Straight White Male

Publication Date: 


Winner of: Western States Book Award for 2001
and was named runner-up for Book of the Year by Foreword magazine

California writer Gerald Haslam has won wide acclaim as the voice of the Central Valley's working class, its Okies and oil-field roughnecks. Now, in this poignant new novel, he explores the lives of the children of those workers, men and women who have achieved middle-class status and comfort in the state's fluid economy but who are never far from their humble roots.

        Leroy Upton, the "straight white male" who is the novel's central character, has come a long way from the sun-baked working-class neighborhood in Bakersfield where he grew up. The son of an oil-field laborer, Leroy is now a professor at a small college in Northern California. He is happily married, has three much-loved children, and close friends who share his memories and success.

        But life is about to deliver a series of challenges that overturn Leroy's hard-won serenity and threaten to destroy his marriage and his family. Leroy's father, Earl, once so wise and invincible, is descending into the empty depths of senility, while his mentally ill mother struggles with her own health problems. The marriage of a high-school friend ends tragically. And Leroy wrestles with his own bitter secret -- his fierce resentment of his beloved wife's troubled past and of the other men who knew her before he married her.

        Straight White Male is a moving and powerful account of middle age and the heart-wrenching complexities of family life. As Leroy struggles to satisfy the needs of three generations of his family, his friends, and ultimately his own angry heart, he has to learn what it means to be a son -- and finally the true nature of love and forgiveness. Rich in vivid characters and "right on" descriptions of the vagaries of the human condition, this is an unforgettable novel, modern California seen through the eyes of one of the state's finest and most compassionate writers.

Reviewer's Comments

"What a pleasure to read this engaging novel; a story of real people facing real problems in a real America. At the same time, this novel is enlivened by the ability of Gerald Haslam to make ordinary life and daily issues be the stuff of imaginative literature. Straight White Male brings the American novel back to where it belongs: to the big, yet every- day, issues that face all of us."
     — Kevin Starr , State Librarian of California

"...a very funny and poignant account of three generations in a California family that is as familiar as our own next-door neighbors, and as strange as any folks we might ever meet in real life. ... The saga of his beloved nuclear family ought to be inspiring to anyone with ailing parents and wayward children. Straight White Male will make you laugh so hard you'll want to cry."
     — Jonah Raskin, Professor, Sonoma State University and book reviewer, Santa Rosa Press Democrat

"This superb novel confirms Gerald Haslam's standing as the most important writer to emerge from California's Central Valley (his Other California) since Steinbeck. Straight White Male is indeed the straight story of the enduring value of married love, family, friends, community, hard work, maturity, forgiveness, and basic human decency. This book makes one suspect it just may be okay again to be a man."
     — Gerald Locklin, Come Back, Bear and Last Tango in Long Beach

"Gerald Haslam writes wonderfully about the California that few of us know, the farm- lands and oilfields of the Central Valley, and the children of the 'Okies` who grew up there. His characters may grow up and move away, but they`ve been formed by the Valley and never really leave it in spirit. Straight White Male is a vivid record of a time and place, but Haslam also recognizes that if they're to survive, both people and places must change."
     — Cyra McFadden author of The Serial

"Haslam sets out on a dangerous safari in pursuit of the unadorned truth of a human life and he doggedly follows this difficult trail until it finally takes him to a place of tender forgiveness, lit by the hint of transcendent light. A tough, courageous novel."
     — Gerald Rosen, author of Growing Up Bronx


Straight White Male was published in 2000, and is available from the University of Nevada Press [Click Here!].