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 🌈 🥛 🖤
Clever, deadpan and emotionally aware, this debut novel is told from the perspective of Ava, a nihilistic young Dubliner forging a new life in Hong Kong. Aware of the bad choices she makes, she watches herself do so with a sardonic eye and witty self reflection. Dolan writes astutely on the intricacies of power dynamics, social media interactions, gendered behaviours and class indicators, and delves deeper to portray the human struggle of either shoring oneself up for self protection, or risking being open to love. We watch Ava’s two relationships unfold- one practical and familiar in its dysfunction and one that terrifies her with its strength of feeling. Dolan excels at intimate narrative devices such as contrasting Ava’s outwardly closed off demeanour with the vulnerable text messages that she doesn’t dare to send, making us compelled to read on, willing Ava to choose love.
Published by Weidenfeld & Nicolson on 16th April 2020
Join us as we welcome Niven Govinden and Paul Mendez discussing their novels, THIS BRUTAL HOUSE, and RAINBOW MILK, with Sophia Blackwell.
THIS BRUTAL HOUSE by Niven Govinden
On the steps of New York's City Hall, five ageing Mothers sit in silent protest. They are the guardians of the vogue ball community - queer men who opened their hearts and homes to countless lost Children, providing safe spaces for them to explore their true selves.
Through epochs of city nightlife, from draconian to liberal, the Children have been going missing; their absences ignored by the authorities and uninvestigated by the police. In a final act of dissent the Mothers have come to pray: to expose their personal struggle beneath our age of protest, and commemorate their loss until justice is served.
Watching from City Hall's windows is city clerk, Teddy. Raised by the Mothers, he is now charged with brokering an uneasy truce.
With echoes of James Baldwin, Marilynne Robinson and Rachel Kushner, Niven Govinden asks what happens when a generation remembered for a single, lavish decade has been forced to grow up, and what it means to be a parent in a confused and complex society.
Niven Govinden is the author of four previous novels, most recently All The Days And Nights which was longlisted for the Folio Prize and shortlisted for the Green Carnation Prize. His second novel Graffiti My Soul is about to go into film production. His third novel Black Bread White Beer won the 2013 Fiction Uncovered Prize. This Brutal House was shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize 2019.
RAINBOW MILK by Paul Mendez
Rainbow Milk is an intersectional coming-of-age story, following nineteen-year-old Jesse McCarthy as he grapples with his racial and sexual identities against the backdrop of a Jehovah's Witness upbringing and the legacies of the Windrush generation.
In the Black Country in the 1950s, ex-boxer Norman Alonso is a determined and humble Jamaican who has moved to Britain with his wife to secure a brighter future for themselves and their children. Blighted with unexpected illness and racism, Norman and his family are resilient in the face of such hostilities, but are all too aware that they will need more than just hope to survive.
At the turn of the millennium, Jesse seeks a fresh start in London - escaping from a broken immediate family, a repressive religious community and the desolate, disempowered Black Country - but finds himself at a loss for a new centre of gravity, and turns to sex work to create new notions of love, fatherhood and spirituality.
Paul Mendez was born and raised in the Black Country. He now lives in London and is studying for an MA in Black British Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has been a performing member of two theatre companies, and worked as a voice actor, appearing on audiobooks by Andrea Levy, Paul Theroux and Ben Okri, most recently recording Ian Wright's A Life in Football for Hachette Audio. As a writer, he has contributed to the Times Literary Supplement and the Brixton Review of Books. Rainbow Milk is his debut novel.
Sophia Blackwell is a performance poet. She has been a featured artist at Glastonbury, the Edinburgh Fringe, the WOW (Women of the World) Festival and L Fest among hundreds of other events. She is the author of three collections of poetry - Into Temptation, The Fire Eater’s Lover and The Other Woman - and a novel, After My Own Heart. Her poetry has been published by Bloodaxe, Burning Eye, Nine Arches and the Emma Press, and featured in DIVA Magazine, Time Out and The Morning Star. She recently headlined a national tour with Hammer and Tongue and hosts and organises literary events around the UK.