Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Five crime novels that deepen our understanding of collective trauma

Frank Sennett has an MFA in creative writing from the University of Montana and a journalism degree from Northwestern University. He has taught creative writing at UCLA Extension and has published nine books. He has served as a senior leader at multiple media outlets, including Time Out Chicago and He also spent one lucky season in the Wrigley Field press box covering the Chicago Cubs. He lives in Chicago with his wife, three children and two cats.

Sennett's new novel is Shadow State.

At CrimeReads he tagged five "crime novels that play out in the long shadows of national trauma [and] how they can help us contextualize and explore tragic events in a deeper way than the news and social media cycles allow." One title on the list:
Nina Revoyr, Southland

Crime novels that spring from communal tragedy can expand and change the broader societal understanding of the event, as Revoyr illustrates in Southland. In this award-wining novel, she provides new perspectives on the 1965 Watts riots in Los Angeles by viewing them through an unconventional lens and via underrepresented voices.

As I noted in my review of Southland for Booklist, Revoyr employs the murder of three boys during the riots 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 he once planned to leave his Crenshaw grocery store to one of the murder victims, a black teen from the neighborhood. 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. Revoyr paints a nuanced picture of the riots and their aftermath, highlighting the ways in which systemic racism and economic inequality contributed to the unrest. She also sheds light on the experiences of the Japanese-American community, often overlooked in narratives of the riots.
Read about the other entries on the list.

Southland is among Steph Cha's top ten books about the troubles in Los Angeles and five great American social crime novels.

--Marshal Zeringue