Leila Mottley: 'There’s never a wrong age to tell the story that is aching inside of you'
Leila Mottley talks about the true story that inspired Nightcrawling, helping young people to start reading again and trying to be a normal teenager
Nightcrawling was longlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize. At once agonising and mesmerising, Nightcrawling presents a haunting vision of marginalised young people navigating the darkest corners of an adult world.
‘When there is no choice, all you have left to do is walk.’
Determined to survive in a world that refuses to protect her, a 17-year-old girl finds herself walking the mean streets of Oakland after dark. When she is picked up by the police, the gruesome deal they offer in exchange for her freedom lands her at the centre of a media storm - and facing a terrible choice.
If she agrees to testify, she could help expose the corruption of a police department. But honesty comes at a price - one that could leave her family vulnerable to retaliation, and endanger everyone she loves.
About the AuthorLeila Mottley was born in 2003 in Oakland, California, where she still lives and works. Nightcrawling, her debut novel, was nominated for the 2022 Booker Prize.
‘I did a lot of research on sex work and the criminalisation of sex work in the writing of the book. Sex workers aren’t a monolithic group, so there are so many varying experiences and understandings of sex work, influenced by the cultural shaming of the industry, the type of sex work, the country and policies around sex work, the identity of the sex worker, etc. It was important to me to also have someone with experience in sex work read the book and provide feedback for authenticity. With all of that information, I had to make decisions about Kiara’s character that felt true both to the context of sex work and to who she was and the circumstances she found herself in.’
Read the full interview here.
‘Nightcrawling is a dazzling and electrifying novel set in the streets of Oakland, where the protagonist Kiara will face a justice system that oppresses young black women. A spellbinding story and a Catcher in the Rye for a new generation.’
Sam Sacks, Wall Street Journal
‘Mottley accesses the feelings one sometimes has while reading Dickens, the breathless sense that some massive unfairness is being inflicted on a good and innocent person … Kiara’s true outlet for hope is in the makeshift family of friends and relatives she manages to hold together. From such connections Mottley’s seemingly fatalistic book finds its buoyant humanity.’
Woman’s Own (U.K.)
‘Unflinching, poetic, and deeply resonant, this stunning debut from Oakland teen Leila Mottley marks the arrival of an extraordinary new voice.’
Luke Gorham, Library Journal
‘Undeniably bleak but littered with small beauties and a powerful discourse on the dehumanizing effects policing can have on marginalized communities, bodies, and minds (and especially on Black women). Mottley’s novel understands that sometimes a happy ending just means surviving.’
‘A bold and beautiful account of two Black siblings striving to thrive and survive […] Mottley powerfully chronicles Kiara’s desperation and her bravery, as well as her determination to keep moving forward despite the crushing torrent of losses affecting her family as well as those of everyone she knows. Scenes of realism are rendered with a poet’s eye, as Kiara experiences moments of beauty and joy by tagging an underpass wall with spray paint, learning to swim in a dirty pool, and finding shelter in the arms of a friend. This heartrending story makes for a powerful testament to a Black woman’s resilience.’