Author Leila Mottley, 19, says she thought she was joining a Zoom call with her editor and publicist to discuss the release date for her new novel, ‘Nightcrawling’. Little did she know that Oprah Winfrey would join the call to announce that her book had been chosen for Oprah’s Book Club.
“This novel is about heartbreaking and really important things: poverty and injustice, corruption, prostitution, sex trafficking, all written by a woman who was 17 at the time, a young girl,” Winfrey said. to “CBS Mornings” in a video. “And the writer describes the book as an ode to the precarious and vulnerable world of black teenage girls and her extraordinary empathy and beautiful writing remind us that, yes, she is also a poet.”
Upon learning of Winfrey’s selection on that Zoom call, Mottley became emotional. “It was surreal,” she told CBS Mornings on Tuesday.
Mottley said she wrote the first chapter of “Nightcrawling,” published by Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group, when she was 16. The fictional work is based on a 2016which accused several Oakland, California police officers of sexual misconduct and exploitation of a young girl.
“The media seemed to focus more on the police department than on the harm done to this girl and the thousands of other girls and women this is happening to, and we never hear it in a courtroom or in a newspaper,” said Mottley, who was born and raised in Oakland.
She said that through writing and immersing herself in the character’s world, she learned “there’s nothing wrong with being vulnerable, fragile, gentle, grieving”.
“I think the world often forces black and brown girls to care for others and neglect their own vulnerability, so I wanted this book to really show how fragile we can be and how the world fails to protect us,” said Mottley said. said. “I wanted to center that because I think a lot of stories just don’t.”
Mottley, who started writing when she was 5, said she hopes her new book “is either a mirror or a window”.
“Whether you see yourself reflected through this book or it’s not something you’ve experienced, but it expands your idea of our world and our country,” she said. “I hope more people think about how we are complicit in hurting black and brown girls and empowering more black girls to grow into kids and feel like more than the world expects of us.”