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Spanning three generations, Revoyr's follow-up to The Necessary Hunger (1997) uses the murder of three boys during the 1965 Watts riot as the pivot point for a moving, sometimes harrowing exploration of race relations among black, Japanese, and white residents of L.A. When her grandfather dies in 1994, young Japanese American lawyer Jackie Ishida seeks to discover why her grandfather, Frank, had once planned to leave his Crenshaw grocery store to one of the murder victims, a black teen from the neighborhood. After enlisting the help of one of the young man's relatives, rock-solid community group worker James Lanier, Jackie embarks on a journey that will enable her to understand why she has fled so far from her Japanese roots she won't even consider dating a fellow Asian. Switching effortlessly from the mid-1990s to the 1960s, the 1940s, and back again, Revoyr peoples the landscape with compelling characters who are equally believable whether they're black, Japanese, male, female, gay, or straight. With prose that is beautiful, precise, but never pretentious, she brings to vivid life a painful, seldom-explored part of L.A.'s past that should not be forgotten. If Oprah still had her book club, this novel likely would be at the top of her selection list. --Frank Sennett
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Revoyr (The Necessary Hunger) returns to the gritty, central Los Angeles of her debut with this compelling if overlong tale of a headstrong Japanese-American lesbian law student obsessed with discovering her family history and solving a murder mystery. Jackie Ishida, 25, is undone by the sudden death in 1994 of her loving, seemingly healthy Japanese grandfather, Frank Sakai. A veteran of World War II, he lived a philanthropic life and in the 1960s owned a small grocery in the racially integrated Crenshaw district he grew up in. When Jackie's aunt Lois finds a large shoebox with $38,000 in cash in Frank's closet, both women are perplexed, particularly since they also discover a mysterious beneficiary, Curtis Martindale, in a decades-old will. Lois dispatches Jackie to find Curtis. Enter strong, street-smart James Lanier, a cousin of Curtis's, who informs Jackie that Curtis is dead. An employee at Frank's store during the Watts riots in 1965, Curtis, along with three other black teenage boys, was found frozen to death in the store's freezer. This heinous crime was never reported (nor discussed within the Sakai family) and though white beat cop Nick Lawson was pegged as a prime suspect, the case was never solved and Frank closed the store permanently. As Jackie and James dig deeper into Curtis's past, their friendship (and awkward attraction to each other) takes its toll on Jackie's fading three-year relationship with girlfriend Laura. In chapters alternating past and present, clues are uncovered that romantically link Curtis's mother Alma to Frank. When a surprise suspect in the killings is fingered, it paves the way for a dark conclusion rooted in skepticism, injustice and racial intolerance. 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. Agent, Tim Seldes. (Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
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In her second novel (after The Necessary Hunger), Revoyr examines the gritty, colorful, sometimes tumultuous history of Los Angeles's Crenshaw district-once a truly integrated neighborhood but now predominantly African American. As Jackie Ishida helps her aunt deal with her grandfather's will, she finds out that a beneficiary named Curtis Martindale died in the searing 1965 Watts riots. When she subsequently discovers that Curtis and three other young men died in her grandfather's grocery store, she is alarmed and shaken. She locates one of Curtis's cousins, and together they launch an investigation into what happened and whether her grandfather was involved. The story line takes more twists and turns than a road full of hairpin curves, as possible suspects in the four boys' deaths-murders, to be precise-are identified and dismissed and some long-held secrets revealed. The result is foremost a meditation on race, cultural beliefs, opportunity, prejudice, and family obligation that drives home its messages by way of presenting and solving the murders. Though her writing can be stilted, Revoyr (of Japanese and Polish American descent) has crafted a provocative, absorbing story with fully realized characters. Recommended for most public and academic libraries.-Lisa Nussbaum, Dauphin Cty. Lib. Syst., Harrisburg, PA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.