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Raven Leilani Books In Order

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Publication Order of Standalone Novels

Luster (2020)Hardcover  Paperback  Kindle

Raven Leilani
Raven Leilani is a fiction author best known for her debut novel Luster published in 2020. However, her love for the written word started many years before she even thought about writing this book. Her artistic family influenced her to pursue visual art after high school, but she did not think that she was good enough to make it in this career. Leilani holds an MFA from NYU. Her other notable works include her Hard Water and Breathing Exercise short stories. The American author has also written for McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Granta, Yale Review, New England Review, and The Cut, among other publications. Currently, Leilani resides in Brooklyn.

Luster
Luster tells Edie’s story, a young black woman trying to survive in a world where everything seems to be working against her. At 23, Edie is orphaned, and with no one she can really count on. She is an artist trying to live on a publishing salary, but there is never enough to last her until her next paycheck leaves alone improve her living conditions. Things get worse when Eddie loses her job. How is a girl to survive without a job and no savings? Well, life starts to change when Edie meets Eric.

Eric is a financially secure digital archivist. He is also twice Edie’s age and in an open marriage. His family lives in New Jersey. When Edie becomes jobless, she moves in with Eric. Here, she gets to meet Eric’s wife and their adopted daughter. Eric’s wife eventually becomes a friend, and their daughter Akila cannot hide her admiration for Edie. As a black girl raised by white parents, Edie offers insights that her adoptive parents could not provide. Eric tries to make Edie as comfortable as possible, but the differences in their age and life experiences become hard to ignore.

Edie is many things. She is laborious, lusty, and in every way, female. She is straightforward, sex-forward, and frothy. Unfortunately, the young lady is also unfulfilled by everything in her life. All those times she spent alone, Edie wanted nothing but to be seen. However, her mode of doing this led to destruction as she ended up sleeping with most of her workmates, which costs her a job in the end. Eric’s wife, Rebecca, is such a darling. When Edie loses her job, Rebecca invites her into her home. However, Edie is constantly worried that she would get thrown out if she did not do enough to please Eric and his wife.
This book is set in a modern world characterized by racial politics and bizarre sexual manners. The story is darkly comical, and you cannot help but wonder what will happen when Edie becomes entangled with Eric’s family. It is easy to sympathize with Edie as she narrates about her life. She lets us on her unlucky streak with men. While her breasts were exactly what most guys wanted, they warped her spine, and it did not help that men lost interest the moment she opened her mouth. Eric treats her better than all the men she had interacted with before. It felt great to have someone who viewed her as a human being and not just a sperm receptacle. However, there is no telling how long their unorthodox relationship would last.

It is outstanding how Edie describes the world around her. She draws the perfect picture of modern office workers and their mating habits. Things get a bit numb as the body count grows, but the author’s sharp comedic edge will keep you reading. Her experience is nothing strange for the young generation joining the job market in New York and other parts of the world. These twenty-somethings just coming out of school have to take delivery jobs to sustain themselves, among other odd positions. The descriptions show how desperate Edie’s situation is, making it easy to understand some of her choices.

Away from Edie’s dysfunction, the author brings midtown traffic energy to life. We also get to see the millennials’ work life and the challenges against young black women. Edie is forced to spend hours toiling in an unsatisfying job so that she can do what she loves. Getting enough to live on is quite a task, which only leaves Edie limited time to pursue her passion. There is something about books that includes the dimensions of work that make them so intriguing. Since we work most of our lives, it is always fun to read how others work around their workplace challenges.

In the first few chapters, it is hard to understand Edie and her sexual promiscuity. While this is depicted entertainingly, you cannot help but wish that Edie would make better choices. However, as Rebecca and Edie’s dynamics come to light, your opinion of this young lady may change. Akila and Edie’s warm relationship also makes her more likable, and she grows more relatable as Eric fades into the background. Sure, she is not the nicest person, but she also has some great qualities. Her rawness makes it easier for the reader to identify with her. At times, this book was outright sad. Edie’s loneliness in a world that seems not to care about her will get to you. While the narration is flawless, this is one story you will have a hard time rushing through. You will often find yourself pausing to savor its richness.

Luster is a dazzling and fresh story characterized by dry humor and in-your-face dialogue. The protagonist is a beautiful yet vulnerable woman whose experiences are anything but ordinary. Edie explains her relationship with men and how they seemed always to withdraw when she expected them to show up. The author explores the themes of race, sex, class, and depressiveness. Tension rises as the story progresses, and the last pages will leave you breathless. If you are looking for a bighearted, captivating, and intimate story, this book is perfect. You can be sure that the content and the protagonist will stay in your mind for a long time.

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