Nava grew up in Gardenland, a predominantly working-class Mexican neighborhood in Sacramento, California that he described as "not as an American suburb at all, but rather as a Mexican village, transported perhaps from Guanajuato, where my grandmother's family originated, and set down lock, stock and chicken coop in the middle of California.” His maternal family settled there in 1920 after escaping from the Mexican Revolution. Nava's grandmother was an "influential force" whose "piety and humility that was highlighted by her Catholic beliefs."
At 12 years old, he started writing and it was also around that time he recognized that he was gay. He was the first person in his family to go to college; he attended Colorado College and "acquired a special affinity for literature and writing." He joined a group of young poets that included writer and humorist David Owen and the poet David Mason. He graduated in 1976 cum laude with a Bachelor of Arts in History.
Michael Nava is an American attorney and writer. He authored a seven-volume mystery series featuring Henry Rios, an openly gay protagonist who is a criminal defense lawyer. His novels have received six Lambda Literary Awards. In October 2008, Nava married his partner since 2001, George Herzog, an oncology nurse at the Veteran's Administration hospital in San Francisco. California Supreme Court justice Carlos R. Moreno presided over the ceremony. They live in Daly City, California.
Nava received a Thomas J. Watson Fellowship, and spent the following year in Buenos Aires and Madrid where he worked on translations of works by Spanish-American poet Rubén Darío. After returning, he considered graduate education in English or History. He enrolled in Stanford Law School, and received his J.D. in 1981.
Nava worked in the Los Angeles City Attorney's office, where he was a deputy attorney and prosecutor on about 50 jury trials. In 1985, he became an associate at the appellate boutique firm Horvitz & Levy, located in Encino, California. He then served as a judicial staff attorney for Arleigh Woods, the first female African-American appellate court justice in California, from 1986-1995. One of the cases he worked on was Jasperson v. Jessica’s Nail Clinic in 1989, which resulted in the first published decision to uphold an HIV/AIDS anti-discrimination statute.
After Woods retired, Nava moved back to Northern California and settled in San Francisco. In 1999, he joined the staff of the California Supreme Court. In 2004, he became a judicial attorney for Carlos R. Moreno, who was the third Latino to ever sit on the California Supreme Court. Nava said "Judicial attorneys and law clerks can have a huge influence in shaping the direction of the law, but there are very few attorneys of color in those positions because they are mostly filled through the Old Boys Network. We need to establish our own network."
From 2007 to 2009, he was a member of the State Bar of California’s Council on Access and Fairness, which advises the State Bar’s board of governors on diversity issues. In 2008, he wrote The Servant of All: Humility, Humanity, and Judicial Diversity, a law review article where he put forth the case for judicial diversity.
In 2010, Nava ran for Seat 15 of the San Francisco Superior Court. In the June election, he received a plurality of the votes, but the position required a majority. In the November run-off election with incumbent Richard Ulmer, he received 87,511 votes (46.83%) compared to Ulmer's 99,342 (53.17%).
After graduating from Stanford Law School, Nava began writing his first novel. The Little Death features Henry Rios, an openly gay Latino criminal defense lawyer who worked in Los Angeles. He was inspired to create Rios because of a comment by author Toni Morrison about writing books that she could have read when she was growing up. After the novel was rejected by thirteen publishers, it was picked up by Alyson Books, and published in 1986. His follow-up novel, Goldenboy, published in 1988, received critical acclaim by the New York Times which called him a "brilliant storyteller." From 1990-2000, Nava wrote five more Henry Rios books: How Town, The Hidden Law, The Death of Friends, The Burning Plain, and Rag and Bone. He received six Lambda Literary Awards. In 2001, he was awarded the Bill Whitehead Award for Lifetime Achievement from Publishing Triangle, a GLBT professional group within the publishing industry.
In 1994, he co-authored the book Created Equal: Why Gay Rights Matter to America.
After not having written any new novels since 2000, Nava announced in 2008 that he has drafted a new work, The Children of Eve, which was set in the Mexican Revolution. He based one of the main characters on his grandfather. The Children of Eve would later be redone as a quartet of historical fiction novels; the first book would be titled The City of Palaces.
Without doubt, Michael Nava's entire Henry Rios series was a powerful motivator to me. It began my understanding that a mystery series with a gay protagonist could be about more than sex and snarky one-liners (not that there is anything wrong with that). It could be smart, serious, the hero could be flawed in many ways, and still draw in readers. Before I began writing my own series, I'd read all of the Rios books and thought: yeah, this is the kind of writing I want to do. As it turns out, I was wrong. My character, Russell Quant, is no where even close to being a Henry Rios wannabe. My voice on the page turned out to be something entirely different. Thinking about it now, I think I was attracted to the fact that there could be so many different perspectives on how to tell a story within the gay genre. That still excites me today. --Anthony Bidulka
One of my Internet friends introduced me to the work of Michael Nava. I love the Henry Rios series. Not only are they set in my hometown of Los Angeles, they just feel so familiar to me. Henry Rios is deeply flawed. The series starts with “The Little Death”. While I appreciate that Mr. Nava has both a successful career as an attorney and political aspirations I kind of wish he could still find time to write. --Z.A. Maxfield
Michael Nava is one of the three writers I consider the Grand Masters of Gay Mystery (the other two are Joseph Hansen and John Morgan Wilson). It was Nava’s stunning Henry Rios series that inspired me to write gay mysteries. Each one of these books is masterfully plotted, beautifully written, and every character, no matter how important or not to the story, is realistic and three-dimensional. The Burning Plain, however, is my favorite of the series; it concerns a pedophilia ring with ties to a major Hollywood studio, and is absolutely riveting. --Greg Herren
Michael Nava coupled great story telling with great writing and taught me you can do both. So not just Goldenboy, but all of his books are in my must read pile. --P.A. Brown
Michael Nava, 1988, by Robert Giard (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/dl_crosscollex/brbldl_getrec.asp?fld=img&id=1121549)
American photographer Robert Giard is renowned for his portraits of American poets and writers; his particular focus was on gay and lesbian writers. Some of his photographs of the American gay and lesbian literary community appear in his groundbreaking book Particular Voices: Portraits of Gay and Lesbian Writers, published by MIT Press in 1997. Giard’s stated mission was to define the literary history and cultural identity of gays and lesbians for the mainstream of American society, which perceived them as disparate, marginal individuals possessing neither. In all, he photographed more than 600 writers. (http://beinecke.library.yale.edu/digitallibrary/giard.html)
Rag and Bone (Henry Rios Mysteries) by Michael Nava
Series: Henry Rios Mysteries
Mass Market Paperback: 304 pages
Publisher: Berkley Trade (June 1, 2002)
Amazon: Rag and Bone (Henry Rios Mysteries)
Amazon Kindle: Rag and Bone (Henry Rios Mysteries)
One of the most highly acclaimed writers in the mystery genre "explores new emotional depths" in this last Henry Rios novel. The gay Mexican-American attorney, after the loss of his lover, must face his own mortality while recovering from a heart attack-and reach out to a family he didn't know he had.
"For more years than we've noticed, Michael Nava has been creating an intricate series of fictions about Henry Rios...to give voice to the voiceless, the outsiders...to remind us that these outsiders are our kin." (Washington Post Book World)
"In 1986, Michael Nava began a series about Los Angeles investigator Henry Rios, a character with three strikes against him: He was gay, he was Chicano, and he was a lawyer. He also had a wry sense of humor, a formidable intelligence and a great deal of insight, so the series, without being preachy, cumulatively had a lot to say about certain aspects of the human condition...With Rag and Bone, Nava brings this wonderful and often moving series to an unexpected close...we thank him for illuminating the life of an always fascinating character and perhaps educating a few people along the way." (Denver Post)
More Particular Voices at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Particular Voices
More LGBT Couples at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Real Life Romance
More Spotlights at my website: http://www.elisarolle.com/, My Lists/Gay Novels
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