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A journal for storytelling, arguments, and discovery through tangential conversations.
How Raven Leilani's Luster reimagines what it means to come of age
Friday, November 27, 2020 | Chidi Ekuma
At the risk of coming across as pretentious, I love coming-of-age stories. Dramatizing the emotional and mental transition of growing up and with that, growing into oneself is comforting. Although the act of coming-of-age is a universal reality undeterred by class, sexuality, and gender expression, the canonical space is one that has been diluted with stories belonging to the white suburban teen.  When racialized and non-cishet people are written into these narratives, more often than not, they find themselves wearing a mask belonging to an archetype. That is, they play the supportive best friend, wise therapist, or sassy peer. Essentially, the inclusion of marginalized and othered peoples within the fictional landscape of the coming-of-age genre mirrors the ways in which these peoples are expected to stay in the shadows of society. Raven Leilani challenges this idea in her recent debut novel Luster. A narrative that at times feels voyeuristic, Luster explores what happens when due to unemployment twenty-something flaneur Edie is forced to cohabitate with her lover Eric, and his wife, Rebecca. Throughout the novel there is relational tension between the characters, that only grows as they try to learn how to fit into the fabrics of each other’s lives.