"Jackie Ishida's grandfather had a store in Watts where four boys were killed during the riots in 1965, a mystery she attempts to solve."
--New York Times Book Review, Ross MacDonald on "Where Noir Lives in the City of Angels"
"[A]n absolutely compelling story of family and racial tragedy. Revoyr's novel is honest in detailing southern California's brutal history, and honorable in showing how families survived with love and tenacity and dignity."
--Susan Straight, author of Highwire Moon
Southland brings us a fascinating story of race, love, murder and history, against the backdrop of an ever-changing Los Angeles. A young Japanese-American woman, Jackie Ishida, is in her last semester of law school when her grandfather, Frank Sakai, dies unexpectedly. While trying to fulfill a request from his will, Jackie discovers that four African-American boys were killed in the store Frank owned during the Watts Riots of 1965. Along with James Lanier, a cousin of one of the victims, Jackie tries to piece together the story of the boys' deaths. In the process, she unearths the long-held secrets of her family's history.
Southland depicts a young woman in the process of learning that her own history has bestowed upon her a deep obligation to be engaged in the larger world. And in Frank Sakai and his African-American friends, it presents characters who find significant common ground in their struggles, but who also engage each other across grounds--historical and cultural--that are still very much in dispute.
Moving in and out of the past--from the internment camps of World War II, to the barley fields of the Crenshaw District in the 1930s, to the streets of Watts in the 1960s, to the night spots and garment factories of the 1990s--Southland weaves a tale of Los Angeles in all of its faces and forms.
Nina Revoyr is the author of The Necessary Hunger ("Irresistible." --Time Magazine). She was born in Japan, raised in Tokyo and Los Angeles, and is of Japanese and Polish-American descent. She lives and works in Los Angeles.
"Revoyr's latest is just barely a crime novel, but uses enough of the angles and atmospherics of noir to count, with a story that's somewhere in between Sunset Boulevard and the darker regions of The Great Gatsby...Revoyr is a subtle observer of human foibles and social structures alike, and the result is one of the most insightful, and the most entertaining books of the year."
--CrimeReads, included as One of the Best Crime Books of 2019 (So Far)
"A Student of History is full of research, detail, lush descriptions, and visual place-setting. [Revoyr's] a fiction writer with an eye for reality set in a dream-like world, often in her home city of Los Angeles."
"Any Nina Revoyr novel is a cause for celebration, and her latest, A Student of History, is assured and marvelous, an absorbing rags among riches tale about a broke USC grad student who finds himself swept off his feet by Los Angeles's insular, powerful .01% class. It's a contemporary novel that feels like an instant classic, with the wry tragedy of The House of Mirth, the sinister glamour of Sunset Boulevard, and a fresh, original point of view."
"Nina Revyor's new novel, A Student of History, continues the tradition of the Los Angeles oil novel, but steers it in a new direction."
--Rain Taxi Review of Books
Rick Nagano is a graduate student in the history department at USC, struggling to make rent on his South Los Angeles apartment near the neighborhood where his family once lived. When he lands a job as a research assistant for the elderly Mrs. W--, the heir to an oil fortune, he sees it at first simply as a source of extra cash. But as he grows closer to the iconoclastic, charming, and feisty Mrs. W--, he gets drawn into a world of privilege and wealth far different from his racially mixed, blue-collar beginnings.
Putting aside his half-finished dissertation, Rick sets up office in Mrs. W--'s grand Bel Air mansion and begins to transcribe her journals--which document an old Los Angeles not described in his history books. He also accompanies Mrs. W-- to venues frequented by the descendants of the land and oil barons who built the city. One evening, at an event, he meets Fiona Morgan--the elegant scion of an old steel family--who takes an interest in his studies. Irresistibly drawn to Fiona, he agrees to help her with a project of questionable merit in the hopes he'll win her favor.
A Student of History explores both the beginnings of Los Angeles and the present-day dynamics of race and class. It offers a window into the usually hidden world of high society, and the influence of historic families on current events. Like Great Expectations and The Great Gatsby, it features, in Rick Nagano, a young man of modest means who is navigating a world where he doesn't belong.
"High school basketball player Nancy Takahiro's future is uncertain. She's courted by recruiters from various colleges, but isn't sure where she'll go once high school ends. But when her father moves in with the mother of her friend and basketball rival Raina Webber, Nancy's life gets a little more complicated."
--Bustle, included in "15 Sapphic Romances to Cozy Up With This Valentine's Day"
"Revoyr's The Necessary Hunger is absolutely pioneering: it may be the first work by an out, queer Asian American writer to be published out of a major press AND for that work to include a major queer Asian American lesbian courtship plot. The interracial dynamics and high school sporting plot all make for an engaging work, one well worthy of retaining in print forever!"
--Asian American Literature Fans
"[Revoyr's] characters are diverse and full of vulnerabilities, passion, and drive, and it is commendable to see a gay, Asian-American, female athlete as the protagonist...All in all, the story is worth reading to experience the racial tensions and teenage gay love and angst in a city that is growing restless."
--The Eclectic Review
Praise for the original edition of The Necessary Hunger:
"The Necessary Hunger is the kind of irresistible read you start on the subway at six p.m. on the way home from work and keep plowing through until you’ve turned the last page...It beats with the pulse of life...American writers dealing with race relations tend to focus on black-white or Asian-white situations; Revoyr has the imagination to depict racial issues in which whites are not the reference point."
"Quietly intimate, vigorously honest, and uniquely American...Tough and tender without a single false note."
"Revoyr triumphs in blending many complex issues, including urban poverty and violence, adolescent sexuality, and the vitality of basketball, without losing sight of her characters. She creates a family, in all senses of the word, of characters who are complex, admirable, and aggravating; readers will root for them on and off the court."
--Detroit Free Press
"A wholesome coming-of-age novel about two high school basketball stars, Revoyr's debut is a meditation on consuming passion and a reflection on lost opportunities...The basketball action, which builds climactically, honors the split-second timing and excitement of the game. Revoyr also evokes the feel of contemporary LA, capturing crackheads, gang-bangers, and car-jackings in sharp, street-smart dialogue."
The Necessary Hunger follows two basketball stars--Nancy Takahiro and Raina Webber--and several of their friends through their last year of high school. For some of them, their senior year will be full of glory, and the anticipation of college. For others, however, stranded in an inner-city Los Angeles neighborhood that promises little in the way of opportunity, it will mark not only the end of their time in school but also the end of their hope.
As Nancy and Raina both prepare to leave the urban neighborhood that has nurtured them, they find themselves looking toward a future that is no longer easily defined. The Necessary Hunger is about families, friendship, racial identity, and young people who are nearing adulthood in a dangerous and challenging world. It is about sports as a means of salvation, about the nature of competition, and ultimately about the various kinds of love.
Our reissue of The Necessary Hunger includes a new introduction by Lynell George, and a new afterword by Nina Revoyr.