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Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley is set in Oakland in the last year of Obama's second term. It's inspired by a 2015 case involving the Oakland PD and other local police departments had tried to cover up their sexual exploitation of a young woman.
Kiara and her brother are trying to hold on to the apartment they used to live in with their parents and baby sister. Now it's just the two of them. Marcus is trying to chase the dream of being a rap star, inspired by an uncle who made it big disappeared from the family. Kiara has given up on high school to look for work. The only thing she can find is sex work. Soon she's got the eye of the OPD who offer her protection from themselves in exchange for sex.
Kiara is a vibrant, three dimensional character. She does what she has to do to survive and to uplift the others she loves.
The book is short and lyrical. It's also blunt and to the point. It paints the neighborhoods of Oakland as its own character. This an Oakland written by someone who knows the city and its strengths and weaknesses.
Kiara's story also sits on the road narrative spectrum. She for her youth, her poverty, her gender, and because she's Black, is a marginalized traveler (66). Her destination — or rather her area of travel — is the city (00). Her route, though, is the cornfield, as the confusing path she takes is compared to the Alameda County corn maze (p. 175) (FF).