‘Nightcrawling’ by Leila Mottley: Oakland on Its Own Terms

by Emily Garcia

Kiara Johnson, the scrappy protagonist of Leila Mottley’s transfixing first novel, Nightcrawling (288 pages; Knopf), lives in East Oakland, in an apartment complex called the Regal-Hi, where money is sparse and trauma is abundant. Kiara’s father died years before; her mother’s currently in a halfway house following a prison stint; and her older brother, Marcus, who is also her legal guardian (Kiara is seventeen when the novel begins), is pursuing a rap career in lieu of a job that might help pay the rent—which has also recently more than doubled. Beyond her fears of eviction and homelessness, Kiara is pulled […]

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