Set over a single weekend, we find Wallace, a postgraduate science student, navigating the claustrophobic world of his Midwestern campus. Feeling constantly on the periphery, Wallace tries to come to terms with his father’s death while embarking on a painfully ambivalent relationship with a fellow student. It becomes clear that he is also navigating the twin exclusions of prejudice – through racism and homophobia, both explicit and implicit – and also the long shadow cast by childhood trauma. Beautifully crafted and at times excruciating to read, this is a campus novel like you’ve never read before.
If you like your feminist existentialism quiet, odd and darkly funny then look no further. This slim novel takes place in an undetermined time and is narrated by Vitória, a cleaner in an art gallery who stares at the paintings and dreams of a creative life. When her circumstances do eventually change, it becomes apparent that financial freedom does not equate with personal freedom and that there are many other types of labour. Precise in prose and strong in atmosphere, this book will stay with you long after you’ve put it down.
Published by Daunt Books on 4 September 2020
A skilful debut with a lot of heart, Rainbow Milk is a novel adapted from autobiography. It spans the narrator Jesse’s trajectory from a stifling childhood in a Jehovah’s Witness community, coming out as gay and his subsequent estrangement from his family, through to his experiences as a sex worker and waiter as he carves out his path in London searching through sex and drugs, eventually finding his people and the belonging that was lacking in his family. The story begins 50 years earlier with his grandparent’s arrival on the Windrush, clearly showing the traumatic repercussions across generations where hopes for a better life are met with a hostile reception; this doesn’t change for Jesse decades later as a gay black man in white spaces. Mendez brilliantly writes Jamaican patois and Black Country dialect into the dialogue and peppers the narrative with pop culture and music references which make the reading experience truly immersive. This is a stunning rollercoaster of a story about self-discovery through faith, race, sexuality and ultimately love. Highly recommended 🌈 🥛 🖤