Leila Mottley captures hometown scandal in ‘Nightcrawling’

Leila Mottley captures hometown scandal in 'Nightcrawling'
Leila Mottley holding her debut novel
Image source: Instagram – @leilamottley

Leila Mottley is a poet and writer from Oakland, California who aims to express institutional and individual inequality, liberation, and joy through her writing. The 19-year-old is also the founder of Lift Every Voice, a youth-led advocacy workshop series about youth incarceration. Mottley has recently published her debut novel Nightcrawling, which has been chosen for Oprah’s Book Club pick, making Mottley the youngest author to ever be selected.

As an Oakland native, Mottley witnessed firsthand Black young adults struggling to find hope and joy in a world polluted by police violence and the inequities within race and gender. Mottley’s debut novel Nightcrawling follows a young Black woman who unexpectedly secures a job night crawling and lands in an upsetting investigation. The source of inspiration for the book stemmed from the 2015 scandal in which the Oakland Police Department was accused of sexually exploiting a teenager and attempting to cover it up. 


Mottley provides an informed perspective on Oakland, California, and the many struggles of people of color – poverty, violence, the criminal justice system, and gentrification – with a poetic and moving voice. Her impactful literary debut has readers eager to see what else she has in store. Nightcrawling is available now on blackbookstore.com. Continue reading for the book summary. 

Leila Mottley captures hometown scandal in 'Nightcrawling'
Image source: blackbookstore.com

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.

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