Spiritual belonging, home, love: What do people find in ‘Mecca?’

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“I feel very fiercely loyal and proud of all of us who live [in the Inland Empire] and have our own ways of seeing beauty,” author Susan Straight says of her Riverside home. Cover courtesy of Macmillan.

From Hollywood to the mountains to the desert, Southern California is the subject and setting of thousands of books. It’s a place of fascination for many, and as they say, contains multitudes.

Susan Straight has used her eight novels to tell the stories of Southern California, particularly those of the Inland Empire and the high desert. From her home in Riverside, she weaves tales of characters who don’t often receive the careful examination of novelists: migrants, farmworkers, people struggling on low income. 

Her latest novel, “Mecca,” touches on those same places and people. 

“​​When I got older, I realized that Mecca is a place of spiritual belonging. It's where you go to make your pilgrimage, but it also can be the place you've always wanted to be. The place, not necessarily of your dreams, but the place of your solace and your comfort,” Straight explains. “So what is it that keeps people home? What if home is your Mecca? And what if other people traveled to the Coachella Valley from Oaxaca, Mexico, and end up working in the fields but end up finding love? And Mecca is their Mecca? That's what I wanted to explore.”