Luster by Raven Leilani
Provocative, subversive, often stressful to read but equally sensual and surprising, believe the hype about this one, dear readers, it is very, very good. The novel follows Edie, a 23 year-year-old Black woman who meets an older white man on a dating site and ends up in a slightly surreal and muddled open marriage. But this is not just another book about adultery, there is so much more at play here. In her review for The Guardian, Ordinary People author Diana Evans said that "Luster is a cold, hard look at life in a dirty 21st-century metropolis for a struggling young woman craving stability and tenderness, caught mercilessly at the intersection of capitalism, racism and sexism". It also reads as a rebuke of the publishing industry. We realise that nothing we've mentioned so far would suggest that this bold book is funny, but Leilani's writing is sharp and witty and she uses dark humour to tell this most intriguingly complicated story. Go read it!
A provocative debut novel from Palestinian-American novelist Zaina Arafat; and a refreshing bit of contemporary Middle Eastern lit for your collection. The story follows an unnamed narrator as she details her romantic relationships with men and women, her career failings, as well as her fraught relationship with her conservative, glamorous and emotionally manipulative Palestinian mother. Told in a series of short sections that move through locations in the Middle East, Europe and the United States - New York, Italy, Lebanon and Iowa - each new place holds the key to a memory as well as moments of longing, recklessness and desire. If you’re a fan of Melissa Broder’s The Pisces, give this a try as it contains a similar amount of sass and verve. We loved it.
A lyrical and moving debut novella about two young people who meet at a pub in South East London. Both are Black British, both won scholarships to private schools where they struggled to belong, both are now artists - he a photographer, she a dancer - trying to make their mark in a city that by turns celebrates and rejects them. Tentatively, tenderly, they fall in love. But two people who seem destined to be together can still be torn apart by fear and violence. This reminded us of Normal People (two people falling in and out of love, learning about the depths of intimacy), but with more of a philosophical and political edge. The sort of book you can read in a single sitting and then promptly start again.