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A Student of History


A contemporary Los Angeles story of uncrossable social lines, allegiance and betrayal, immeasurable power, and the ways the present is continuously shaped by the past.

$15.95 $11.96

What people are saying…

“Any Nina Revoyr novel is a cause for celebration, and her latest, A Student of History, is assured and marvelous, an absorbing rags among riches tale about a broke USC grad student who finds himself swept off his feet by Los Angeles’s insular, powerful .01% class. It’s a contemporary novel that feels like an instant classic, with the wry tragedy of The House of Mirth, the sinister glamour of Sunset Boulevard, and a fresh, original point of view.”

“A perfect snapshot of nature tamed and bent toward a very particular world vision, and a perfectly uncanny first image for Revoyr’s unsettling tale of Los Angeles across the eras, always glittering, always hiding something corrupt.”
CrimeReads, included in The 5 Best Book Covers of March

A Student of History is full of research, detail, lush descriptions, and visual place-setting. [Revoyr’s] a fiction writer with an eye for reality set in a dream-like world, often in her home city of Los Angeles.”
The Rumpus

“Beautifully juxtaposed against a similar landscape of Los Angeles, A Student of History offers a voyeuristic look at the lessons one receives from life.”
One Grand

Included in the Baltimore Out Loud Pride 2019 Reading List!

Included in the Peach ATL Pride 2019 Reading List!

“Revoyr’s quick plot keeps the pages turning.”
Publishers Weekly

“With her two Walter Mosley-like gifts—impeccable narrative pacing and masterful command of Los Angeles’ intricate, evolving dynamics of race and class—Nina Revoyr’s LA novels convincingly capture the lifespan of Los Angeles as a major city, none more gracefully than A Student of History.”
New York Journal of Books

“Masterfully and intimately suspenseful . . . Shrewdly delineated scenes, loaded conversations, and a delirious surge of desire caustically expose [Los Angeles’s] toxic ruling-class legacy of prejudice and entitlement, while stoking questions of privilege, trust, and betrayal. Wealth and power, Revoyr confirms in this taut, commanding, and delectable novel, are not shields against folly, crime, or sorrow.”
Booklist, STARRED review

“An entertaining, crisply written tale . . . evokes echoes of Great Expectations, The Great Gatsby, and a lot of Raymond Chandler, but with a thoroughly 21st-century setting . . . Revoyr’s sleek prose and fast pacing move the reader through the sharply observed world of old money and the bad behavior it protects.”
Kirkus Reviews

“A deftly and elegantly crafted novel by a master of narrative storytelling and a genuine flair for originality.”
Midwest Book Review

“There is definitely something reminiscent of Nick Carraway in the way Rick cautiously inserts himself into a world of extreme wealth, privilege, and whiteness . . . This is a pulpy, entertaining mystery. If the premise grabs you, I recommend giving it a read.”

“Revoyr’s prose is excellent, and I was quickly drawn into the story, and carried along by the author’s writing. Her characters are three-dimensional, realistic and interesting. A fascinating look at the monied elite of LA, and the altogether different (sometimes contradictory) codes by which they live. Definitely recommended.”
Civilian Reader

“A Japanese-American graduate student from a working class background gets drawn into the dark secrets of entitled, old-money families that have dominated Los Angeles for generations.”
World Wide Work

“[A] fantastic read . . . On the afternoon this novel arrived on my doorstep . . . I opened the package and read the first page out of curiosity and then . . . kept reading. I never did finish my book club book but I did finish this novel the next day.”
Wildmoo Books

“While Revoyr has written a number of notable novels, for us, she is best known for Wingshooters, which takes place in Wisconsin. Like that novel, A Student of History deftly touches on themes of social justice without seeming preachy . . . A solid page turner.”
—Daniel Goldin, Boswell Book Company (Milwaukee, WI) (staff pick!)

“Nina Revoyr is one of Los Angeles’s most sharp-eyed and penetrating chroniclers, and A Student of History only furthers her reputation. Part mystery, part sentimental education, this is a searing novel of thought-provoking complexity.”
—Marisa Silver, author of Mary Coin


Rick Nagano is a graduate student in the history department at USC, struggling to make rent on his South Los Angeles apartment near the neighborhood where his family once lived. When he lands a job as a research assistant for the elderly Mrs. W—, the heir to an oil fortune, he sees it at first simply as a source of extra cash. But as he grows closer to the iconoclastic, charming, and feisty Mrs. W—, he gets drawn into a world of privilege and wealth far different from his racially mixed, blue-collar beginnings.

Putting aside his half-finished dissertation, Rick sets up office in Mrs. W—’s grand Bel Air mansion and begins to transcribe her journals—which document an old Los Angeles not described in his history books. He also accompanies Mrs. W— to venues frequented by the descendants of the land and oil barons who built the city. One evening, at an event, he meets Fiona Morgan—the elegant scion of an old steel family—who takes an interest in his studies. Irresistibly drawn to Fiona, he agrees to help her with a project of questionable merit in the hopes he’ll win her favor.

A Student of History explores both the beginnings of Los Angeles and the present-day dynamics of race and class. It offers a window into the usually hidden world of high society, and the influence of historic families on current events. Like Great Expectations and The Great Gatsby, it features, in Rick Nagano, a young man of modest means who is navigating a world where he doesn’t belong.

At Twitter, Laura Lippman details why she “loved, loved, loved” A Student of History and why she believes it’s “an outstanding book” — read the full thread here.

Read a feature on Nina Revoyr at Publishers Weekly.

Read an excerpt from A Student of History at The Rumpus.

Read a feature/preview of A Student of History at The Rafu Shimpo.

Read event previews at The Rumpus, the San Francisco Examiner, and The Stranger.

Read a “Reading with . . .” interview with Nina Revoyr at Shelf Awareness.

Read “5 Questions with Nina Revoyr” at City Lights Blog.

Read an interview with Nina Revoyr at The Rumpus.

Listen to interviews with Nina Revoyr at Against the Grain (KPFA 94.1 FM Berkeley); and at Bibliocracy Radio (KPFK 90.7 FM Los Angeles; below):

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Read a “What To Read When” guest post from Nina Revoyr: “What to Read When the Wealth Gap Continues to Widen” at The Rumpus.

Watch a roundup video of March 2019 releases including A Student of History by Ink & Paper:


Book Details

  • Paperback: 240 pages
  • Published: 3/5/19
  • IBSN: 9781617756641
  • e-IBSN: 9781617756986
  • Hardcover
  • IBSN: 9781617756634


NINA REVOYR is the author of five previous novels, including The Age of Dreaming, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Southland, a Los Angeles Times best seller and “Best Book” of 2003; and Wingshooters, which won an Indie Booksellers Choice Award and was selected by O, The Oprah Magazine as one of “10 Titles to Pick Up Now.” Revoyr lives and works in Los Angeles. A Student of History is her latest novel.

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