Reading Group Center

“Welcome to Oakland,” a Letter from Debut Novelist Leila Mottley

Dear Reader,

Welcome to Oakland. This is a world of young Black kids searching, the rhythm of feet to sidewalk, the shadow of a streetlamp hovering over a lit up road and all it contains. I wrote this book as an ode to precarious and vulnerable teenage Black girls, the ways we seek to care and fight and love, and still find ourselves adultified, unprotected, unseen.

Nightcrawling is a word of many meanings, one not validated by the dictionary, but nevertheless real, much like the lives and hopes this book contains. A book full of streets I have grown up on and walked for as long as I can remember, streets that are transformed at night, crowded with people similarly undefinable and vibrant.

Nightcrawling is about lurking in the corners of a city, as Black kids are known to do, and finding ways to survive. It is about the forces that oppose survival: a justice system that targets the people of this world and makes seemingly simple things hard.

I hope this city, these characters, these streets become a small fraction of your image of our country and that you come to love and appreciate them like I do.