Heaven and Here (McSweeney’s, 2012) was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, and named a Best Book of 2012 by The Los Angeles Times and The Daily Beast.


Her middle grade reader, The Friskative Dog, was published by Knopf in21 2007. Her picture book Bear E. Bear was published in 1995 by Hyperion Books.


In 2021, she 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, 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. In 2007, Straight received The Lannan Prize for Fiction, for her body of work. In 1998, she received a Guggenheim Fellowship for Fiction.


She has published hundreds of essays and articles in numerous magazines and journals, including The New Yorker, The New York Times, O Magazine, Salon, Harpers, Reader’s Digest, The Believer, Orion, and The Sun.


Her fiction has appeared in Granta, Alta, Ploughshares, Zoetrope All-Story, McSweeney’s, Black Clock, TriQuarterly, and The Ontario Review, among other magazines. Her short story “The Golden Gopher,” published in Los Angeles Noir, won the 2008 Edgar Award. Her short story “El Ojo De Agua” won a 2007 O Henry Prize, and was a finalist for a National Magazine Award in 2007.


Her novels and stories have been translated into French, Italian, German, Polish, Arabic, Russian, Turkish, Japanese, and Spanish.


She was born in Riverside, California in 1960, and still lives there with her family. She is Distinguished Professor of Creative Writing at the University of California, Riverside, where she has taught since 1988.

Susan image.jpeg
Susan Straight

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