A NEW YORK TIMES NOTABLE BOOK OF THE YEAR
A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: NPR, O Magazine, Vanity Fair, Los Angeles Times, Glamour, The New York Times Book Review, Boston Globe, The Guardian, The New York Public Library,
A FAVORITE BOOK OF THE YEAR: The New Yorker, Barack Obama
"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
“Exacting, hilarious, and deadly . . . A writer of exhilarating freedom and daring.”
―Zadie Smith, Harper’s Bazaar
“[Raven Leilani] is a sharp phrasemaker . . . [and] Luster, a highly pleasurable interrogation of pleasure . . . There is more than a touch of Ralph Ellison here, the hypervisible invisible woman who is cast by the world in categorical terms while trying to be seen for herself.”
―Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker
"There is nothing on offer like Luster―the story of a Black woman who is neither heroic nor unduly tragic . . . She is destructive but tender, ravenous for experience but deeply vulnerable―and often wickedly funny.”
―Parul Sehgal, The New York Times
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.