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 twenties-sharing 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 marriage-with 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.
Raven Leilani's work has been published in Granta, The Yale Review, McSweeney's Quarterly Concern, Conjunctions, The 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.
"So delicious that it feels illicit . . . Raven Leilani's first novel reads like summer: sentences like ice that crackle or melt into a languorous drip; plot suddenly, wildly flying forward like a bike down a hill." -Jazmine Hughes, The New York Times Book Review
"[Raven Leilani] is a sharp phrasemaker . . . [and] Luster, a highly pleasurable interrogation of pleasure . . . There is more than a touch of Ralph Ellison here, the hypervisible invisible woman who is cast by the world in categorical terms while trying to be seen for herself." - Alexandra Schwartz, The New Yorker
"Darkly funny with wicked insight . . . This keenly observed, dynamic debut is so cutting, it almost stings." - Lauren Puckett, Elle
"Edie is an African American woman, but not every African American woman is Edie. What's best about Luster is precisely her messy, unabashed individuality. As she explores the world around her, Edie addresses us in a funny, shrewd narrative voice that precisely describes the wide-ranging contours of her life, be it losing her virginity, watching Rebecca cut up cadavers, going to Comic-Con or showing how police respond to two young Black women walking in a suburban neighborhood." -John Powers, NPR
"Wildly beguiling . . . [Raven Leilani is] a phenomenal writer, her dense, dazzling paragraphs shot through with self-effacing wit and psychological insight." - Leah Greenblatt, Entertainment Weekly
"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
"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
"An emotional rollercoaster that will have you on the verge of tears or in stitches with laughter." - Sian Babish, The Chicago Tribune
"There is nothing on offer like Luster--the story of a Black woman who is neither heroic nor unduly tragic . . . She is destructive but tender, ravenous for experience but deeply vulnerable--and often wickedly funny." - Parul Sehgal, The New York Times