At 8:30 pm Eastern tonight on Oprah Daily, watch the premiere of the Oprah’s Book Club sit-down featuring Oprah in conversation with Leila Mottley, whose debut novel, Nightcrawling, is the 96th OBC selection.
Mottley’s is a remarkable story. She reveals to Oprah that she began writing poetry and stories when she could first hold a pen. At 14 she wrote her first novel, and the next year, another. At 16 she was named Oakland’s youth poet laureate. She was admitted to Smith College, but when the pandemic struck, Mottley turned her focus to a third book, which she worked on while on buses, on trains, in cafés and jazz clubs, and even during nap time at the preschool where she was employed one summer. As she tells Oprah and the four OBC members who join the conversation: “Writing can happen anywhere for me.”
How to Watch
Come back to this page today, June 30, at 8:30 pm EDT to watch Oprah’s interview with Leila Mottley, available exclusively to Oprah Daily Insiders. Not a member yet? Join below!
Mottley also discloses that she had long felt there weren’t enough stories out there “from young people about young people,” especially about Black teenage girls, and, she says, she wanted to “write it while I was still in it.”
The aspiring author was captivated by a local newspaper story about a teenage girl who was sexually abused by police officers, and Mottley took pen to paper, imagining what that young victim’s circumstances might have been, and what her exploitation must have felt like to her. She named her protagonist Kiara and began regularly writing from Kiara’s point of view in her journal. Mottley tells Oprah she wanted to “go beyond the headlines to explore what it would mean for a survivor to be in narrative control.”
After finishing the novel, publishers vied to acquire it. Knopf, one of the most prestigious imprints in the business, won the book, which became a New York Times bestseller in its first week on sale.
Oprah asked the OBC members who joined the conversation if they are also “bedazzled” by Mottley’s massive talents. One member, Natalie, from Seattle, summed it up. She said: “How do you know to feel and write like that” at such a young age? Oprah concurred, and observed that Mottley is “an extraordinary woman, an extraordinary poet and author—a writer to watch.”
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