Raven Leilani

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The life of twenty-something Edie will be familiar to many people. She is living in a big city (New York). Her neighborhood (Bushwick) isn’t the best; nor is the apartment that she rents. When we meet her, she is working a low paying job in publishing—until she gets laid off. She has dated around some. On the other hand, she is now in a relationship with an older man, Eric, who is in an open marriage with his wife, Rebecca. Eric and Rebecca are white, but they have an adopted Black daughter who is twelve. When Rebecca invites Edie (also Black) to stay at their home, things have become much less familiar. It’s rare these days to come across a book and a style that’s really different, but Raven Leilani’s Luster is exciting, surprising, sometimes sad, at times awkward, even shocking. And it’s also funny. The book will make you uncomfortable, but that mirrors the discomfort that the characters, especially Edie, feel—about age, status, race, sex, salaries, you name it. Luster has an energy and an honesty that makes the words practically shimmer on the page.