Nina Revoyr's Los Angeles

1 2 3 4 5

[p. 5 of 5]

[Revoyr continues]... reader to work a little bit. You want it to be an interactive experience where they're coming to realizations, and not just that you're telling them stuff. Who wants to be told stuff? Often I tend to be interested in things that other people perceive as political, but the bottom line is I want to care about the characters and the story.

LRS: I'm still thinking about that moment in The Necessary Hunger....

Revoyr: What that came from was really growing up, like I was saying, with my friends through basketball. I had mixed-race groups of friends, but primarily black and Japanese.

You read about my childhood—my few years in Wisconsin. Because I was the only person of color there and was living with my white grandparents, there was no way for me to articulate what was happening to me. I could not go home and say to my family, I'm getting beat up on the way to school and people are treating me badly or calling me names or whatever. They could sympathize but they could not really understand what that was like. And so when I came to California and suddenly found myself in a community of people of color, even if a lot of them weren't Japanese, they were able to articulate things about race and racial dynamics that I hadn't been able to speak about.

In a wayÉ my lens through which I see racial things was really shaped by my black friends and their families. It wasn't the white people who were talking about race, and I didn't have Japanese people around me all the time. When I was hanging out with my black friends, they and their parents were talking about race. There was such great comfort for me in that. Because of that, my identification with my friends was more than it would have been if I had had nourishment or sustenance from other sources.

My Japanese friends on the basketball team were part of that milieu, too, but their parents certainly were not talking about the internment camps or racism because of the very intense wall of silence around the experiences that they had had when they were kids. They didn't want to talk about race and they didn't want to talk about prejudice, they wanted to quietly fit in and not be noticed anymore.

It took me a couple years or a few years to realize, okay, yes, there is racism towards Asians and there is racism towards blacks, but there's no comparison in the kind of historical intensity of it. There just isn't. Other than perhaps Native Americans, no one has been shit on in this country more than black people. That's kind of what I was getting at [in that passage of the book]. Yes, there are commonalities because we're people of color and shared histories of racism, but the level or degree is very different.

LRS: I was wondering if this idea of parallel tracks is a way to acknowledge the structural forces that would tend to put Asians in the US in situations that make it easier for them to get ahead socio-economically.

Revoyr: That's very good.

LRS: It's only one way to read that... because it's also that some people have these opportunities because of their athletic ability and other people don't, and it's a class thing too, but it does bring up the larger perception that Asians are somehow becoming 'white,' that they're somehow closer to 'whiteness' than other minority groups.

Revoyr: I didn't mean it that way at all. It was not about being closer to whiteness, it was about—both tracks are at the same level and running in the same direction, it's just that they are separate tracks, you know. And that is not even so much where the people on the tracks want to be, because clearly Nancy completely identifies with her black friends. She is not trying to get to whiteness.

LRS: Right. Absolutely.

Revoyr: It's more how society sees ethnicity, right? That's what I was commenting on. But even though she wants to be on the same track—on the same train—she thinks she's in the same place, mentally and emotionally as her friends, the reality is the way that she's going to be received or perceived by the world is very different from how someone else is going to be perceived. That's what I was trying to get at.

LRS: So even if you don't want it, you're going to be grouped and perceived in certain ways, and have access to certain opportunities. But it seems like you're also saying that that's not necessarily how it has to go.

Revoyr: Now we're getting to a different level of what it means for me personally to be mixed-race and look like I do. I will be in a place and there's no telling how I'm going to be read. I can be read as white, I can be read as Asian, I can be read as Mexican. What's been interesting for me personally is that I must have in my adulthood begun to look less Asian, because I used to never be taken as white, ever, until my late twenties, and then suddenly it was happening more and more frequently. The thing I get most is Native American, when people can tell you're something but they can't tell what you are, so they resort to that—including from Native Americans, which is also really interesting. But because of my childhood in Wisconsin, to be dealing with intense racism as a mixed-race person, you can go one of two ways. You can identify with the people who are being so racist, or you can take pride in who you are, and you know, tell them to go fuck themselves, and that's clearly the way that I went.






  {buy the by}

purchase selected works by Nina Revoyr:



The Necessary Hunger

The Age of Dreaming

{download printer-friendly version of this interview}

home > interviews > nina revoyr
1 2 3 4 5

home | contact | about | terms | privacy

© copyright 2005 – 2014