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3.94  ·  Rating details ·  922 ratings  ·  142 reviews
"[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-chang
Paperback, 350 pages
Published April 1st 2008 by Akashic Books (first published April 1st 2003)
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3.94  · 
Rating details
 ·  922 ratings  ·  142 reviews

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Taryn Pierson
Oct 27, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: poc-author
Nina Revoyr is a writer I really enjoy reading, and I wish her works were better known. It can be tough to find books that feature queer characters that go beyond coming out stories. Coming out stories certainly have their place, but it’s also important to me to read books about queer people living their lives and getting into interesting situations and, you know, being the people they are. In Southland, Revoyr has created a mystery/historical hybrid novel which explores complicated race relatio ...more
Jessica Woodbury
Jun 22, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars.
This is actually my third Nina Revoyr novel though it's her best known. It's an ambitious and impressive book taking on the kind of subject you'd think there were piles of novels written about when actually there are very few. I'd highly recommend reading this in conjunction with a few other novels that take on the racial shifts of Los Angeles, THE SELLOUT by Paul Beatty and YOUR HOUSE WILL PAY by Steph Cha. All very different, but all considering similar themes.

In 1994, Jackie finds h
Dec 01, 2018 rated it really liked it
Shelves: read-in-2018

This was pretty good - a bit draggy and pretty long for such a basic mystery aspect. But i really enjoyed all the different types of people were met, getting a lesbian japanese woman as a MC and the characters were quite interesting!
Lars Guthrie
Sep 06, 2009 rated it really liked it
Revoyr's writing is a little clunky and awkward, but she makes up for that with the story. She takes a murder in L.A. and uses it to make a novel crime novel. I hadn't been aware of the pre-WWII connection between Japanese-American and African-American communities. Remnants of that bond still exist today, Revoyr writes. She also shows the effect the war, and racial prejudice in general, had on Japanese-Americans. The internment camps were awful but Revoyr points out that that it's the cumulative ...more

I'm not good for keeping up with TV shows. Sometimes the roles of women characters will be completely subsumed by the het romance spiel, and I'll be like, eh. Sometimes producers will think the only way to promote character development of women will be to throw in noncanonical rape scenes, (here's a hint: I'll be rereading the GoT books before the next one's out, not watching the TV show) and I'll be like, nah. Sometimes shows will do something really predictable and thus really boring, lik
May 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars.

Nina Revoyr's Southland (2008) is an ambitious novel concerning a twenty something, sheltered Japanese American law student who discovers that her recently deceased grandfather left a large amount of money in his will behind to a man she and her family have never heard about. From there, you tag along with Jackie as she reconnects with her grandfather's old friends in a neighborhood in Los Angeles, where her amiable, kindly grandfather owned a store for many years that served an area m
Jan 06, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2009, fiction
When Jackie Ishida's grandfather dies, her aunt finds in his closet a box of cash from the sale of his old store, along with an old will leaving the money to someone they've never heard of. Jackie agrees to help find this guy, only to find out he died. Was murdered, in fact, along with three other boys, in her grandfather's store during the Watts riots in 1965. As she and James Lanier, a cousin of the boy, look into the murders, Jackie learns more than she expected to about her grandfather.[retu ...more
Jul 16, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: los-angeles
This book was very enjoyable, kind of uneven, and very, very sad. The way LA was written rang true to me, as did the disjointed way that Jackie tries to square her family's roots in the Crenshaw district, from which she has been immunized, with her privileged experience of the city. For me, Jackie's present-day point of view felt the weakest, in an MFA workshop kind of way. As in, it was hard to get lost in the prose and forget that I was reading someone's writing. Thinking about it more, the se ...more
Jul 01, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: novels
An huge measure of LA history is stuffed into this wonderful tale. The melting pot that was Los Angeles before World War II and during the Civil Rights era is rediscovered by the contemporary descendents of the early Black and Japanese inhabitants, and the reader is taken along for the ride. I especially enjoyed the book, having grown up in the Southland and my parents being the same age as the older characters at the center of the mystery. In addition to mystery, I loved the descriptions of the ...more
Several months back the World's Smallest Reading Group gained a third member who renamed it the Tiny Book Club. Because all three of us have come to California fairly recently, ie since the 1990s, we decided to read some fiction set in our adopted state. Southland was the perfect novel to begin our new project.

The story ranges from mid WWII, when Frank Sakai was sent with his family to the Japanese internment camp of Manzanar at the age of 15, up to 1994, the year Frank died. We learn Frank's s

I had pretty much forgotten about this book until walking through the public library today and spotting it out of the corner of my eye. I had to read it for some gen ed or something in college. I remember it being awfully convoluted and depressing, but as I flipped through it today and re-read a scene near the end, it came back to me. THIS IS THE BOOK WHERE PEOPLE DIE IN A RESTAURANT FREEZER. Being someone who works in a restaurant and occasionally has to pop into a freezer for one reason
Dec 08, 2007 rated it really liked it
A very engrossing mystery about a Japanese American woman trying to unearth the death of an African American boy. She learns family secrets in the process. Themes include race, class, sexuality. Some emotionally challenging moments - I cried while reading the passage about her family's experience in the internment camps.
A really interesting way to learn about the history of South Los Angeles! After reading this book, I realized that I do enjoy mysteries, but need good recommendations for more bo
Elaine Nguyen
Jun 29, 2019 rated it it was amazing
SPEECHLESS. this book had its flaws but it moved me way too profoundly for me to give it anything less than 5 stars. the world nina revoyr built for this novel is complex and rich and real and gorgeous and painful and I’m DEAD
Kristine Brancolini
Nov 13, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Southland is one of four books nominated to be my university's Common Book this coming fall. As a member of the selection committee, I'll be reading all four. This book is one of my top two favorites, so I read it first. A number of factors put it near the top of my list: It's set in Los Angeles; it deals with racial tension in the city, especially Japanese and black; and it revolves around the unreported and unsolved murders of four black teenage boys during Watts Riots. The riots took place in ...more
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Aug 01, 2010 rated it liked it
“[Grandpa:] why didn’t you ever tell me that you fought in the war?” “Because it didn’t make any difference.”—page 199

In the early 1960s there was a popular Japanese nightclub, The Kabuki, on Crenshaw Blvd. in the heart of the Crenshaw District; and I could never understand why this particular club was so far removed from downtown Los Angeles and Little Tokyo. Now, after reading Nina Revoyr’s novel, ‘Southland,’ I understand.

In some respects ‘Southland’ reads almost like two separate novels. I m
May 27, 2012 rated it liked it
I appreciate what the author is trying to do with this book--which is to bring to our attention the long and storied history between Japanese Americans and African Americans in early 20th century LA. It's a history that is relevant and should be told. That said, I found her writing sometimes difficult to digest. Character development felt a little too simplified, and I had trouble believing some of the thought processes of these characters. This book is more of a 3.5, but I didn't feel it warran ...more
Mar 03, 2009 rated it really liked it
i found this book incredibly moving when it went into both the history of LA and race, particularly internment and the 442nd. i nearly cried many, many times. so many books do both so badly that i really appreciate when they can be done in a natural way. however, this greatness might be a little overshadowed by the (i thought) horrible, horrible portrayal of sexuality and its intersection with race. also, the writing felt a little amateur at times (i usually like books with different points of v ...more
♥ Sarah
Feb 17, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
Required reading for a gender studies course.

This book read more like non-fiction, but was really confusing, as the narrative jumped back & forth in time. And there were too many characters introduced, which made things very confusing. I didn't really like Jackie, and I'm not sure the author intended for readers to like Jackie's character... However, I did appreciate the rich, cultural histories embedded in the streets of LA...
Jun 01, 2010 rated it liked it
A little slow initially but stick with this book. Many layers to this story dealing with two diverse communities who found common ground in their mistreatment by the majority over the course of sixty years. However, the common ground was ephemeral and it takes a shoebox to start a young woman inquiring into the past on a quest for justice. She discovers more than she bargained for about her family and herself.
Jul 01, 2013 rated it really liked it
I devoured this book. Revoyr weaves a compelling story from threads of history, identity, loss, and a bit of mystery. Her prose is straightforward, while the events and characters are subtle and complex. We get a portrait of a family, a neighborhood, an era, rendered with clarity and with love, even in the midst of the horrible and the tragic. Read it, and weep, as I did.
Apr 18, 2012 rated it really liked it
It's taken a little while to get into this, mostly because of the point of view switches, but I'm finding it well worth the journey. Once you get to know the characters more, the story is incredibly compelling and moving. With so many books dropping my (admittedly short) attention span, it's nice to sink into a novel and take my time with it. And Revoyr's writing is fantastic.
Jul 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
I recommend this novel for its sad, well written story of racial and cultural history in Los Angeles . I understand why it was selected as the 2015 common read book at LMU. I plan to read more books by this fine author.
Nov 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing
this really sold me on revoyr and akashic books. great stories of south central LA changing over the years and decades, and how we are all in this bloody mess together, no matter how much we deny it.
Jennifer Plante
Sep 20, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Even though I figured out the two key pieces of the puzzle with the first hints of foreshadowing, I still loved this book. It wasn't an amazing piece of literature and it didn't need to be. It was an enjoyable, light read about some dark topics (race relations being the primary focus).
Jul 05, 2017 rated it it was amazing

This is a book with a lot of layers, but absolutely necessary in telling the story that unfolds and takes over Jackie's (the main protagonist) life, which starts with a will. Southland is an unbelievably ambitious project that Revoyr took as her second novel, and I think it shows in some places where her writing may fall a little flat.

Revoyr brings out a history that may not be as well known of the grittier days of Los Angeles, particularly the build-up to the Watts Riots that took place in
Caroline Mao
Oct 23, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2018, lgbt, for-class


lots of good stuff but i really don't like revoyr's writing style & i just couldn't get over it. third person omniscient can be done well, but switching right from one paragraph to the other is not good unless you're trying some weird postmodern experimental prose. also, way too much tell at times, not enough show. like she's got some great ideas, interesting plot and concepts and characters and an interesting story to tell, she's just...not actually that good at writing, needs to ho
Destanye Baldwin
May 25, 2019 rated it really liked it
I think Southland was wonderfully written and had many levels to this story. So much to touch on interracial relationships between minorities, minority prejudices, prejudices with those in your own race, racial oppression and white supremacy, being a minority queer, etc. The list really does go on and on.

I think the story was so well written with so much background information that you really got to know each characters arc and how they affected the past, present, and future.

I loved the m
Sara G
May 17, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: on-my-kindle
Very impressed with this one. It's sort of a multi-generational story of the Crenshaw area in LA, focusing on its Japanese and black residents. Jackie, the main character, gets involved with the neighborhood's history after the death of her Japanese grandfather who had so many links with the old community. She's a law student, and was raised in the suburbs by parents who tried to keep her out of the "bad" neighborhood. (her part of the story takes place in 1994) In trying to discover something p ...more
Sep 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
So I feel like I had a different experience than most when it came to reading this book because it felt very personal. Not only did I cry reading this book, but there was lots of head shaking, gasps, and even a laugh here and there.

As someone who has heard stories of my families strife with racial tension in the tougher years (my great Grandmother actually told me stories of her friend going missing in grade school in the 1910's and 1920's in Mississippi), reading this book was very emotional. T
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Nina Revoyr was born in Japan to a Japanese mother and a white American father, and grew up in Tokyo, Wisconsin, and Los Angeles. She is the author of four novels. Her first book, The Necessary Hunger , was described by Time magazine as "the kind of irresistible read you start on the subway at 6 p.m. on the way home from work and keep plowing through until you've turned the last page at 3 a.m. in ...more
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