A dazzling novel about a young Black woman who walks the streets of Oakland and stumbles headlong into the failure of its justice system—the debut of a blazingly original voice that “bursts at the seams of every page and swallows you whole” (Tommy Orange, best-selling author of There There)
Kiara and her brother, Marcus, are scraping by in an East Oakland apartment complex optimistically called the Regal-Hi. Both have dropped out of high school, their family fractured by death and prison. But while Marcus clings to his dream of rap stardom, Kiara hunts for work to pay their rent—which has more than doubled—and to keep the nine-year-old boy next door, abandoned by his mother, safe and fed.
One night, what begins as a drunken misunderstanding with a stranger turns into the job Kiara never imagined wanting but now desperately needs: nightcrawling. Her world breaks open even further when her name surfaces in an investigation that exposes her as a key witness in a massive scandal within the Oakland Police Department.
Rich with raw beauty, electrifying intensity, and piercing vulnerability, Nightcrawling marks the stunning arrival of a voice unlike any we have heard before.
About the Author
LEILA MOTTLEY is the 2018 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate. Her work has been featured in The New York Times and Oprah Daily. She was born and raised in Oakland, where she continues to live. Nightcrawling is her first novel.
“Leila Mottley’s commanding debut, inspired by the life events of one woman’s struggle for body and soul against crushing exploitation, is fierce and devastating, rendered with electrifying urgency by this colossal young talent.” —Ayana Mathis, author of The Twelve Tribes of Hattie
“Fast money, crooked cops, and dire consequences are at the forefront of Mottley’s electric debut novel . . . Striking prose and unforgettable characters—including a young Black woman in relentless pursuit of justice—make for a shocking page-turner and timely reflection.” —Elle
“Stunning . . . Kiara is an unforgettable dynamo, and her story brings critical human depth to conversations about police sexual violence.” —Booklist (starred)
“Nightcrawling is a scorching, incredibly readable book that takes seriously the task of readerly provocation on every page. Get ready. Or don’t. It doesn’t matter. Leila Mottley is here.” —Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy
“Leila Mottley has a poet’s delicate touch when she tells us the most brutal, heart-crushing truths. This is an electrifying debut.” —Dave Eggers, author of The Every
“A work of devastating social realism . . . executed with relentless momentum . . . Mottley [has a] singular voice . . . A powerful discourse on the dehumanizing effects policing can have on marginalized communities, bodies, and minds (and especially on Black women).” —Library Journal(starred)
“Bold and beautiful . . . This heartrending story makes for a powerful testament to a Black woman’s resilience.” —Publishers Weekly (starred)
“With its powerful poetry and courageous, unsparing vision, Nightcrawling is more than just a magnificent debut novel. It is a bid, by this prodigiously gifted young writer, to heal a broken world.” —Ruth Ozeki, author of The Book of Form and Emptiness
“Leila Mottley has an extraordinary gift. She writes with the humility and sparkle of a child, but with the skill and deft touch of a wizened, seasoned storyteller.” —James McBride, author of Deacon King Kong
“The writing in Leila Mottley’s Nightcrawling erupts and flows like lava, makes hot bright an Oakland that runs the city’s uncontrollable brilliance, its destructive and generative veins the same, Mottley’s energetic writing here too, bursts at the seams of every page, pushing you deeper into a story you can’t help but continue swallowing, stay thirsty for, while it swallows you whole.” —Tommy Orange, author of There There
“Lush, immersive . . . It’s Kiara’s intense, anguished interiority rendered in lovely and poetic exposition that drives this evocation of an underclass and the disposable women just trying to survive . . . The acute observations are more remarkable still considering the author is herself a promising Oakland teen.” —Kirkus Reviews (starred)