Nina Revoyr's Los Angeles

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 loggernaut Nina Revoyr describes her novels as love letters to Los Angeles. In The Necessary Hunger (1997), set in Inglewood, a Japanese American high school basketball player struggles to come to terms with leaving not only her first love but also the city itself. Southland (2003) interweaves the stories of three generations of a Japanese American family and an African American family, in the process uncovering the multiracial history of South Los Angeles. Revoyr's L.A. is complex and joyous, unafraid to confront its dark realities, but ever hopeful. Its multifaceted vibrancy provides a defiant counterpoint to the alienated, dystopic Los Angeles so often represented in popular fiction, much of which has been written by Anglo male transplants from the East.

Revoyr, who is of Japanese and Polish-American descent, was born in Japan and raised in Wisconsin and Los Angeles. Southland won a 2003 Lambda Literary Award and was selected as a Los Angeles Times Best Book of 2003, among other honors. Revoyr is also currently Vice President of Development and External Relations at Children's Institute, Inc., a service organization in Los Angeles for children and families affected by violence. We met on a sunny Friday morning in Crenshaw, at the former site of the Holiday Bowl. -Wendy Cheng

Crenshaw Boulevard, Los Angeles

Loggernaut Reading Series: Can you describe where we're sitting?

Nina Revoyr: We're sitting in what used to be the Holiday Bowl, which was this amazing coffee shop and bowling alley that was opened in the 1950s here on Crenshaw Boulevard. This was the actual coffee shop. If you went around through there you would get to the bowling alley. It was a place where folks of all races—but particularly Japanese American and African American people—gathered to eat and bowl. The menu at the coffee shop reflected the clientele, so if you came here you could get yakisoba and hot links, you could get rice or potatoes with your eggs, you could get sashimi and jambalaya in the same place.

It was a really heartwarming, diverse mix of people that was not really replicated elsewhere in the city. It was also a place with major bowling leagues in the '50s. It used to be open all night, so people would come and bowl after swing shifts at factories. Then as the economy started to change, as it got a little bit rougher in the area, it stopped being open all night, stopped doing so well. Bowling became less popular, and ultimately the place shut down and was boarded up and closed for several years. The property was bought by developers and what used to be the bowling alley was torn down to make room for that Walgreens—the Walgreens is where the bowling alley was, and this façade, which was the coffee shop, has actually remained largely as it was (at least from the outside), and now, as you see, it's been converted into a Starbucks. So on the one hand, it's not as horrible as it could have been because at least this part remains and it's being used, but on the other, obviously, this really unique community gathering, this family restaurant, is gone.

It was really reflective of the community, which was one of the few truly organically mixed racial communities in Los Angeles from a very early time, from the teens and twenties. And as we walk around the neighborhood we'll see that there are still a lot of elderly Japanese living in what most people see as a wholly African American neighborhood.

LRS: You've said that the birthplace of Southland was the Holiday Bowl. I was wondering if you could say more about how that came about. Did you come here when you were a teenager, or did you come here specifically because you heard it was an interesting place?

Revoyr: Interestingly enough I grew up not very far from here, maybe two or three miles—

LRS: Culver City, right?

Revoyr: Yeah. Culver City is straight down Rodeo, past Dorsey High School. I knew this place existed but I had no idea what it was until I came home from college one time over the holidays and there was an article about Holiday Bowl in the L.A. Times. I was so fascinated by the place and everything I just described, largely because my own background in high school was very similar. I went to Culver City High School, which was and still is an extremely diverse place. There's something like forty-three languages spoken there. My social group was

largely black and Japanese and our friendships were not always understood by our parents, who themselves tended to be more in single-race social groups. For me to find this place, where suddenly there were people my grandparents' age who were reflective of my friends and me—it was like finding our own family. I started coming here all the time to eat, and brought more friends here, and it just became the place that I felt was most reflective of my own experience.

LRS: Did you actually go bowling too?

Revoyr: I suck at bowling. No, I have bowled, but I actually never did bowl here, I just ate.

LRS: Were you conspicuously young here? It sounds like it was more of a senior citizens' hangout.

Revoyr: We were conspicuously young. As I became an adult and started to work in the early '90s with Head Start I would come here with people I worked with and then I was not conspicuously young, but it was conspicuously less crowded. There was less bowling, there were fewer people in the coffee shop—you could see it starting to change.

LRS: Because it was mostly an elderly crowd, and they were passing away?

Revoyr: You know, that's a very good question, and actually that's something I haven't thought about. I do think that's a large part of it. A lot of the folks in this community have been here for generations, but their kids moved away. Kids of all races moved away to other parts of Los Angeles, particularly after '92, after the riots when this whole area







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purchase selected works by Nina Revoyr:



The Necessary Hunger

The Age of Dreaming

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