A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF 2020
A BEST BOOK OF 2020: O Magazine, Kirkus, Time, Good Housekeeping, New Statesman, Chatelaine
A BEST BOOK FOR HOLIDAY GIFTS: AV Club, Chicago Tribune, New York Magazine/The Strategist
WINNER OF THE KIRKUS PRIZE
AN INSTANT NEW YORK TIMES BESTSELLER
NATIONAL INDIE BESTSELLER * LOS ANGELES TIMES BESTSELLER * WASHINGTON POST BESTSELLER
"So delicious that it feels illicit . . . Raven Leilani’s first novel reads like summer: sentences like ice that crackle or melt into a languorous drip; plot suddenly, wildly flying forward like a bike down a hill." —Jazmine Hughes, The New York Times Book Review
“An irreverent intergenerational tale of race and class that’s blisteringly smart and fan-yourself sexy.” —Michelle Hart, O: The Oprah Magazine
No one wants what no one wants.
And how do we even know what we want? How do we know we’re ready to take it?
Edie is stumbling her way through her twenties—sharing a subpar apartment in Bushwick, clocking in and out of her admin job, making a series of inappropriate sexual choices. She is also haltingly, fitfully giving heat and air to the art that simmers inside her. And then she meets Eric, a digital archivist with a family in New Jersey, including an autopsist wife who has agreed to an open marriage—with rules.
As if navigating the constantly shifting landscapes of contemporary sexual manners and racial politics weren’t hard enough, Edie finds herself unemployed and invited into Eric’s home—though not by Eric. She becomes a hesitant ally to his wife and a de facto role model to his adopted daughter. Edie may be the only Black woman young Akila knows.
Irresistibly unruly and strikingly beautiful, razor-sharp and slyly comic, sexually charged and utterly absorbing, Raven Leilani’s Luster is a portrait of a young woman trying to make sense of her life—her hunger, her anger—in a tumultuous era. It is also a haunting, aching description of how hard it is to believe in your own talent, and the unexpected influences that bring us into ourselves along the way.
Most Anticipated of 2020 at Buzzfeed and Electric Literature
“A taut, sharp, funny book about being young now. It's brutal—and brilliant.”
—Zadie Smith, author of Grand Union
“The narrative voice of this startling novel is layered, complex, pitch-black comic, and deadly earnest, even ardent in its will to sift through the chaos and idiocy of our madhouse culture and find some glimpse of human reality. Raven Leilani is intellectually supple and steely at the same time; she thinks and perceives blessedly outside any kind of norm. She has made a truly lustrous piece of art.”
—Mary Gaitskill, author of This Is Pleasure
"A coming-of-age story that’s sure to keep you turning pages."
—Stephanie Long, Refinery29
“A darkly funny, hilariously moving debut from a stunning new voice. Luster follows the unforgettable Edie, a hapless young woman suffocating under her own loneliness, whose caustic observations made me laugh out loud and gasp in recognition. Raven Leilani crafts a beautiful, bighearted story about intimacy and art that will astound and wound you. I couldn’t put this one down.”
—Brit Bennett, author of The Mothers
“Raven Leilani's sentences pulse and writhe and shimmer and gut-punch. Above all they tell the truth, even when it hurts.”
—Angela Flournoy, author of The Turner House
“Hilarious, honest, bursting with desire and sharp insight, Luster is absolutely captivating. I didn’t so much read it, as gulp it down. There’s so much to learn here, so much to admire. Leilani is an irreverent, impeccable stylist—a voice we need right now.”
—Justin Torres, author of We the Animals
“A beguiling fever dream of a novel, shot through with wistfulness, humor, and a kind of breathless, furious verve. You’ll find it impossible to put down.”
—Ling Ma, author of Severance
“Raven Leilani is a writer of unusual daring, with a voice that is unique and fully formed. There is humor, intelligence, emotion, and power in her work. I cannot think of a writer better suited to capture our moment.”
—Katie Kitamura, author of A Separation
“In Luster, Raven Leilani has created a character unlike any other in recent fiction. A slacker black queen, a depressive painter, a damn funny woman. The narrator of this novel tells us of her history and her present life in hypnotic language that is a pleasure to read. Leilani is such a talented writer, I rushed to the end of every outrageous sentence to figure out how she would pull it off.”
—Kaitlyn Greenidge, author of We Love You, Charlie Freeman