In Southern California, Susan Straight, a self-proclaimed book nerd, and Dwayne Sims, an African American basketball player, started dating in high school. Straight―and eventually her three daughters―heard for decades the stories of Dwayne’s female ancestors. This is Straight's homage to the women of her husband's family and her own and their bravery.
Certain books give off the sense that you won’t want them to end, so splendid the writing, so lyrical the stories. Such is the case with Southern California novelist Susan Straight’s new memoir, In the Country of Women ... vibrant pages are filled with people of churned-together blood culled from scattered immigrants and native peoples, indomitable women and their babies ... Despite our tendency to gaze to the future, with her words, Straight gives us permission to remember what went before with passion and attachment ... [a] beautiful book.
There are dozens of ancestors in this well-researched book. At times, too many ... We sense that she wants to give all of them their due. But in the process, the reader senses that two of the most important figures in her life—her mother and father—remain mysteriously shadowed, only half complete ... Straight writes with aching tenderness ... From the Sims side of the family, Straight painstakingly researches Henry Ely, a Cherokee who loved two slave sisters in antebellum Tennessee ... In the end, Straight’s book is about far more than a country of women. It’s an ode to the entire multiracial, transnational tribe she claims as her own.
Rather than focusing on a central theme or two of her own life, the author of eight novels, two children's books, and multiple short stories and essays is far more generous. Yes, In the Country of Women is her story — but it is also a chronicle honoring the strength and resilience of six generations of women ... overflows with love ... The warmth from these gatherings almost lifts off the page and invites the reader to pull up a chair ... While Straight reflects on far more than her own upbringing and experiences growing up, she brings her trademark lyricism and a significant dose of humility to those segments of the book.