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 her next book club pick. A spokesperson for Winfrey said Mottley is the youngest author ever selected for Oprah’s Book Club, founded in 1996, the AP reports. "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." 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 first-time authors like Mottley, Imbolo Mbue, and Cynthia Bond. (Read more Oprah's Book Club stories.)