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Susan Straight, professor of creative writing at the University of California, Riverside, has won the Gold Medal for Fiction from the San Francisco-based Commonwealth Club for her fifth novel, "Highwire Moon."
A National Book Award finalist, "Highwire Moon" 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.
Other literary figures who have won California Book Awards since 1931 include John Steinbeck, William Saroyan, Wallace Stegner and Amy Tan. The gold medal comes with a $2,000 prize. Other gold medallists in this year's competition are Pulitzer Prize winner Alan Taylor for his non-fiction work "American Colonies" and the poet and Nobel Laureate Czeslaw Milosz for "New and Collected Poems 1931-2001."
Straight's other critically acclaimed fiction includes "Aquaboogie," "I Been in Sorrow's Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots," "The Gettin' Place," and "Blacker Than a Thousand Midnights." She has also written two children's books, "Bear E. Bear" and "The Hallway Light at Night." Straight sets all her novels in the fictional town of Rio Seco, California, a loose parallel to her hometown, Riverside. Among her awards are the prestigious Lannan Foundation Award in 1999 and a 1997 Guggenheim Fellowship.