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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

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What people are saying…

“Revoyr is gifted in her ability to deal with complex ideas like racism, class conflict, and sexuality without sacrificing the truth of her narrative. Furthermore, like the most adroit novelists, Revoyr specializes in reversal. All of her books are filled with suspense and sudden surprises that take the stories in unexpected directions . . . As much as Nina Revoyr herself is a student of history, she’s also one of our best teachers.”
Los Angeles Review of Books

“Revoyr’s latest noir tells a story that’s somewhere between Sunset Boulevard and the darker regions of The Great Gatsby . . . Revoyr is a subtle observer of human foibles and social structures, and the result is one of the most insightful, and the most entertaining books of the year.”
Literary Hub, one of Lit Hub’s 50 Favorite Books of 2019

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

“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.”

“With a nod to Great Expectations and The Great Gatsby, Rick Nagano is Nick Carraway and young Pip rolled into one . . . Lambda Award–winner Revoyr focuses on the impact of race in the construct of class and society, and how there are some doors that will always remain closed.”
The Advocate

“Nina Revyor’s new novel, A Student of History, continues the tradition of the Los Angeles oil novel, but steers it in a new direction.”
Rain Taxi Review of Books

“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

“In many ways, A Student of History adopts the familiar structure of the bildungsroman; like other classic novels before it, such as Sentimental Education and Great Expectations, we witness an earnest young man enter a hitherto unexplored sphere of luxury and privilege. Indeed, part of the pleasure of reading the novel is inhabiting that familiar structure, knowing all the while Richard will likely end his term among high society with a sense that perhaps he has lost more than he has gained. Yet by placing the novel in so specific a milieu—Los Angeles in 2019, an era where Americans are feeling the class divide more than ever—Revoyr forges a work that stands on its own. If the book’s ambitions prove modest, it feels entirely appropriate, considering Richard’s ultimate discovery that sometimes a modest life lived well—far from society luncheons and award ceremonies—is good enough.”

“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

“[Revoyr’s] sixth and latest novel . . . explores the familiar themes of class, race, and the economic contradictions of living in Los Angeles through the eyes of a thirty-something first-generation Japanese American humanities graduate student struggling to find value in his work—a character we don’t meet every day in fiction or elsewhere in popular culture.”
LA Taco

“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

“In A Student of History, Revoyr’s grad student protagonist Rick Nagano, broke and desperate, lands a sweet research assistant gig to one of Los Angeles’ ultra-wealthy .01 percenters, only to discover the dark secrets underpinning his newly wealthy surroundings. A Student of History asks, what would you do to stay in school? And what would you cover up about someone else’s past, in the service of your own future?”
CrimeReads, Included in A Brief History of Academic Mysteries, Campus Thrillers, and Research Noir

Nina Revoyr has been named a notable author to watch in CrimeReads’s Rising Stars of Crime Fiction in the 2010s!

Included in the Bay Area Reporter Pride 2019 Booklist!

Included in the Baltimore Out Loud Pride 2019 Reading List!

Included in the Peach ATL Pride 2019 Reading List!

“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

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

“It’s Great Expectations meets There Will Be Blood, but most of all, it’s highly enjoyable.”
PureWow, recommended result after What Should You Read Next? (California Edition) quiz

“Revoyr’s use of the first person is always on point; you’re immediately aligned with Rick’s perspective, and you want to know how things will turn out. You want him to somehow triumph in this world of the elite, even as you know things are hurtling toward some ignominious finish . . . [Revoyr is] one of the best ‘regional’ writers in Los Angeles. Every single work of hers has either been set or partially set in Los Angeles, and yet each novel has taken the city from a different angle and plumbs those depths.”
Asian American Literature Fans

“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 Los Angeles Review of Books, and 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 interviews with Nina Revoyr at Curbed LA, LA Taco, and 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 six novels, including A Student of History; Lost Canyon; 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; The Necessary Hunger; 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.

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