Updated: Feb 5, 2021
Raven Leilani's novel Luster is a novel worth your time, weaving within it narratives of motherhood toId through a classed and raced lens.
Raven Leilani, Luster: A Novel, Farrar, Strauss, and Giroux (2020)
This debut novel has received quite the accolades from the likes of Brit Bennett, Angela Flournoy, Justin Torres, and Mary Gaitskill--high praise indeed. At first glance, readers might wonder why we have promoted this novel on a site about motherhood and reproductive justice...it’s not immediately apparent. The narrator, a twenty-something Black woman in New York City, is reckoning with common obstacles in the post-college moment: an aspiring painter, she’s barely able to pay for rent and food and feels both alienated from, and angry about, her underpaid job at a publishing house that professes only the faintest interest in Diversity/Inclusion initiatives. Her romantic/sex life has been busy yet also highly disappointing. But as the narrative develops, both pregnancy and trans-racial adoption plots quickly rise to the fore as Edie entangles herself with an older, upper middle class, White married man, his White wife, and their adopted Black daughter. What follows is a striking departure from that somewhat tired Millenial/Gen Z storyline about ‘finding oneself’ in the big city. Leilani accentuates, through a classed and raced lens, the backstory of Edie’s troubled mother, the inept adoptive mothering practices of her lover’s wife, and Edie’s own ambivalence about motherhood. Bonus: Leilani’s prose is absolutely addictive!
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