Author Leila Mottley on her breakout first novel, 'Nightcrawling'

A book cover and a photo of a woman.
Leila Mottley’s debut novel, “Nightcrawling,” is one of the most anticipated reads of the summer.
Photo courtesy of Magdalena Frigo. Book cover is courtesy of publisher.

Seventeen-year-old Kiara shoulders too much responsibility. Her father recently died after being released from prison. Her mother is in a halfway house. Her brother avoids obligation, preferring to seek fame as a star rapper. And then there’s Trevor, the nine-year-old boy who lives next door, who’s been abandoned by his crack-addicted mother — but not Kiara.

Leila Mottley’s debut novel, “Nightcrawling,” deftly portrays the swirl of poverty and trauma Kiara faces in her Oakland apartment, which has a pool filled with putrid water and dog excrement at its center. Written when Mottley herself was only 17, it’s a story that riffs off real-life events of police corruption and sexual abuse.

Oprah chose “Nightcrawling” as her latest Book Club pick, catapulting Mottley’s novel to the top of the best-seller charts. On Friday, MPR host Kerri Miller talked with Mottley about what she learned while writing “Nightcrawling” in her spare time between high school classes and the heavy and often unseen burdens young Black girls carry in America.


  • Leila Mottley is the author of “Nightcrawling,” an Oprah’s Book Club selection and a New York Times best seller. This is her first novel.

To listen to the full conversation you can use the audio player above.

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