“This year’s Mayor’s Book Club Selection is Dawnie Walton’s The Final Revival of Opal & Nev. This novel imagines two musicians against the backdrop of the 1970s music scene, and asks us to consider what we demand of Black entertainers when they enter the spotlight. As you read, I hope you will consider the vibrant music scene that we have here in Austin and how we can nurture the artists that make the city so great. I hope that all Austinites will join us in reading this timely novel, and I look forward to Dawnie Walton’s visit to the Central Library in November.” 

- Austin Mayor Steve Adler


Opal is a fiercely independent young woman pushing against the grain in her style and attitude, Afro-punk before that term existed. Coming of age in Detroit, she can’t imagine settling for a 9-to-5 job—despite her unusual looks, Opal believes she can be a star. So when the aspiring British singer/songwriter Neville Charles discovers her at a bar’s amateur night, she takes him up on his offer to make rock music together for the fledgling Rivington Records.

In early seventies New York City, just as she’s finding her niche as part of a flamboyant and funky creative scene, a rival band signed to her label brandishes a Confederate flag at a promotional concert. Opal’s bold protest and the violence that ensues set off a chain of events that will not only change the lives of those she loves, but also be a deadly reminder that repercussions are always harsher for women, especially black women, who dare to speak their truth.

Decades later, as Opal considers a 2016 reunion with Nev, music journalist S. Sunny Shelton seizes the chance to curate an oral history about her idols. Sunny thought she knew most of the stories leading up to the cult duo’s most politicized chapter. But as her interviews dig deeper, a nasty new allegation from an unexpected source threatens to blow up everything.

Provocative and chilling, The Final Revival of Opal & Nev features a backup chorus of unforgettable voices, a heroine the likes of which we’ve not seen in storytelling, and a daring structure, and introduces a bold new voice in contemporary fiction. – Simon and Schuster 


DAWNIE WALTON is a fiction writer and journalist whose work explores identity, place, and the influence of pop culture. She has won fellowships from MacDowell and the Tin House Summer Workshop, and earned her MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop. Previously she worked as an executive-level editor for magazine and multimedia brands including Essence, Entertainment Weekly, Getty Images, and LIFE. A native of Jacksonville, Florida, she lives with her husband in Brooklyn.


I’m humbled to be asked this question, because I learned a lot from such cities before I got up the nerve to write this book! And I doubt there’s anything in here that Austinites or New Orleanians or New Yorkers don’t already realize about the power of music to shape a city’s culture and history. But one lovely thing I heard from readers is that at the peak of the pandemic, when beloved venues were shut down and festivals canceled, this novel let them dream about the day we might safely gather again as fans. So I suppose a lesson would be that when we’re blessed to have them, we can’t take communal music experiences for granted.
As the character Virgil LaFleur wisely remarks, when it comes to Opal, “Many things can be true at once.” She is strong and vulnerable, brave and terrified, larger than life and imperfectly human. Initially I started writing Opal with a desire to make her this all-conquering Afropunk idol, but as I got deeper into the story and she started to develop, I stopped being afraid to give her huge flaws and blind spots. In other words, I stopped thinking of myself as her fan and started wondering what it would be like to really know her, to really love her. At times her actions might disappoint you, but my goal was that you’d root for her through the fire.
Black folks might not have been visible in certain subcultures, but that doesn’t mean that we weren’t there. I am floored on a regular basis by what I’ve discovered, even after publishing this novel, about Black innovators in rock — from godmother of grunge Tina Bell, who fronted the Seattle band Bam Bam years before anyone heard of Nirvana, to the extraordinarily talented Tom Wilson, who signed the Mothers of Invention and was a producer of The Velvet Underground & Nico. I’m just scratching the surface here; anyone who’s interested to learn more about the contributions of Black hidden figures in rock, specifically women, will dig Maureen Mahon’s nonfiction book Black Diamond Queens. It raises questions about how genres are gatekept, and why so many brilliant talents never got their due.
To understand their loved ones better! The older I get the more wistful I am, and I often wish that I had recorded interviews with each of my grandparents before they passed away. My mother’s parents lived into their 90s, and it’s wild to think about all they witnessed, especially as Black Americans, over the course of that time.
I made a playlist, actually! It includes artists who sounded to me like Opal & Nev’s contemporaries (Betty Davis, Labelle, David Bowie, and Talking Heads), as well as a few successors who, I imagined, would cite them as influences (Santigold, Arcade Fire, Janelle Monae).

About the Mayor's Book Club

The Mayor's Book Club is an annual citywide reading campaign to encourage a community experience through reading, discussion, and exploration of shared books. The Mayor's Book Club is presented by the Library Foundation in partnership with the City of Austin Mayor's Office and the Austin Public Library.

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