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Peter Kim
Prof. Riedel
English 1A
10 April 2015
Understanding the Core Message of Southland
For many periods of time, people have fought and argued over what is right or wrong. It
has been in the nature of human kind to express their ideas and enforce them into actions. Often
times, such actions may become radical which turn into violent conflicts or oppression of other
individuals who disagree with ones ideas. The cause of such strong disagreement may lie in the
fact that every individual is different, and has a story of their own to tell. Everyone is eager to
speak of their own tales of experience which often leads to a misunderstanding of each other. In
the novel Southland by Nina Revoyr, issues and conflicts that rise from differences that people
have are highlighted. Through narratives and flashbacks of various characters, the author touches
upon problems such as racial injustice and oppression. Among the several characters is Jackie
Ishida, who she mainly uses as a way to convey her theme of the book. Through the narrative of
Jackies growth throughout the book, the author emphasizes the importance of gaining various
knowledge and experience to better understand ones surrounding.
The author uses Jackie to expose the readers to the different experiences and the story she
learns throughout the book. In the beginning of the novel, Jackie Ishida is introduced as a young
nave girl whos unaware of her surroundings. As a Japanese-American, she does not fully
understand the culture of her family and the history behind where she resides. Even after her

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grandfather Franks death, she feels untouched by the incident as she is disconnected from
everyone. As Jackie visits her aunt after hearing of her grandfathers death, she thinks not for
the first time, that her ability to comfort people revealed a deficiency on her part, not a virtue.
The author intentionally gives Jackie an oblivious personality to reflect an individual who may
lack the experiences and knowledge to fully understand what is around them. Just as one may
find it hard to empathize for something that may not directly relate to them, Jackie feels the same
although it is her blood related grandfather. In a way, Jackie portrays the mind of an individual
that lacks knowledge and experience, therefore not being able to understand others.
As the novel progresses, Jackie finds herself discovering more about her grandfather and
neighborhood. Jackies aunt Lois, reveals to her that Frank had left a large sum of money that
was to be given to a man named Curtis. As she goes on a quest to find the man, Jackie comes
across a person named James Lanier, who is known to be the cousin of Curtis. Curtis was a
young black man that used to work at the store that Frank owned. However, Jackie soon
discovers from Lanier that Curtis was murdered inside Franks store during the Watts riot which
took place decades ago. As she starts to build more connection with Lanier to find the mystery of
the murder, she also discovers other things. Jackie was surprised and a bit uncomfortable that
someone from her family could be lumped together with someone from Laniers family, and
from the Martindales. She finds out through the conversation that Laniers grandparents and
great grandparents were domestic also. Jackie discovers from then on that there are people out
there with similar cultural and family background as her.
Jackie listens to the story of a person or others, to discover that people may have things in
common. Hearing different tales allow her to understand more about not only her surrounding,

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but herself also. She realizes that her lack of experience and knowledge of people may perhaps
contribute as to why she feels disconnected from others. Jackie transitions from an oblivious
Japanese-American girl to a person more in touch with their culture and people around them. The
author uses the relationship that Jackie has with Lanier to further develop her into an open
minded individual.
Despite the novel being Jackies quest to find the murder mystery of Curtis, the author
utilizes the relationship that Jackie builds with others and her growth as an individual to
highlight the main theme. Jackie who starts out as a character unaware of her surroundings,
opens up to gain more knowledge. The author also exposes the reader to the different stories of
the characters from their own perspective. In a way, one may find as a reader that they are much
like Jackie in that different stories come together to understand the big picture. The author
emphasizes the need to open up for new knowledge and experiences that let people understand
each other which can avoid conflicts among them.