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by Leila Mottley

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. 

Bracing myself for the ride, honestly. This one explores themes that I think we've all become, sadly, very familiar with. And if we're not familiar with them, we've been deliberating not paying attention. It's hard to consider work like this entertainment, so I just classify these books as "essential reading". It might take me a minute, because I can only take "black pain" in small, manageable doses these days.

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by Aaron Foley

Suddenly jobless and single after a devastating layoff and a breakup with his cheating ex, advertising copywriter Dominick Gibson flees his life in Hell's Kitchen to try and get back on track in his hometown of Detroit. He’s got one objective — exit the shallow dating pool ASAP and get married by thirty-five — and the deadline’s approaching fast.

Meanwhile, Dom's best friend, Troy Clements, an idealistic teacher who never left Michigan, finds himself at odds with all the men in his life: a troubled boyfriend he's desperate to hold onto, a perpetually dissatisfied father, and his other friend, Remy Patton. Remy, a rags-to-riches real estate agent known as “Mr. Detroit,” has his own problems — namely choosing between making it work with a long-distance lover or settling for a local Mr. Right Now who’s not quite Mr. Right. And when a high-stakes real estate deal threatens to blow up his friendship with Troy, the three men have to figure out how to navigate the pitfalls of friendship and a city that seems to be changing overnight.

File this one under 'Books you never would have been able to find a decade ago.' Queer, Black men, finding friendship, love and themselves and it's not a tragedy. I'm here for it.

by Sally Rooney

Alice, a novelist, meets Felix, who works in a warehouse, and asks him if he’d like to travel to Rome with her. In Dublin, her best friend, Eileen, is getting over a breakup, and slips back into flirting with Simon, a man she has known since childhood.

Alice, Felix, Eileen, and Simon are still young―but life is catching up with them. They desire each other, they delude each other, they get together, they break apart. They have sex, they worry about sex, they worry about their friendships and the world they live in. Are they standing in the last lighted room before the darkness, bearing witness to something? Will they find a way to believe in a beautiful world?

The reason Sally Rooney quickly became one of my favorite authors was simply this: there are lots of excellent writers out there, and far more "good" ones. This writer is more than either of those things. She manages to have a voice that is distinct, and unique. Hard to do when we all learn from the same playbook about craft. Since her debut novel, 'Normal People', there've been lots of imitators, but she remains the standout for delivering depth of emotion with sparse, almost matter-of-fact prose. I saved this one for a rainy day inspiration-wise. Well, it's raining.

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