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?
“Luster centers on Edie, a young black woman working in New York publishing and barely making rent each month, who finds herself navigating a suburban white couple’s open marriage. This novel is filled with unexpected turns taken at breakneck speeds. It seamlessly examines the plight of millennials living under capitalism along with the complications of intimacy and race, all while finding both the humor and profound sadness in those things. This is a multifaceted and brilliant book, as well as an extraordinary debut from Raven Leilani.”Billy Butler, Bookshop Santa Cruz
“Although Edie makes questionable choices and seems to have difficulty understanding her sexuality, she unapologetically takes ownership of her body (to the extent she can) and attempts to find pleasure in using her body to make others uncomfortable. Edie is messy, intelligent, complicated, beautiful, disruptive, emotional, and real. Leilani does not put Edie into any of the stereotypical neatly packaged boxes that perpetuate racism and bore readers. At moments that could arguably be stereotypical, Leilani’s choice to utilize a stream-of-consciousness narration style allows for a deeper exploration of these ideas through Edie’s perspective. Leilani portrays each grotesque and beautiful moment that makes up this phase of Edie’s life with authenticity and without judgment. I was also pleasantly surprised to see the focus not only on the relationship between Edie and Eric, but also between Edie and Rebecca, and between Edie and Akila. However, at its heart, this book is about Edie’s relationship with herself.”Endya, Beausoleil Books
“Edie's story reveals the complicated truths of dating in your 20s, while also discussing being Black, class, and depression. This short book gives all of the feels.”Tara, Old Firehouse Books
“Luster is a hand grenade disguised as a coming of age novel. It's everything you want in a bildungsroman -- it's intimate, funny, and daring -- but in Raven Leilani's skilled hands it is also volatile and complex, a profound meditation on the intersection of race and loneliness, a thorny examination of sexuality and trauma, of power and privilege, and the subtle interplay between all of the above. It's also so absorbing and compelling that it's hard not to read it in one sitting. With 4 months to go, this is my favorite book published in 2020 so far.”Rachel, The Book Table
If you enjoyed Such a Fun Age, then you’ll love Luster.
“An incredibly unique story, Luster inserts the reader into the head of the novel's protagonist, a young Black woman having an affair with an older white man in an open marriage. Things get complicated when she sneaks into her lover's house and is caught by the wife who then invites her to stay for their anniversary party. Luster is a brilliant mash-up (kind of) of Such a Fun Age and The Roxy Letters, but with added layers. Raven Leilani's writing is going to stick with me for a long time!”Mary, Skylark Bookshop
“Twenty-something Edie is struggling to find her place in the world. She's flailing, moving between jobs and out of her apartment, into her lover's home. But, she is the mistress, faced with the reality that the open relationship she entered isn't everything she thought - but it's the best she can find. As Edie's loyalties to her lover subside she really begins to find a home with his wife and daughter. Leilani examines intricate relationships, identity as an artist, and coming into your own in the complex, thrilling web that is Luster.”Christy, Avid Bookshop
An instant New York Times Bestseller A National IndieBestseller ALos Angeles Times Bestseller AWashington Post Bestseller
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.
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