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The Gettin Place Paperback – July 14, 1997

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Editorial Reviews Review

Susan Straight's third novel begins with remembered violence, as 76-year-old Hosea Thompson awakes from a dream of the Oklahoma riots in which whites destroyed black Tulsa, and his father was killed. But now, in the present, violence still stalks Hosea. Two white women are burned in a car on his property in Rio Seco, Calif., and the police accuse Hosea and his sons. Straight tells the story of the Thompson family's fight to prove their innocence and hold onto their land in taut, compelling prose that is absolutely faithful to the black experience. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

Straight's third novel is a continuation of her impassioned chronicling of the tough, embattled, hardscrabble life faced by many black Americans. As with Darker than a Thousand Midnights and I Been in Sorrow's Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots, the principal setting is Rio Seco, a fictional California city outside of L.A. The "gettin place" of the title is a parcel of land along an old canal where the extended Thompson clan has its adobe homes and the family businesses-a garage and towing yard, a rib joint and a small olive orchard. When the bodies of two white women are found burned in a dilapidated car in the lot, and when the body of a man dressed in drag is discovered nearby, the Thompsons become the focus of law enforcement attentions while the video of the Rodney King beating plays incessantly on TV. Marcus Thompson, the youngest of eight boys of Hosea and Alma Thompson, has apparently escaped the clutches of Rio Seco life: he teaches history, works out in a fitness club, prefers sushi to chitlins and counts many "sherberts" (white yuppies) among his friends. But Marcus is drawn by his family loyalties into an armed defense against the powers that be-not only cops but also politicians and land developers. As usual, Straight paints a remarkably detailed picture of the moral, economic and historical web in which black families can be caught, and the way in which fear and honor contend in men's souls. Although The Gettin Place does suffer from a surplus of characters and plot twists as Straight attempts to reveal a land-grab conspiracy, her imagined Rio Seco is surely among the richest soils worked by an American novelist today. Author tour.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Anchor; Reprint edition (July 14, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385486596
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385486590
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.1 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,222,002 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Susan Straight was born in Riverside, California, where she still lives with her three daughters, nephew, extended family of over 200, and chickens. She has published seven novels - Aquaboogie (1990), I Been in Sorrow's Kitchen and Licked Out All the Pots (1992), Blacker Than a Thousand Midnights (1994), The Gettin Place (1996), Highwire Moon (2001), A Million Nightingales (2006), and her latest, Take One Candle Light A Room (2010). Her short stories have been published in Zoetrope All-Story, McSweeneys, The Sun, Oxford American, O Henry Prize Stories, Best American Short Stories, and other places. Her story "The Golden Gopher," published in Los Angeles Noir, won the Edgar Award in 2007. Her essays have appeared in The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, Harpers, The Believer, Reader's Digest, Family Circle and other magazines.

Her website is, featuring An American Family, with ties to ancestors from Switzerland, Africa, Canada, Oklahoma, Colorado, and California.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 19, 1998
Format: Paperback
Straight give us an utterly new set of insights into the racial dynamics of Southern California. Her characters are brave, complicated, and we care deeply for them. Moreover, she gives readers an unprecedented understanding of the deadly and yet not uncreative and sometimes brilliant workings of gang-banging in African American communities. This complex story of multiple subjectivities is rendered with a style whose beauty is so fierce, it will make you weep.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By on January 15, 1998
Format: Hardcover
This is Susan Straight's best work so far. It is a crime/mystery story, a richly populated family drama, and a revelation of contemporary social ills and their deep roots in history. It educates the reader without being pedantic, through the diverse voices who tell tales that are not available anywhere else in print. No clear solutions are given for the racial and economic tensions explored in the book, since the "One World" philosophy promoted by a few characters appears to be little more than a slogan and consumer lifestyle favoring exoticism. The depth of the characters' self-exploration, the richness of their histories, and their intimate connection to the land are what prevent the reader from falling into utter despair and vacant horror over the many atrocities in the novel. This book has left me wondering about many issues, including: why do I never hear or see anything about this author? (I discovered her first novel by chance in the library and have been a fan ever since). Miscellaneous observation: this book contains the word "whorl" more times than any book I've read.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By Mary E. Sibley VINE VOICE on July 10, 2003
Format: Hardcover
The book is magnificent. The plot weaves in and out highlighting issues of supreme importance. Hosea and Oscar Thompson are shadow men. Maybe they killed in the past, Hosea a guard, Oscar a man who bothered his wife. Hosea has an auto yard and towing service and Oscar a barbecue joint in Treetown on the edge of Rio Seco, a seemingly fictitious city east of Los Angeles. The novel includes a sort of coming of age tale of Hosea's youngest son, Marcus, even though Marcus is thirty already. Marcus teaches history at the local high school. Unlike his brothers who work in the car yard and attended the neighborhood school before it was closed when district lines were abolished to achieve integration, he attended college, at least in spurts. Hosea's wife cares for three grandchildren. There is a fire in the yard and two dead white women are discovered in an immovable car on the premises, notwithstanding the fact that the gate was locked. Hosea is shot because he fails to drop his own rifle quickly enough to suit the police, and he is held in the hospital in the jail ward. As the strands of the story develop it becomes apparent that the family is the focus of actions to remove them from their land in the name of progress and aesthetics, aesthetics that is from a white perspective. The circumstances are particularly poignant since Hosea and Oscar moved from Greenwood driven out by the riot and fire in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921. Thank you Susan Straight. What a joy it is to read your book.
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