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Edgy & LUMINOUS, a twisted tale of love, friendship, art, & so much more in this hot debut–luster–by Raven Leliani

By Leslie Lindsay 

Luminous and edgy, LUSTER is a raw examination of friendship, sex, intimacy, art, and more.



February Spotlight: Women Writers of Color

A BEST BOOK OF THE YEAR: NPR, O Magazine, Vanity FairLos Angeles TimesGlamour, Shondaland, The New York Times Book ReviewBoston GlobeBuzzfeedKirkusTimeGood HousekeepingInStyleThe GuardianLiterary HubElectric LiteratureSelf, The New York Public Library, Town & CountryWired, Boston.com, Happy MagNew StatesmanVoxShelf Awareness, Chatelaine, The UndefeatedApartment TherapyBrooklyn BasedThe End of the World ReviewExile in Bookville, Lit Reactor, BookPage, i-D
A FAVORITE BOOK OF THE YEAR: The New Yorker, Barack Obama
A BEST BOOK FOR HOLIDAY GIFTS: AV ClubChicago TribuneNew York Magazine/The Strategist, The Rumpus

WINNER of the Kirkus Prize and the Center for Fiction First Novel Prize

I’ll admit to *not* wanting to read LUSTER (FSG, September 2020) because, well…it was on so many lists and so frequently talked about in literary circles. But then I wrote to the biblioracle at the Chicago Tribune, where I offered the last five books I’d read and based on those, was given a ‘reading’ as to what to read next. LUSTER was the recommendation. And so I got the book. I read it. The first few pages I squirmed. What was this? I didn’t like it. At all. But,the writing was rich and textured and I continued. And it started to grow on me.

Edie is a frosty 23 year old black girl scraping by on a dismal salary in publishing. She really wants to be an artist but she needs to do something to make ends meet. She begins dating Eric, a white man married to a medical examiner and they are in an open-marriage. Yet somehow it doesn’t seem as though the wife, Rebecca, is as open about this idea as he claims. They have a daughter, too, who factors into the story.

An irreverent intergenerational tale of race and class that’s blisteringly smart and fan-yourself sexy.”

—Michelle Hart, O: The Oprah Magazine

And then Edie finds herself unemployed and …well, that’s when things really get interesting. LUSTER is rampant with raw imagery, razor-sharp perception, race, marriage, intimacy, hunger…it’s edgy and luminously rendered. There’s some deep, but vague backstory, leading readers to interpret what they will about why Edie seems so damaged. But also, too, there’s some very blunt, bleeding wounds that shape this woman.

The structure is loose and flow-of-consciousness, a fever dream of events cascading in the first person, as Edie sees the world. Each sentence is pulsing with electricity, and the ending is satisfyingly inevitable, that is…it makes perfect sense but isn’t all that predictable.

I’m still on the fence about whether I liked LUSTER. It might not be a top read for me, but it certainly stretched me as a reader. I found myself studying it a micro-level and while I think I’ll remember it because of the ending, because this is a very talented writer and I’m curious to see where her career goes.


Artistic image of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay #alwayswithabook #bookstagrammer.


You might also like FEVER DREAM by Samanta Schweblin meets the work of Karen Russell, Yaa Gyasi.

Raven-Leilani-c-Nina-SubinABOUT THE AUTHOR: 

Raven Leilani’s work has been published in GrantaThe Yale ReviewMcSweeney’s Quarterly ConcernConjunctionsThe Cut, and New England Review, among other publications. Leilani received her MFA from NYU and was an Axinn Foundation Writer-in-Residence. Luster is her first novel.


1B6B942E-E2D9-4517-9773-73A6A5162188ABOUT YOUR HOST:

Leslie Lindsay is the creator and host of the award-winning author interview series,“Always with a Book.” Since 2013, Leslie, named “one of the most influential book reviewers” by Jane Friedman, ranks in the top 1% of all GoodReads reviewers and has conducted over 700 warm, inquisitive conversations with authors as wide-ranging as Robert Kolker and Mary Kubica to Helen Phillips and Mary Beth Keane, making her website a go-to for book lovers world-wide. Her writing & photography have appeared in various print journals and online. She is the award-winning author of SPEAKING OF APRAXIA: A Parents’ Guide to Childhood Apraxia of Speech. A former psychiatric R.N. at the Mayo Clinic, Leslie’s memoir, MODEL HOME: Motherhood, Madness, & Memory, is currently on submission with Catalyst Literary Management. Leslie resides in the Chicago area with her family.


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#alwayswithabook #authorinterviews #literaryfiction #art #bookreviews #bookshop #blackwomen #publishing #openmarriage 


[Cover and author image retrieved from on 1.23.21. Author photo cred: Nina Subin. Artistic image of book cover designed and photographed by me, Leslie Lindsay. Follow on Instagram for more like this @leslielindsay #alwayswithabook #bookstagrammer]

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