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"It Makes People Uncomfortable To Look At That": Raven Leilani On Failure And Finding Meaning Amongst Instability

With the way that mainstream press has heralded Raven Leilani’s critically-acclaimed debut, Luster, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the novel is only about one thing. The fact that a very white, very middle class publishing industry is titillated by the premise of a young black woman embarking on a relationship with an older married-but-kind-of-in-an-open-relationship white guy is a given, but if I’m honest, the levels of titillation and intrigue disturbed me.

But if you can get past the socially-distanced salivating, Luster is remarkable. Edie is at the centre of it; an isolated, perpetually failing millennial whose instinct seems to be to try and “sex it away” – à la Solange’s ‘Cranes In The Sky’ – and in the process finds herself lured into the world of Eric, his wife Rebecca, and their adopted daughter, a similarly isolated, black teenager called Akila.