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19-year-old author's debut novel selected for Oprah Winfrey's book club

A spokesperson for Winfrey said Leila Mottley is the youngest author ever selected for Oprah’s Book Club, founded in 1996.
Credit: AP
This cover image released by Knopf shows "Nightcrawling" a novel by Leila Mottley. (Knopf via AP)

NEW YORK — Oprah Winfrey has chosen 19-year-old Leila Mottley's “Nightcrawling,” a debut novel about a young Black woman from East Oakland and her battles with poverty, racism and the police, for next book club pick.

A spokesperson for Winfrey said Mottley is the youngest author ever selected for Oprah’s Book Club, founded in 1996.

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“It brings me great joy to introduce readers to new authors, and this young poet Leila Mottley wrote a soul-searching portrait of survival and hope,” Winfrey said in a statement Tuesday.

Mottley, born and raised in Oakland, served as the city's youth poet laureate in 2018. Her book was published Tuesday and has been praised by James McBride and Tommy Orange among others. Kirkus Reviews called “Nightcrawling” a “lovely and poetic" evocation of an “underclass and the disposable women just trying to survive.”

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Mottley said in a statement that she was “absolutely floored when Ms. Winfrey popped up” during what she thought was an ordinary publishing meeting.

“It was the surprise of a lifetime!" she added.

Winfrey will speak with Mottley on June 30 for an interactive book club event on OprahDaily.com. Since starting her book club, Winfrey has often alternated between such established authors Toni Morrison and Richard Powers and such first-time authors as Mottley, Imbolo Mbue and Cynthia Bond.

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