1. Summary and Response.
A. Born in Riverside, California, Susan Straight became an award winning regional author. Straight came from a simple beginning, a diverse family and no friends who were writers. Straight wrote her first story at the age of sixteen and wrote sports articles in junior high. As a junior in high school, she began writing short stories again. Straight does like to travel, but enjoys returning home as well. Straight makes no error in advocating the use of writing workshops, so that writers have the opportunity to expand their talent. Straight has been published in various national publications, covered novels for young readers as well and even a children’s book. Straight has received several literary awards for her work and is now a Professor at the University of California. Her short story “Mines” was included in Best American Short Stories, 2003. The Golden Gopher, another of Straights short stories, received the 2008 Edgar Allan Poe Award. Straights last three novels are Highwire Moon (2001), A Million Nightingales (2006) and Take One Candle Light a Room (2010). Straight has many essays: “Reckless” (2007), “El Ojo de Agua” (2007) and “The Funk Festival at Los Angles Coliseum, Los Angles, May 26, 1979” to name a few. For her younger readers Susan authored Bear E. Bear (1995) and The Friskative Dog (2007).
B. “Mines” is a story about a mother who’s also a corrections officer, trying to keep
her children from becoming part of the uneducated youth prison culture.
Clarette is a strong, self-sacrificing woman. She has no personal life, due to her
distant husband; in essence, she is a single mother. Clarette has conflict with her
husband, who seems to be fine with their children growing up to be what society
expects. Clarette is trying as best she can to expand their options in their lives.
Her job at the Youth Authority takes a physical and emotional toll on her.
Because of the job’s nature, Clarette sees the delinquency of the youth, grasping why she should keep going and giving her children an alternative future. She sees the “wards,” as “fools.” Just as that they are misguided and immature. Her determination is proven after the fight at the Youth Authority, where she gets up and spits on the spot she was assaulted, returning to work. Nothing is easy for her, but she just won’t give up.
I sincerely enjoyed reading “Mines.” At first I just thought it was going to be
about her job, this was just fine with me. Even though her job does play into the story, it is not just about that. Straights descriptions of the scenery, characters, emotions and social influences were beautifully done. Even upon the first reading I indentified with Clarette, since I am also a single mother and did work for a while as a corrections officer myself. It made me recall all the wasted lives I encountered on a daily basis and that some of them acted like it was no big deal. Although these were grown men, it seems like it is now just something that is socially accepted. The short story was a very easy read for me and one that I read several times with no effort. I felt that she was a decent human being, caring, loving and rational. She, like most mothers, put her children before herself, giving up some of her life and that made her more human to me. I felt sorrow when she is injured in the fight at her job and pride when she spat on the cement before she goes back inside. I also felt satisfaction, when she opened the classifieds to look for the upright.
There are three main points that I would like to cover, in the interview that I
chose on Susan Straight. The title is simply, “Birnbaum v. Susan Straight.”...
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