A Student of History (Paperback)

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Staff Reviews

Rick, an all-but-dissertation grad student, gets a gig transcribing the journals of one of Los Angeles’s oldest, wealthiest, and most secretive families. Mrs. W- is charming and gracious, though it is soon clear you don’t want to mess with her. Soon she’s having Rick accompany her to functions. Being that his thesis is going nowhere, he wows his faculty advisor with some newfound information, despite having signed a non-disclosure agreement. To complicate things further, Rick finds himself being drawn in further to the secret world of the moneyed and is tantalized by the attentions of another, younger heiress. How much will Rick compromise to stay in this elusive world? 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, all in the package of a solid page turner.

— Daniel Goldin


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.

“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 Literary Hub’s 50 Favorite Books of 2019

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.

About the Author

NINA REVOYR is the author of six novels, including A Student of HistoryLost Canyon; The Age of Dreaming, which was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize; Southland, a Los Angeles Times bestseller 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 the Los Angeles area.

Praise For…

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.

— CrimeReads

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

Product Details
ISBN: 9781617756641
ISBN-10: 1617756644
Publisher: Akashic Books, Ltd.
Publication Date: March 5th, 2019
Pages: 240
Language: English