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Mills alum Nina LaCour reads on campus

The book cover of Nina LaCour's second novel The Disenchantments. (Amazon)
The book cover of Nina LaCour’s second novel The Disenchantments. (Amazon)

Nina LaCour filled the Mills Hall Living Room with an inspirational reading from her new book The Disenchantments. The event took place on March 5 as part of the Contemporary Writers Series.

“Hearing her writing process was very thought provoking about how I might create a story,” said Olivia Mertz, a junior majoring in creative writing.

Nina LaCour is a San Francisco native who wanted to be writer since she was a young girl. She graduated from Mills in 2006 with an MFA in creative writing. LaCour launched her writing career while at Mills, workshopping her first book Hold Still at the age of 22 in class. Since graduating, she has published two books, Hold Still and The Disenchantments, and she currently has a contract for two more books.

Disenchantments is a young adult novel that pulls from the influences of art and music to illustrate a group of high school friends exploring their adult lives together on a road trip.

Disenchantments is about friendship and love and what it means to be out on the road,” LaCour said.

The novel is narrated through the lens of a male character named Colby who accompanies an all-girl band called The Disenchantments on a band tour road trip right out of high school.

When developing the story, Nina really wanted the narrator to be an outsider, someone outside the band. LaCour said, “A boy on the road with three girls was an interesting dynamic to think about.”

Karen Gordon, a senior creative writing major really enjoyed the reading, but had to keep telling herself the narrator of the story was male.

“It was hard to remember the narrator was a guy,” Gordon said. “It made me think how nowadays you can have a character that’s a guy and not a macho guy.”

LaCour has recently finished shooting footage for the movie version of her book Hold Still.

“I see my novels while I write them” LaCour said, “so translating from fiction to screenplay was fun.”

For LaCour, dialogue comes easiest to her and sometimes she speaks it out loud when writing.

Emily Koch, a senior majoring in creative writing, really liked her voice and dialogue.

“That’s my strong point in my writing so it was really inspirational to hear,” Koch said.

After graduating from Mills and publishing Hold Still, LaCour was eager to start writing again. She took a sentence structure class with Kate Brubeck in 2006 in which she wrote a sentence that turned out to be the beginning of her second novel The Disenchantments.

LaCour currently teaches at Maybeck in Berkeley, an independent high school where students and teachers engage together in a collaborative intellectual exploration. That experience helped LaCour understand that teens all think and talk differently from one another, a realization that LaCour drew from when writing her high school characters.

After the reading, Morgan Johnson, a freshman majoring in business economics and French, said she now wants to read everything LaCour has written.

“Her reading made me want to be in that awkward high school struggle again,” Johnson said.

LaCour said she understands how high school students are really exploring who they are, and what they want, especially since she also took a road trip right out of high school.

Unique Robinson, a graduate student studying poetry, thought LaCour illustrates the agency of today’s youth in her book effectively.

“She really engaged in taking on 21st-century youth culture and choosing what you want to do instead of what is expected of you,” Robinson said.

A 2007 Mills alumna, Sean Manzano, was also at the reading. He attended class with Nina at Mills when she workshopped parts of Hold Still in class.

“[It’s] nice to see a prodigal daughter of Mills College conquering the publishing beast,” Sean Manzano said.

Manzano, a teacher at Purple Lotus K-12 Buddhist school, brought some of his students to the reading.

One of his students, Ernesto Ngchen, a junior at Purple Lotus, commented on his favorite part of the novel, where the two male characters discuss getting a tattoo.

“My favorite part was when the two boys in the book discussed tulips when talking about what kind of tattoo to get,” said Ngchen.

Mandy Sturgill, a senior in American Studies, felt the tattoo scene was really important because it provided insight on the importance of building relationships.

“He didn’t just call him to get advice about his tattoo, he was forging a relationship with him,” Sturgill said.

“If I wrote a young adult novel, I would also try put emphasis on it being a good influence to high school students.”