Revoyr, Nina 1969-
REVOYR, Nina 1969-
Agent—c/o Author Mail, Akashic Books, P.O. Box 1456, New York, NY 10009.
Astraea Lesbian Writer's Fund winner, 1998; individual artist's grant, Constance Saltonstall Foundation, 1998; John M. and Emily B. Clark Distinguished Teaching Award, 1998.
The Necessary Hunger: A Novel, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1997.
Southland, Akashic Books (New York, NY), 2003.
Nina Revoyr's writing addresses issues of ethnicity and heritage, racial prejudice, and sexuality in America through a female perspective. Revoyr's multi-ethnic background as the daughter of a Japanese mother and caucasian, American father is often examined through the characters she creates. Her two novels both have as their heroines young Japanese-American women whose examinations of identity inform the plot. The Necessary Hunger, which she began as a graduate student at Cornell University, features a Japanese-American high school senior named Nancy Takahiro, who is struggling with decisions about her life as a lesbian star basketball player being courted by universities. In Southland, Revoyr's follow-up effort, protagonist Jackie Ishida examines her heritage and issues of racism and ethnicity in the Crenshaw neighborhood of Los Angeles while solving a mystery dating back several decades.
The Necessary Hunger was reviewed by Victoria A. Brownworth in Library Journal, who praised it as a "solid debut" and a "highly readable tale of two young women on the brink of adulthood, with all the promise and heartache that suggests." Brownworth noted, "Although issues abound in this novel, the real protagonist is basketball." While she thought the novel "too long" and pointed out that "touches of Revoyr's Ivy League education … [create] small but jarring inconsistencies in the language," Brownworth enjoyed the author's depiction of personal relationships, writing, "There's a nice consistency in the tightness and depth of these relationships; Revoyr evokes the camaraderie among women who play sports competitively." She concluded that "the novel is at its best when the girls are on the court, or discussing their mutual interests, or struggling with their impending choices."
Southland also met with several positive reviews. A contributor to Publishers Weekly reflected that while it is "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." Writing on Summit.net, Cornelia Reed observed, "Revoyr's contrast of the formerly glowing multi-ethnic community with the shattered present-day reality of The Crenshaw is particularly haunting, and the greatest strength of this fine novel is the author's ability to write evocatively, gracefully of place."
In an online interview with Tom Nolan in Bookselling This Week, Revoyr discussed Southland. "I didn't really conceive of it as a mystery, although I am glad people are embracing that aspect of it," she reflected. "What I was very intrigued by was … what were the dynamics of the Crenshaw district, and interracial relations, and economics in Los Angeles that could have caused the riots [of 1965] to happen in the first place." "The real revelation," she concludes, "has to do with some of the relationships between people in the past; that was always where I was trying to get to." She expressed that her setting both novels in Los Angeles neighborhoods was deliberate: "I do feel like I'm trying to stake out a Los Angeles in writing that I think isn't depicted enough. Often there's a sense that any story about Los Angeles has to involve Hollywood—or that there is no history of the city. And I actually do think we have a really fascinating history, but much of that is located in our neighborhoods, in our families."
Revoyr commented further on her motivations as an author in an interview with Raul Deznermio on the Akashic Books Web site. She addressed the question of why she often chose lesbian protagonists. "I think we're past the time when having a gay or lesbian character means the book has to be 'about' sexuality," she remarked. "I've been told in connection with both my novels that reading public 'wasn't ready' for a book that explored larger sociopolitical issues through a protagonist who's gay. But I don't think that's giving readers enough credit. Besides, if I, a gay writer, don't push those kinds of boundaries, who will?" Overall, she stated, her writing has been about people and their struggle to relate to one another. "Southland, like The Necessary Hunger, is the story of people trying to forge connections with each other despite all obstacles. It's been talked about as a meditation on race, as a mystery, as a historical novel, but ultimately this novel is a love story."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Booklist, April 1, 2003, Frank Sennett, review of Southland, p. 1378.
Kirkus Reviews, March 1, 2003, review of Southland, pp. 340-341.
Lambda Book Report, May, 1997, Victoria A. Brownworth, review of The Necessary Hunger, pp. 22-23.
Library Journal, April 15, 2003, Lisa Nussbaum, review of Southland, p. 126.
Publishers Weekly, January 13, 1997, review of The Necessary Hunger, p. 55; April 28, 2003, review of Southland, p. 50.
School Library Journal, December, 1997, Betsy Levine, review of The Necessary Hunger, p. 153.
Women's Review of Books, February, 1998, Joli Sandoz, review of The Necessary Hunger, pp. 6-7.
Akashic Books Web site,http://www.akashicbooks.com/ (February 11, 2004), interview with Revoyr.
Washington Post Online,http://www.washingtonpost.com/ (November 4, 2003), review of Southland.*