Wingshooters by Nina Revoyr

I enjoy reading books that have a Wisconsin connection. By that I mean the book has a Wisconsin setting or the author is from Wisconsin. I just finished reading a new book, Wingshooters by Nina Revoyr. The author grew up in Japan, Wisconsin, and California, and the book is set in central Wisconsin. There are autobiographical elements in Wingshooters. Both the author and the main character have a Japanese mother and a white American father and have English Springer Spaniel dogs.

Wingshooters is set during 1974 in the fictional town of Deerhorn which resembles Marshfield. Michelle (Mikey) is 9 years and living with her paternal grandparents after her parents’ marriage broke up. Mikey’s father is white and her mother is Japanese, and she is the only non-white person in town.  Mikey idolizes her grandfather Charlie LeBeau who was a minor league baseball player and is an excellent hunter and fisherman. Mikey is picked on at school, but she enjoys being outdoors with her grandfather and her dog and learning baseball, hunting, and fishing. Charlie is respected in the small community and shares their prejudices and values. There is a clinic in town that is expanding. The Garretts, a black couple, come to town so that Mrs. Garrett can work there as a nurse.  Mr. Garrett is a teacher and is hired as a substitute teacher at the elementary school. Having a black couple in town upsets many of the white people and causes some to take matters into their own hands especially after Mr. Garrett reports a possible case of child abuse. The result is violence and tragedy. There are lots of big themes in this book—racism, family, loyalty to friends, child abuse, bullying, poverty, and working class values set against the turbulent 1970s when the Vietnam War was ending, Nixon resigned and students were bussed for integration. 

More information about the author is available on her website:

www.ninarevoyr.com

The publisher has discussion questions available: http://www.akashicbooks.com/Wingshooters_RGG.pdf

Comments

Discrepancies

I just finished reading this book about 10 days ago. Unfortunately, in the reading I got quite distracted by what I consider inaccuracies in the book. Supposedly set in Wisconsin, there are many things that don't ring true to my understanding of Wisconsin. Examples: she refers to what we would typically call an afghan, a blanket. In two places she refers to "bison" grazing - not unless it's a hobby/history/specialty farm - not your typical Wisconsin setting. Most people I know here in Wisconsin have a basement which the author calls a cellar. She also sort of breezes over a 12" snow, referring to it as "powder" (this is not ski country). In my experience, a 12" snow is a major event. These things taken together lead me to discount her setting entirely - unfortunate for Wisconsin.

Not related to Wisconsin, but also disconsonant, she said a 1964 Pontiac (I think it was a Le Mans) was "lime green" ---- not unless the owner had it repainted (unlikely)(a decent editor might have picked up on this).

Disagree with Discrepancies

I moved to central Wisconsin in 1973 when the Marshfield Clinic, now a large well respected medical center in the state, was developing. During my time in Marshfield the only person of color I saw was a dark-skinned physician. Since I'd moved from the mid-Atlantic this doctor didn't bother me in the least. I taught across the street from the clinic at Grant Elementary - now a clinic parking lot- and saw not one person of color in personnel, students, or parents. My husband and I found this curious. Our apartment was next to the Marshfield park/zoo which had a loop of a road going through it. Just over half way around was the fenced in bison section. My bedroom window opened to the bison and it was an interesting view upon getting up, as well as the call of peacocks. It was COLD and many people had blankets on the backs of their couches instead of throws or afghans. Neither double- or triple-paned windows as well as high R-values of insulation were prevalent in that time period. My first year in central Wisconsin we had a snow storm if not 12" it was close. Students didn't go to school that day because of drifting, but teachers reported to work and the town went on as usual. On my way home, I drove through one entire block where the snow was piled 2 - 3 times higher than my 1965 Chevy Impala. How wierd that felt! Basement/cellar? I was amazed at how quickly the strreets had been plowed. Basement/cellar? Picky picky! New housing construction was not plentiful in the early 70s and not everyone had concrete basements, even in town. Dirt floors would not have been unheard of, which would make the area a cellar. Besides, the word choice would have been regional or based on the age of the people involved. Grandparents in the 1970s were probably raised with cellars, especially in the old farm buildings. "Powder" describes the consistancy of snow and is not licenced to ski areas. In my view, the authors settings and descriptions, as well as story line, were superb.

true setting

I know the author and have done some genealogy research for her regarding her family, from our local library. I live in the town she writes about-Marshfield. It is not hard when you are from here to realize the places she writes about, some of which are still here and some are not are real. While the story itself is a novel, the setting is exactly as she describes it. There is a park/zoo here that has had Bison in it for years. The houses are fairly old and did indeed have cellars. Novels can derive from the author’s knowledge either the truth that is disguised or some variation of that.

Also note that the author was from Japan and her reference to certain things may differ from that of Central Wisconsin, but mean the same thing. Now being that she is living on the west coast and writing the book 35+ years later, some descriptive words may also be mixed. I never said soda as a child, it was always pop, but I say soda now. As a child, never said afghan but do now and so on..

Many of the aspects of the novel show patterns of using a word / or words to hide the true descriptive meaning of another. For instance, the town is listed as Deerhorn, which is Marshfield, Deerhorn Herald News, which means Marshfield News Herald, etc. Perhaps the "doctor" was really a nurse or the "doctor" was really a man, if that part of the novel was true.

She describes a park across from the church where they would go in the summer for outside masses. This would be St. John's Catholic Church and Columbia Park. Yes, it is a speculation because she does not come right out and name them, but once you know it is Marshfield, you can pinpoint the places she speaks of.

The one part I can guarantee that is true is the racism she experienced, and it was NOT fiction! If you wish to read about her personal feelings regarding this, please read Foreigner in Marshfield, which is a short story as a part of the book Dream Me Home Safely.

Nina is a wonderful woman with a great talent for writing and I dearly enjoyed her book.

Thank you for your comments.

Thank you for your comments. I'm sorry that you did not care for this particular book, but there are so many books out there that I'm sure there are others that you would enjoy.

I agree

Along with everything the other reviewer stated, hunters did not wear orange clothing at that time, they wore red. I realize this is fiction, but I guess I considered it historical fiction and in that case the author should have made more of an effort to find out details that she did not remember in her 2 years living here(she was 5-7 yr. old). In reguards to the book... well Revoyr took disturbing to new heights. I found myself waiting for the inevitable to happen and then she hits you with this ending that no one could guess. Good discussion book for reading groups.

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