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Luster by Raven Leilani
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Luster (original 2020; edition 2021)

by Raven Leilani (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
7913722,731 (3.73)44
"Exacting, hilarious, and deadly . . . A writer of exhilarating freedom and daring."--Zadie Smith,Harper's Bazaar "Impossible to put down." --Ling Ma, author ofSeverance 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--withrules. 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'sLusteris 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.… (more)
Member:ajemmon
Title:Luster
Authors:Raven Leilani (Author)
Info:Picador Paper (2021), 240 pages
Collections:Read, Read but unowned
Rating:****
Tags:2022, june 2022, audiobook version, gaslight gatekeep girlboss, adultery, african american, american lit, contemporary lit, modern relationships

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Luster by Raven Leilani (2020)

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» See also 44 mentions

English (35)  French (1)  All languages (36)
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
Raven Leilani’s caustically witty novel, Luster, is the story of 23-year-old Edie, a chronically broke black woman leading an edgy, messy, sexually and emotionally chaotic existence in contemporary New York City. Edie, trained as an artist, works as an editor in the children’s book division of a publishing house. When we meet her, she is involved in an online flirtation with Eric, a white archivist twice her age. For their first date he takes her to an amusement park. They begin meeting regularly, but it’s weeks before they have sex. And it turns out that Eric’s wife knows about the affair. Eric informs Edie that it’s fine with Rebecca as long as they abide by Rebecca’s rules (one of which is that the rules can change without warning). The oddness of everything about her relationship with Eric occupies Edie’s thoughts but, as we soon realize is her habit, she just shrugs and goes along with it. When Edie is fired from her job (for being “sexually inappropriate”), she finds work with a delivery app, but the money is insufficient to live on and she is briefly homeless. When Eric stops contacting her and doesn’t respond to her messages, Edie turns up at his suburban home—impulsively she walks in, and there is Rebecca. Later, at Rebecca’s invitation (while Eric is out of town), she moves in with the couple and their adopted pre-teen daughter, Akila, who is black. Edie suspects Rebecca of wanting to use her “blackness” as an emotional and cultural salve for her daughter, expecting Edie to understand and cater to Akila’s needs in ways that her adoptive parents are unable to, an assumption that Edie finds preposterous, amusing and vaguely insulting. And still, she forms a bond with the girl that becomes meaningful, tender and mutually supportive. Leilani’s novel is intensely physical—Edie, uncomfortable in her own skin, is always aware of her body as a sexual object and the effect it has on men and other women. Yet, throughout the book she is consumed by ambivalence toward her body, which, as circumstances evolve, she regards variously as an advantage, an inconvenience and a burden. The novel is largely concerned with black Edie navigating a path through a white person’s world, trying “to take up as little space as possible,” but attracting unwanted attention nonetheless. In the end, she seems to find solace and redemption in her art, the power and precision of which enable her to capture, define and control an off-kilter universe rife with inequities that can be confusing, hostile and cruel. Luster fascinates for a number of reasons: the startling and sometimes unfathomable behaviour of its characters, its courageous dissection of racial and sexual politics, its meandering, zig-zagging plot that generates, if not suspense exactly, then a weird sort of tension or energy not completely unrelated to it. Most captivating though is Raven Leilani’s prose, which is minutely observant, engagingly sardonic, and lively with detail and cultural references that bring Edie’s shifting states of mind vividly, sometimes painfully, into focus. In a sense, Luster’s flaws are also its strengths, because the book requires the reader to abandon any preconceptions and give him/herself over to it completely. Some readers won’t want to do this, but those who do will find the experience invigorating, illuminating and deeply rewarding. ( )
  icolford | May 22, 2022 |
Laughed out loud, doesnt hold punches, informal and times yet beautiful and powerful writing. guts people for who they are ( )
  aezull | Apr 19, 2022 |
ARC provided by NetGalley ( )
  katielibrarian | Feb 8, 2022 |
Edie is self destructive and difficult to understand, but very compelling. She is a black woman on her own, and so very very young. I was glad for the glimmer of hope at the end that she might actually be able to take some control of her life. ( )
  GwenRino | Nov 21, 2021 |
Given the premise and the title, I thought that Luster would be a sexy book, but it isn't. Instead, it is a literary examination of the triangle that develops among a black would-be artist, her white lover, and his white wife. When the artist loses her day job, she ends up living with her lover's family, which also includes a black foster child. New relationships form, and others die out.

It is Edie the artist's witty narrative voice that makes this otherwise solemn book worth reading. ( )
  akblanchard | Oct 13, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 35 (next | show all)
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"Exacting, hilarious, and deadly . . . A writer of exhilarating freedom and daring."--Zadie Smith,Harper's Bazaar "Impossible to put down." --Ling Ma, author ofSeverance 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--withrules. 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'sLusteris 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.

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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.
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