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Nightcrawling
Cover of Nightcrawling
Nightcrawling
A novel
BOOKER PRIZE LONG-LIST • NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • AN OPRAH BOOK CLUB PICK • A dazzling novel about a young Black woman who walks the streets of Oakland and stumbles headlong into the failure of its justice system. This debut of a blazingly original voice “bursts at the seams of every page and swallows you whole” (Tommy Orange, author of There There).
Kiara and her brother, Marcus, are scraping by in an East Oakland apartment complex optimistically called the Regal-Hi. Both have dropped out of high school, their family fractured by death and prison
But while Marcus clings to his dream of rap stardom, Kiara hunts for work to pay their rent—which has more than doubled—and to keep the nine-year-old boy next door, abandoned by his mother, safe and fed. One night, what begins as a drunken misunderstanding with a stranger turns into the job Kiara never imagined wanting but now desperately needs: nightcrawling. Her world breaks open even further when her name surfaces in an investigation that exposes her as a key witness in a massive scandal within the Oakland Police Department.
Rich with raw beauty, electrifying intensity, and piercing vulnerability, Nightcrawling marks the stunning arrival of a voice unlike any we have heard before.
BOOKER PRIZE LONG-LIST • NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • AN OPRAH BOOK CLUB PICK • A dazzling novel about a young Black woman who walks the streets of Oakland and stumbles headlong into the failure of its justice system. This debut of a blazingly original voice “bursts at the seams of every page and swallows you whole” (Tommy Orange, author of There There).
Kiara and her brother, Marcus, are scraping by in an East Oakland apartment complex optimistically called the Regal-Hi. Both have dropped out of high school, their family fractured by death and prison
But while Marcus clings to his dream of rap stardom, Kiara hunts for work to pay their rent—which has more than doubled—and to keep the nine-year-old boy next door, abandoned by his mother, safe and fed. One night, what begins as a drunken misunderstanding with a stranger turns into the job Kiara never imagined wanting but now desperately needs: nightcrawling. Her world breaks open even further when her name surfaces in an investigation that exposes her as a key witness in a massive scandal within the Oakland Police Department.
Rich with raw beauty, electrifying intensity, and piercing vulnerability, Nightcrawling marks the stunning arrival of a voice unlike any we have heard before.
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About the Author-
  • LEILA MOTTLEY is the author of the novel Nightcrawling, an Oprah’s Book Club Pick and New York Times best seller. She is also the 2018 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate. She was born and raised in Oakland, where she continues to live.

Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    December 1, 2021

    Black teenagers Kiara and brother Marcus live alone in a grubby East Oakland apartment, having dropped out of high school when their family imploded. Marcus aspires to rap stardom, while Kiara scrambles to find paying work to support them and the abandoned nine-year-old who lives next door. When she reluctantly turns to streetwalking, she ends up as a key witness in a scandal involving the Oakland Police Department's exploitation of young sex workers. Echoing a real-life 2015 case; 19-year-old Mottley was the 2018 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate, and her first short story, "Juneteenth Babies," appeared in Oprah Daily.

    Copyright 2021 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    March 15, 2022
    For Kiara Johnson, life in her family's studio at Oakland's Regal-Hi Apartments might be bleak--mattress on the floor, cackling crack addict next door, bags of dog poop bobbing in the complex swimming pool--but it's all she knows, and she'll do what it takes to preserve it. Life has never been easy for Kiara. Her father died when she was 13, her mother attempted suicide and is now living in a halfway house, and Vernon, the landlord, has just doubled the rent. Older brother Marcus thinks his nonexistent hip-hop skills will be their golden ticket, so it's up to high school dropout Kiara to look for work at Walgreens, CVS, and finer stores everywhere, including the strip club where Marcus' ex now tends bar. No dice--Ki's only 17. A drunken coupling with a club patron that's more non- than consensual yields her virginity, a quick $200, and a really bad idea--"just till I get us out of our rent debt." While the eventual tale of sexual violence, police corruption, and injustice preordained is inspired by real-life Oakland events, it's Kiara's intense, anguished interiority rendered in lovely and poetic exposition that drives this evocation of an underclass and the disposable women just trying to survive. If the rich language occasionally tips toward impenetrable ("brushing against my skin like 7-Eleven slushies in the winter"?), so too does the hard trap Kiara can't escape, the engineered tragedy of intersectional poverty, racism, and misogyny. The acute observations are more remarkable still considering the author is herself a promising Oakland teen. Plot, shmot--the real story here is lush, immersive writing and a relentless reality that crushes a girl's soul.

    COPYRIGHT(2022) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Booklist

    April 1, 2022
    Having grown up at the height of gentrification in Oakland, California, 17-year-old Kiara Johnson is strong. Her father, a Black Panther, died after falling ill in prison, while her mother has struggled with a severe mental disorder since the tragic loss of Kiara's youngest sister. Kiara lives with her brother Marcus, who wants to make it in the music business. Supporting them both in the meantime, Kiara will do whatever it takes to keep a roof over their heads. When Kiara begins to work the streets, it's for survival. But that doesn't matter to the members of the Oakland police force who traffic Kiara and use her for sex. When one member of the circle of cops commits suicide and leaves a note describing what he and his coworkers did to Kiara, an underage girl, Kiara's entire world blows up. She's forced to face the public, with all the scrutiny, victim blaming, and class shaming that the attention entails. Kiara is an unforgettable dynamo, and her story brings critical human depth to conversations about police sexual violence. Mottley, an activist and the 2018 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate, lends her deft hand for poetics to the prose of this stunning debut novel.

    COPYRIGHT(2022) Booklist, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Publisher's Weekly

    Starred review from April 18, 2022
    Mottley, Oakland’s former Youth Poet Laureate, debuts with a bold and beautiful account of two Black siblings striving to thrive and survive. Seventeen-year-old Kiara and her older brother, Marcus, have been on their own since their single mother was convicted of negligent homicide three years earlier. When the landlord raises the rent on their Oakland studio apartment, Kiara grows desperate. Marcus is no help; he can’t hold down a job while he chases dreams of becoming a hip-hop star. Kiara turns a few tricks—at first, just enough to pay the rent and buy groceries for her and the neighbor’s son she’s taking care of. But soon Kiara is caught up in a sex-trafficking ring servicing Bay Area cops, and her world collapses when the scandal goes public. Mottley powerfully chronicles Kiara’s desperation and her bravery, as well as her determination to keep moving forward despite the crushing torrent of losses affecting her family as well as those of everyone she knows. Scenes of realism are rendered with a poet’s eye, as Kiara experiences moments of beauty and joy by tagging an underpass wall with spray paint, learning to swim in a dirty pool, and finding shelter in the arms of a friend. This heartrending story makes for a powerful testament to a Black woman’s resilience. Agent: Molly Friedrich, Friedrich Agency.

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Nightcrawling
Nightcrawling
A novel
Leila Mottley
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