A Contextualization of Nina Revoyr's Southland Essay

2660 Words Mar 27th, 2012 11 Pages
Sunshine and Noir in Historical Los Angeles:
A Contextualization of Nina Revoyr’s Southland

Nina Revoyr’s novel, Southland, provides a glimpse into the injustice, scandal, and struggle in Los Angeles from the 1940s to the 1990s due to its racial composition. The novel contains a unique cast of characters who, although often times interact with conflict, are forced to live side-by-side one another in their separate attempts to attain the American Dream. Southland takes its readers on a journey through a history full of trials and tribulations, with Los Angeles as its stage; throughout this story, the reader begins to understand that there was much more to this place than what was originally promised by the boosters. Revoyr makes it
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While the looting and riots of 1965 were happening, Lawson’s narrative states, “The blacks were finally doing it, acting like the senseless animals he had always known they were. He could say anything to them, do anything, and there was no one around to stop him” (Revoyr, 307). The riots reinforced Lawson’s pre-existing unethical behavior, which gave him all the more authority to interrogate and intimidate the young boys (including Curtis) who were trying to protect Frank’s store from becoming damaged as a result of the riot. Throughout the novel, Lawson exercises his role as an authority figure beyond ethical boundaries, illustrated throughout the story during times when he threatened the children and beat Curtis. In a sense, he abuses his power by oppressing minorities partly due to his position in society as a white male – who were mainly considered as part of the dominant social class. For Lawson, the reality of living in a race-based, color-based society was a time full of accusations against innocent minorities, exuding racist beliefs, and creating (and reinforcing) the noir that plagued Los Angeles throughout the 60s. Jackie Ishida, on the other hand, is introduced as a Japanese woman living in “modern” time (the 1990s). Like Lawson, there are moments in the novel when Jackie encounters people of different ethnicities. For example, when she visits the Marcus Garvey Community Center to meet James Lanier for the first time, she is awestruck by the diversity that

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