Three Questions for Nina Revoyr

The Southland author manages to include some of our favorites among her picks for best new books about California and the West.

southland, nina revoyr
Monica Almeida


What are three favorite books of 2020 from California and the West?
I’ve concentrated mostly on rereading lately, so I hope you don’t mind if I share three books I’ve read over the last year.

First, The Last Season, by Eric Blehm, a real-life account of a backcountry ranger who went missing in the Sierra Nevada.

Second, Steph Cha’s 2019 thriller, Your House Will Pay. It takes courage to address racism the way this novel does; no one gets entirely off the hook.

Third, Felicia Luna Lemus’s Particulate Matter, which is a 2020 book. Felicia and I are married—we celebrated our 10th anniversary this year—but I’d love this book as much if I didn’t know her.

What’s a California story that deserves its own book?
We think of California as a state with largely progressive cities and rural areas that are mostly conservative. Yet parts of rural California are very diverse—particularly the Central Valley, where there’s a huge population of Mexican immigrants and a large Sikh population. I’d like to see more of these places in stories: the unexpected mixtures of people—like the African American settlers who created the all-Black town of Allensworth, near Delano, in the early 20th century.

You oversee the Ballmer Group’s work to fight poverty in California. Has this informed your writing?
Not yet, but I imagine it will. I never write directly about my day jobs, but things have a way of slipping in. Right now, it’s making me more conscious of the struggles of families living in poverty and the systems stacked against them.

John McMurtrie edits for McSweeney’s Publishing and the literary travel magazine Stranger’s Guide.
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