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Power, corruption, and survival are the driving forces at the heart of Leila Mottley’s debut novel Nightcrawling, which was longlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize. In rapidly gentrifying Oakland, 17-year-old Kiara is trying to pay her family’s ever-increasing rent. Though Mottley’s protagonist is technically a teenager, she lost her childhood long ago: her Black Panther father is dead, her mother is incarcerated, and her brother is so convinced of his future rap career that he won’t get a job. When Kiara becomes desperate for cash, she’s forced to turn to sex work of a dangerously lurid bent—servicing local police officers. While this brutal tale is a searing indictment of an unjust system, it has roots in a sobering reality. Mottley, who wrote the book just after graduating high school, drew inspiration from a real-life sexual misconduct case in Oakland. —Cady Lang

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