File:Luster Raven Leilani.jpg
AuthorRaven Leilani
CountryUnited States
Genreliterary fiction
Published2020 (Farrar, Straus and Giroux)
Media typePrint (hardcover) and digital
Pages240 (hardcover)

Luster is a 2020 debut novel by Raven Leilani. The book follows a Black woman in her twenties who gets involved with a fortysomething white man in an open marriage. Luster was released on August 4, 2020 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. It received mainly positive critical reception[1] and won the 2020 Kirkus Prize for fiction.[2] In December 2020, the book was found in Literary Hub to have made 16 lists of the year's best books.[3]


Luster follows Edie, a Black woman in her twenties who lives in New York City and works as an editorial assistant. She meets Eric, a white man in his forties who is in an open marriage. Eric and his wife have a 12-year-old adoptive daughter, Akila, who is also Black. Edie begins a sexual relationship with Eric and moves to New Jersey to live with his family after she gets fired.[4]

Major themes

Critics noted that the character of Edie is a flâneur, which is notable as it is typically a literary position occupied by white male characters.[1][5]

Critical reception

The book was recommended by various outlets prior to its publication.[1][6][7][8][9]

Luster received mostly positive reviews. Kirkus Reviews described the book in a starred review as "Sharp, strange, propellant—and a whole lot of fun."[10] Mark Athitakis rated the book 3.5/4 stars and stated in USA Today, "Luster isn’t just a sardonic book, but a powerful one about emotional transformation."[11] Publishers Weekly reviewed the book and stated, "Edie’s ability to navigate the complicated relationships with the Walkers exhibits Leilani’s mastery of nuance, and the narration is perceptive, funny, and emotionally charged."[12] gave Luster a starred review and wrote: "Leilani’s writing is cerebral and raw, and this debut novel will establish her as a powerful new voice."[13]

Noting that the novel is a debut, Leah Greenblatt of EW wrote, "that newness sometimes shows; after a wildly beguiling start, the novel telescopes inward, often forsaking narrative momentum for mood and color. Sentence by sentence, though, she’s also a phenomenal writer, her dense, dazzling paragraphs shot through with self-effacing wit and psychological insight."[14] Writing for Virginia Quarterly Review, Kaitlyn Greenidge praised Leilani's "linguistic skill."[5]


Awards and nominations


  1. ^ a b c León, Concepción de (2020-07-31). "Raven Leilani, a Flâneur Who Is Going Places". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2020-08-02.
  2. ^ "Debut novel 'Luster' wins $50,000 Kirkus prize". Miami Herald. November 5, 2020.
  3. ^ Temple, Emily (2020-12-15). "The Ultimate Best Books of 2020 List". Literary Hub. Retrieved 2021-01-04.
  4. ^ "'Luster' Captures the Discomfort of the Third Wheel in an Open Marriage". Time. Retrieved 2020-08-02.
  5. ^ a b Greenidge, Kaitlyn. "Sex in the City | VQR Online". Retrieved 2020-08-02.
  6. ^ "5 books to read in August: Helen Macdonald, Raven Leilani, and more". AUX. Retrieved 2020-08-02.
  7. ^ Puckett, Lauren (2020-07-27). "The 40 Best New Books of Summer 2020". ELLE. Retrieved 2020-08-02.
  8. ^ Kelly, Hillary (2020-05-22). "29 Books We Can't Wait to Read This Summer". Vulture. Retrieved 2020-08-02.
  9. ^ Schama, Chloe. "The 23 Best Books to Read This Summer". Vogue. Retrieved 2020-08-02.
  10. ^ "LUSTER | Kirkus Reviews". Kirkus Reviews. 2020-06-03. Retrieved 2020-08-01.
  11. ^ Athitakis, Mark. "Review: A young Black women navigates a white open marriage in Raven Leilani's spiky 'Luster'". USA TODAY. Retrieved 2020-08-02.
  12. ^ "Luster". Retrieved 2020-08-02.
  13. ^ Wakeman, Jessica. "Book Review - Luster by Raven Leilani". Retrieved 2020-08-02.
  14. ^ Greenblatt, Leah. "Raven Leilani explores the dark side of sex and young womanhood in 'Luster'". Retrieved 2020-08-02.
  15. ^ "2020 Kirkus Prize". Kirkus Reviews. Retrieved 22 November 2020.
  16. ^ "Raven Leilani Wins the 2020 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize". The Center for Fiction. Retrieved February 6, 2021.
  17. ^ Saka, Rasheeda (4 December 2020). "Raven Leilani has won the 2020 Center for Fiction First Novel Prize". Literary Hub. Retrieved 30 January 2021.
  18. ^ "2021 Winners". Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence. Retrieved January 12, 2021.

External links