"Edie is a painter (who isn't really painting right now) with IBS and a ravenous, roving eye for detail. Rootless to begin with and further cut adrift by the loss of her job, she finds herself living in the spacious Jersey house of her married lover. Raven Leilani spins out her magnificent debut around this ungainly arrangement, as Edie witnesses and tries to be witnessed, to carve space for herself where none has been provided. Her acerbic, aching narration rolls through the present moment like a katamari ball and incorporates vast swaths of our culture into its sticky gestalt—mosh pits, ComicCons, furtive adolescent nerdiness, the gig economy, racism, the specific depression of theme parks. Leilani is a masterful chronicler of all the minutiae that comprise a life, from the choking stench and intimacy of the M train at rush hour, to the parallel and foreign domestic universe suggested by the extra folded towels in the lover's bathroom. This vital, capacious, sharp novel would be a gift at any time. In lockdown, I devoured it in a day: grateful for the reminder of the gravity of observing and being observed, of the truth that the painful and lonely fermentation of not-making is, in the end, part of the art too."
One of the Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2020
Vogue, Elle, Time, the New York Times, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Vulture, Parade, USA Today, Literary Hub, Buzzfeed, Electric Literature, Refinery29, The Rumpus, Book Riot, Thrilllist, Domino, PopSugar, New York Amsterdam News, Bookshop.org
“Exacting, hilarious, and deadly . . . A writer of exhilarating freedom and daring.” —Zadie Smith, Harper’s Bazaar
"Impossible to put down.” —Ling Ma, author of Severance
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.