2010
12.09

Southland

I have to start by saying that Southland was easily my favorite novel of the semester.  I found that reading it was a thoroughly rewarding experience.  And Revoyr’s ability to incorporate e so many different aspects of culture and history while still developing a genuinely intriguing narrative is quite impressive.

For this reason I feel I have to address the questions that were asked at the culmination of our reading of The Namesake, particularly the question is it necessary to omit certain aspects of society, such as history, class, and diversity, in order for a novel to recognized as a beautiful and/or evocative?  Judging by the praise I’ve given Southland thus far for including those very aspects, one could rightly assume that I would disagree with this statement.  As meticulously crafted as Lahiri’s novel was, overall, I’d have to say it was pretty boring.  Additionally, I felt as if I gained very little from it, other than being very-well acquainted with the a Bengali family from New England that doesn’t actually exist, living a life detached from the circumstances of reality.  Southland, however, is a rich text, and reading it is an experience.  The characters, the circumstances, the history…all of these factors breathe life into this text.  So much so that I feel if I were to find myself in South LA, I might not feel so out place, I might even be able to pick out a few sights I feel I recognize.  With that said, I feel that the inclusion of this kind of reality is not only welcomed, but necessary, in order to construct a truly captivating text.

Southland also succeeds is meeting the goals of this course, specifically the objective of portraying the life of a modern Asian American individual, as Jackie Ishida is representative of many living in this day and age who are quite far removed from their history, who are burdened by silence and the ignorance of their past.  Though I do not belong to any singular heritage, I can certainly identify with Jackie’s desire to understand the circumstances of her being, to explore that which has been withheld.  This to me is supremely rewarding as I can form a bond with this character, whereas in other texts we have covered, the distinct heritage of the characters has prevented me from doing so.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
  1. I agree with you. Revoyr’s style is amazing. I enjoyed this novel very much also.

  2. I agree with you from beginning to end of this blog. Revoyr became my favorite author after reading this book. I think she did a wonderful job connecting history with the characters and making us as readers feel like they were a part of us somehow. What I loved best about this book was that through all of its complexities, it showed that in some way, we are all interconnected in some way, whether it be through pain, family, or love. I cannot say any more, because you did such a brilliant overview of the novel.

  3. This is a great post and I think you make a really important comparison between The Namesake and Southland, which seem to occupy extreme sides of the spectrum. I enjoyed both, to my surprise. Stepping back from The Namesake, I really have to admit that nothing really happens and the protagonist, beside being incredibly ordinary, is at times not very likable. Stepping back from Southland, however, I feel that there are aspects that are so highly charged and incredibly dramatic that it often seems implausible. It certainly is political, almost to the point of expressing utopian ideals. However, I can’t say that I prefer one method over another. Lahiri and Revoyr are good at very different things. Lahiri could never have written Southland. She simply doesn’t have the imagination. And Revoyr could never have written The Namesake. But I don’t think I would give one up for the other. Southland is political but The Namesake is political in its own, more subtle, way. Moreover, I’m an English AND PoliSci major. And being a PoliSci major, I have come to appreciate works that are less stridently political, whereas just a few years ago the opposite case was true. Revoyr actually has an appreciation for the complexities of politics and urban sociology and stuff, which is why I have to give her high marks. But that’s not always the case. I think that politics can sometimes group people into an us v. them paradigm, which limits. For example, I’m beginning to think that one of the reasons Revoyr doesn’t have the same clout as Lahiri is because she’s been pigeonholed as a LGBT writer, which is unfortunate.