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Southland Paperback – January 1, 2003


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 348 pages
  • Publisher: Akashic Books; First Edition edition (January 1, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1888451416
  • ISBN-13: 978-1888451412
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.3 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (28 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #23,162 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Revoyr (The Necessary Hunger) returns to the gritty, central Los Angeles of her debut with this compelling if overlong tale of a headstrong Japanese-American lesbian law student obsessed with discovering her family history and solving a murder mystery. Jackie Ishida, 25, is undone by the sudden death in 1994 of her loving, seemingly healthy Japanese grandfather, Frank Sakai. A veteran of World War II, he lived a philanthropic life and in the 1960s owned a small grocery in the racially integrated Crenshaw district he grew up in. When Jackie's aunt Lois finds a large shoebox with $38,000 in cash in Frank's closet, both women are perplexed, particularly since they also discover a mysterious beneficiary, Curtis Martindale, in a decades-old will. Lois dispatches Jackie to find Curtis. Enter strong, street-smart James Lanier, a cousin of Curtis's, who informs Jackie that Curtis is dead. An employee at Frank's store during the Watts riots in 1965, Curtis, along with three other black teenage boys, was found frozen to death in the store's freezer. This heinous crime was never reported (nor discussed within the Sakai family) and though white beat cop Nick Lawson was pegged as a prime suspect, the case was never solved and Frank closed the store permanently. As Jackie and James dig deeper into Curtis's past, their friendship (and awkward attraction to each other) takes its toll on Jackie's fading three-year relationship with girlfriend Laura. In chapters alternating past and present, clues are uncovered that romantically link Curtis's mother Alma to Frank. When a surprise suspect in the killings is fingered, it paves the way for a dark conclusion rooted in skepticism, injustice and racial intolerance. Somewhat overplotted but never lacking in vivid detail and authentic atmosphere, the novel cements Revoyr's reputation as one of the freshest young chroniclers of life in L.A.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

Spanning three generations, Revoyr's follow-up to The Necessary Hunger (1997) uses the murder of three boys during the 1965 Watts riot as the pivot point for a moving, sometimes harrowing exploration of race relations among black, Japanese, and white residents of L.A. When her grandfather dies in 1994, young Japanese American lawyer Jackie Ishida seeks to discover why her grandfather, Frank, had once planned to leave his Crenshaw grocery store to one of the murder victims, a black teen from the neighborhood. After enlisting the help of one of the young man's relatives, rock-solid community group worker James Lanier, Jackie embarks on a journey that will enable her to understand why she has fled so far from her Japanese roots she won't even consider dating a fellow Asian. Switching effortlessly from the mid-1990s to the 1960s, the 1940s, and back again, Revoyr peoples the landscape with compelling characters who are equally believable whether they're black, Japanese, male, female, gay, or straight. With prose that is beautiful, precise, but never pretentious, she brings to vivid life a painful, seldom-explored part of L.A.'s past that should not be forgotten. If Oprah still had her book club, this novel likely would be at the top of her selection list. Frank Sennett
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

More About the Author

Nina Revoyr is the author of four novels--The Necessary Hunger (1997), Southland (2003), The Age of Dreaming (2008), and Wingshooters (2011). Southland was a BookSense 76 pick, Edgar Award finalist, winner of the Lambda Literary Award, and a Los Angeles Times "Best Book" of 2003. The Age of Dreaming was a finalist for the 2008 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Wingshooters, Nina's new novel, is an IndieBound Indie Next selection and a Midwest Connections Pick for March, 2011. It is also one of Oprah: The O Magazine's "10 Titles to Pick Up Now" for March, 2011.

Nina was born in Tokyo and raised in Japan, Wisconsin, and Los Angeles, where she currently lives. She is an avid hiker, Green Bay Packers fan, Lakers fan, and lover of baseball (especially the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Really, that's their name.) She also loves dogs. A lot. When not writing or working, she is usually busy chasing around her English Springer Spaniel, Russell, or her Border Collie, Ariat.

Customer Reviews

4.1 out of 5 stars
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See all 28 customer reviews
It was well written, interesting, with good character development but a fairly predictable plot.
a reader
Nina Revoyr has written a wonderful, gripping novel about some very tough times in our country, and has done so with understanding, compassion and feeling.
George Polley
This book is a riveting story, and it deftly juggles the historical context and so achieves so much 'explanation' and 'history' in a naturalistic way.
saliero

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By lanewburn on May 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
Revoyr's Southland was one of those books that as soon as your eyes absorbed the final sentence, you felt a particular sorrow and a small shred of guilt for being voracious in your reading. For the time spent between it's covers, the reader is locked in the roller coaster ride of it's characters - the ebb and flow of emotions, the tiring yet exhilirating journey of self discovery and awareness of family. Racial tensions, family secrets, the sheer horror that could be trapped within the human soul - all made for the backdrop of this novel, and all manage to draw the reader further into the juxtaposition of Los Angeles in the sixties and early nineties. Each central figure becomes real and vivid, breathing and weaving his or her own story of sorrow and triumph, love and hardship. Each is familiar, and therefore the reader follows the untangling of the central intrigue of Southland with intense interest and concern. The L.A. painted within it's pages is painfully reproduced, harsh and yet with promises struggling to come to fruition. In sum total, at it's end, Southland emerges a beautiful story heralding the lives of it's beautiful and none-too-fictitious people.
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11 of 12 people found the following review helpful By saliero on June 21, 2003
Format: Paperback
I started reading this the day after I visited the Watts Towers in south central LA. As a rather nervous visitor to the area (not without reason - there was a drive by killing of an 11 year old outside a church the same day) I was absolutely glued to this book.
I love the LA noir genre of detective fiction. This is very different, and offers far more insight into WHY LA is as it is. It takes us to other parts of LA - the more middleclass areas of West LA (where I was staying), for example.
This book is a riveting story, and it deftly juggles the historical context and so achieves so much 'explanation' and 'history' in a naturalistic way.
It also, most importantly of all, offers hope (which, by contrast, noir fiction rarely does)
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By George Polley on December 26, 2006
Format: Paperback
My wife found a reference to this novel in one of her Japanese language newspapers and suggested that I buy and read it. Am I ever happy that I did! Nina Revoyr has written a wonderful, gripping novel about some very tough times in our country, and has done so with understanding, compassion and feeling. Readers who lived through the era following World War Two will recall the ugly racial tensions of the era with all its denial, and the firestorms that erupted in Watts and other places as a result. Those who didn't live through it will get a harsh dose of reality as the protagonist searches for the killer of four black young men during the Watts riots, and the unexpected outcome as she discovers who the killer was.

I like Nina Revoyr's writing, I do not at all understand those who brush it off with comments like "trite," "mediocre" and "unrealistic." Having lived through that particular period in our history, I found the book very realistic. I hope Nina Revoyr keeps writing so that I can enjoy more of what she does. I couldn't put this book down.

George Polley

Seattle
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By A. Kim on February 12, 2008
Format: Paperback
I agree with a prior reviewer- perhaps this book speaks most poignantly to those Angelinos who can know and feel the reality of Los Angeles depicted in its pages. I loved this book both for the natural beauty of LA which is sometimes lost in our daily lives - and way that it blended the Watts unrest through today to U.S. history of war and occupation. The characters are not cliche- they are very real and very familiar. As a 2nd gen Korean who grew up here the descriptions of JA characters as well as U.S. military in Korea and complicated Black/Asian relationships all resonated with me. As a community organizer working with low-income women of color and other immigrant workers - I found the same strange familiarity when "meeting" the social workers and non-profit folks in the story.

If you care about LA - you'll care about this story - more importantly, you'll see the truth in it.

As far as the first reviewer goes - it hardly mattered to the arc of the tale whether or not Jackie was queer or not - but it added a genuine personal dimension (without force or artifice) that I totally appreciated.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By K. Hopkins on November 25, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Perhaps this book is more pertinent towards a particular population of people. I am a Japanese-American who grew up in Southern California during the 60's, and this novel held a particular poignancy for me. Despite this, I found the book to be compelling and riveting. As the reader is taken through the multiple plot twists, a horrifying story emerges and the ending will leave you a different person. Love this book!
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Heather A. Hax on April 5, 2004
Format: Paperback
It's obvious to me that the person writing this review did not read the book well. The people who died in the freezer were four Black boys, not Japanese. Because this book is about race relations, this is an important distinction.
As far as the book itself, it's enjoyable...a page turner. There are parts that are a bit overdone or that drag, but overall the book was very well-written and researched.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rochelle L. Thurman on May 19, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I liked Southland because it took me back to California. The plot was good despite my bookclub review that it was too sad and had very little spots of happiness.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Mary Lynne Webb on March 29, 2013
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Lived in that area in the 60's while at Pepperdine. This book tells it well With compassion @ w/o prejudice! Good read!
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