Luster: A Novel (Hardcover)

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August 2020 Indie Next List

Luster centers on Edie, a young black woman working in New York publishing and barely making rent each month, who finds herself navigating a suburban white couple’s open marriage. This novel is filled with unexpected turns taken at breakneck speeds. It seamlessly examines the plight of millennials living under capitalism along with the complications of intimacy and race, all while finding both the humor and profound sadness in those things. This is a multifaceted and brilliant book, as well as an extraordinary debut from Raven Leilani.”
— Billy Butler, Bookshop Santa Cruz, Santa Cruz, CA


One of the Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2020
Vogue, Elle, Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Shondaland, Goop, Vulture, Parade, USA Today, COLORLINES, Lit Hub, Buzzfeed, Electric Literature, Refinery29, PopSugar, The Millions, The Rumpus, Book Riot, Thrillist, Domino, PopSugar, New York Amsterdam News, Write or Die Tribe, Book Bub, Odyssey, Suitcase,

“Exacting, hilarious, and deadly . . . A writer of exhilarating freedom and daring.”
—Zadie Smith, Harper’s Bazaar

"Impossible to put down.” —Ling Ma, author of Severance

No one wants what no one wants.
And how do we even know what we want? How do we know we’re ready to take it?

Edie is stumbling her way through her twentiessharing a subpar apartment in Bushwick, clocking in and out of her admin job, making a series of inappropriate sexual choices. She is also haltingly, fitfully giving heat and air to the art that simmers inside her. And then she meets Eric, a digital archivist with a family in New Jersey, including an autopsist wife who has agreed to an open marriagewith rules.

As if navigating the constantly shifting landscapes of contemporary sexual manners and racial politics weren’t hard enough, Edie finds herself unemployed and invited into Eric’s home—though not by Eric. She becomes a hesitant ally to his wife and a de facto role model to his adopted daughter. Edie may be the only Black woman young Akila knows.

Irresistibly unruly and strikingly beautiful, razor-sharp and slyly comic, sexually charged and utterly absorbing, Raven Leilani’s Luster is a portrait of a young woman trying to make sense of her life—her hunger, her anger—in a tumultuous era. It is also a haunting, aching description of how hard it is to believe in your own talent, and the unexpected influences that bring us into ourselves along the way.

About the Author

Raven Leilani’s work has been published in Granta, McSweeney’s Quarterly Concern, Narrative, Yale Review,Conjunctions, The Cut, and New England Review, among other publications. She won Narrative’s Ninth Annual Poetry Contest and the Matt Clark Editor’s Choice Prize, as well as short fiction prizes from Bat City Review and Blue Earth Review. Luster is her first novel.

Praise For…

Longlisted for the 2020 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize
A Book Club Pick at Goop, Belletrist, Marie Claire, Esquire, Book of the Month Club (add-on), Bull Moose Bookstore, and Books on the Subway

**One of the Most Anticipated Books of Summer 2020**
Vogue, Elle, Time, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Esquire, Harper’s Bazaar, Shondaland, Goop, Vulture, Parade, USA Today, COLORLINES, Lit Hub, Buzzfeed, Electric Literature, Refinery29, PopSugar, The Millions, The Rumpus, Book Riot, Thrillist, Domino, PopSugar, New York Amsterdam News, Write or Die Tribe, Book Bub, Odyssey, Suitcase,

“Blistering . . . thrums with observational humor . . . Luster is not a novel concerned with romantic drama. It’s all about attention—why we crave it and what forms it takes. Leilani carefully pulls the strings of Edie, Rebecca, Eric and Akila, revealing how lonely they all are . . . Unsettling and surreal.”
—Annabel Gutterman, Time

"This novel is ridiculously good: gorgeous, dark, and funny, with sentences that'll wreck you. I will follow this author anywhere she wants to take me."
Carmen Maria Machado, author of In the Dream House

“Strange, hilarious, important.”
—Bethanne Patrick, The Washington Post

“On every page a shudder of recognition, then a lol, then an electroshock. It’s gutting and hilarious and lush. Every detail builds so beautifully, I don’t want to spoil anything, but if you want to forget yourself in a passage . . . 100 times over, this is your next read.”
—Tavi Gevinson on Instagram

“Narrated with fresh and wry jadedness, Edie’s every disappointment [is] rendered with a comic twist . . . Edie’s life is a mess, her past is filled with sorrow, she’s wasting her precious youth, and yet, reading about it all is a whole lot of fun.”
—Chloe Schama, Vogue

“The most thrilling thing I’ve read in months.”
—Stephanie Danler on Instagram

“Exacting, hilarious, and deadly . . . A writer of exhilarating freedom and daring.”
—Zadie Smith, Harper’s Bazaar

There are pages in this book so good they burn your fingers.
—Garth Greenwell on Twitter

“This debut novel from powerhouse writer Raven Leilani . . . deftly subverts the white gaze while also crafting an unforgettable protagonist. But the real fire here is Leilani’s writing. Her sentences are gorgeous, and both the prose and the content will make you sweat.”
—Sarah Neilson, Shondaland

"Darkly funny with wicked insight . . . This keenly observed, dynamic debut is so cutting, it almost stings."
—Lauren Puckett, Elle

"Sometimes, on very rare occasions, you read a debut novel with a narrative voice that is so assured, so confident, so astute, and so devastatingly funny, it leaves you reeling . . . Leilani’s brutally accurate observations and rapier wit make this novel a singular, mordant delight. I know it’s a cliché, but I really cannot recommend this book highly enough."
—Tomi Obaro, Buzzfeed News

"Sexy, dark, truly funny. This book is on fire."
Emma Straub on Instagram

“Mercilessly funny and sharp, Raven Leilani’s Luster is unexpected and utterly fascinating.”
—Megan DiTrolio, Marie Claire

“An unstable ballet of race, sex, and power. Leilani’s characters act in ways that often defy explanation, and that is part of what makes them so alive, and so mesmerizing: Whose behavior, in real life, can be reduced to simple cause and effect? Sharp, strange, propellent—and a whole lot of fun.”
Kirkus, starred review

“A darkly funny, hilariously moving debut from a stunning new voice. Luster follows the unforgettable Edie, a hapless young woman suffocating under her own loneliness, whose caustic observations made me laugh out loud and gasp in recognition. Raven Leilani crafts a beautiful, bighearted story about intimacy and art that will astound and wound you. I couldn’t put this one down.”
—Brit Bennett, author of The Mothers

“A rocket-paced, sensual fever dream of sex, trauma, relationships and conflicting perceptions . . . Luster is intoxicating and surprising, never letting readers settle into recognizable patterns. Leilani has crafted an unforgettable novel about a young woman making her own way.”
—Julia Kastner, Shelf Awareness

“Sexy, funny, and wholly self-aware, Luster couldn’t come at a better time.”

“What stands out here is Leilani’s prose, which is breathless, frantic, and reads like a Twitter wit grew legs and an IRL identity.”
—Hillary Kelly, Vulture

“Raven Leilani's sentences pulse and writhe and shimmer and gut-punch. Above all they tell the truth, even when it hurts.”
—Angela Flournoy, author of The Turner House

“The narrative voice of this startling novel is layered, complex, pitch-black comic, and deadly earnest, even ardent in its will to sift through the chaos and idiocy of our madhouse culture and find some glimpse of human reality. Raven Leilani is intellectually supple and steely at the same time; she thinks and perceives blessedly outside any kind of norm. She has made a truly lustrous piece of art.”
—Mary Gaitskill, author of This Is Pleasure

"An utterly strange and beautiful book that is both very visceral and very intellectual, about a young black woman trying to find her artistic identity."
—C. Pam Zhang, The Rumpus

“Leilani’s radiant debut belongs to its brilliant, fully formed narrator. Old soul Edie has an otherworldly way of seeing the world and reflecting it back to readers, peppering experiences of past and current despair with acceptance and humor but never sacrificing depth, of which her story has miles. A must for seekers of strongly narrated, original fiction.”
Booklist, starred review

“Hilarious, honest, bursting with desire and sharp insight, Luster is absolutely captivating. I didn’t so much read it, as gulp it down. There’s so much to learn here, so much to admire. Leilani is an irreverent, impeccable stylist—a voice we need right now.”
—Justin Torres, author of We the Animals

“The threat of a sharp edge is on every page . . . Interior monologues are written like the tenebrist masterpieces Edie loves . . . Sex is the answer to many of the book’s questions, yet the fact of fucking is nowhere near as thrilling as what Leilani understands: the endless ways the desires of another can be made to feel like our own.”
—Haley Mlotek, Frieze

“A beguiling fever dream of a novel, shot through with wistfulness, humor, and a kind of breathless, furious verve. You’ll find it impossible to put down.”
—Ling Ma, author of Severance

“In Luster, Raven Leilani has created a character unlike any other in recent fiction. A slacker black queen, a depressive painter, a damn funny woman. The narrator of this novel tells us of her history and her present life in hypnotic language that is a pleasure to read. Leilani is such a talented writer, I rushed to the end of every outrageous sentence to figure out how she would pull it off.”
—Kaitlyn Greenidge, author of We Love You, Charlie Freeman

“Electric, heralding a singular new literary voice . . . Provocative and surprising. Edie is both emblematic of a generation of detached, fiercely intelligent yet hopelessly drifting young women, who yearn for something more, but know there is little hope for attaining it.”
—Kristen Iversen, Refinery29

Luster hooked us from the opening sex scene . . . Charged and hypnotic, Luster is poised to become one of the books that defines what it’s like to be young in this moment.”

“Raven Leilani is a writer of unusual daring, with a voice that is unique and fully formed. There is humor, intelligence, emotion, and power in her work. I cannot think of a writer better suited to capture our moment.”
—Katie Kitamura, author of A Separation

"A coming-of-age story that’s sure to keep you turning pages."
—Stephanie Long, Refinery29

“A smart and bold exploration of self-worth and self-appreciation wriggled from a love triangle gone strange and a sense of urgency to understand the world around us. This short book is both sexy and sad, angry but funny, with impressive literary prose that is blunt and mischievous, luring you with little intention to let go . . . Leilani has given us a novel of our times.”
—Carissa Chesanek, PANK

"A stunning debut from a powerful new voice . . . Narrative drive oozes out of every sentence. This novel is a pleasure to read on all levels; from the macro considerations like perspective and plot down to the micro word choices, everything is firing on all cylinders.”
—Catie Disabato, Cinnamon Magazine

“Open relationships, racial dynamics and class form the backbone of Leilani's darkly humorous yet insightful debut.”
—Rae Boocock, Suitcase

“The narrator of Luster . . . is the fierce, unruly antidote to what Jess Bergman called the ‘remote avatars of contemporary malaise’—she is not cool, nor detached, nor noncommittal, but absolutely bursting with thoughts and feelings and desires, some of which often spill over and make a mess, or a scene, or a bonfire. Edie talks shit but also takes it—she’s hilariously caustic about the world around her, but her criticism never feels empty. I loved every minute of this debut.”
—Emily Temple, Lit Hub

“Sometimes there’s a book that everyone in the publishing world is talking about. Luster is that book.”
—Adam Vitcavage, Electric Literature

—Megan Giddings, The PEN America Podcast

“Debuts as accomplished as Luster make you exclaim ‘what a find’ at the end of the novel . . . I found Luster pulling me deeper into the open marriage of the white suburban couple and Edie who falls into it. It is disruptive, darkly funny, and searing—five stars! Read it if you like to navigate social landscapes, sexual politics and inter racial relationships clothed as an entertaining, and riveting book.”
—Resh Susan, The Book Satchel

“This is a much read this summer! . . . Funny, raw and brutally honest, Raven Leilani brilliantly captures the trials of your twenties.”
—Kailey Brennan, Write or Die Tribe

“You should absolutely run out (or log on quickly) to buy Raven Leilani’s Luster . . . Brilliant, captivating.”
—Emily Temple, BOMB

"Raven Leilani’s debut novel, Luster, is nothing if not an ambitious work . . . Refreshingly honest about Edie’s ambivalence, desperation, and longing . . . Luster is a novel about what it means to be a black-female flaneur . . . The real architecture of this novel rests on Edie—the young black vixen, usually relegated to the observed and the consumed, becoming the observer and hungrily eating up the worlds around her."
—Kaitlyn Greenidge, Virginia Quarterly Review

“This story is dazzling in the many relevant threads it manages to intertwine: class dynamics, racial politics, sexual respectability, and the shifting temperature of social media. There are turns and surprises on every page, whether they be character responses or Leilani’s cutting word choice. So much about this book made me gasp. The prose! To arrange 10 words I’ve known for most of my life and make me see something new in them is startling . . . I recommend this novel to anyone who is looking for a disruptive take on a summer book. It brings the heat and then some.”
—Sacha Vega, The Cha Cha Reader

Product Details
ISBN: 9780374194321
ISBN-10: 0374194327
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication Date: August 4th, 2020
Pages: 240