The Next Chapter·Like This? Love That

Ryan B. Patrick says if you liked Luster by Raven Leilani, you'll love Reproduction by Ian Williams

The Next Chapter columnist and CBC Books producer finds a Canadian book for fans of Luster by Raven Leilani.
Ryan B. Patrick is a CBC producer and columnist. (Submitted by Ryan B. Patrick)

Ryan B. Patrick is a CBC Books producer who has read countless books and interviewed many authors about their work.  This week, he's in The Next Chapter's guest chair for an instalment of 'If you like that, you'll love this.'

Patrick says fans of the bold breakout novel Luster by Raven Leilani should check out the Scotiabank Giller Prize-winning novel Reproduction by Ian Williams.

Luster by Raven Leilani

Luster is a novel by Raven Leilani. (Bond Street Books, Nina Subin)

"Raven Lelani is a New York-born author and Luster is her debut book. It's a fantastic book and it has that kind of universality, yet specificity that I really enjoy. She talks about a lot of pop culture from a Black female millennial perspective — you don't see that a lot. It's exciting to see and engage with.

It explores this idea of being young, being a woman, being depressed, being lonely — all from a Black perspective.

"It's about a young woman named Edie, who's having an affair with a married white man. She works in publishing as an editorial assistant and she's trying to make her way as an artist, but she's kind of disaffected. She's drifting through life.

"It explores this idea of being young, being a woman, being depressed, being lonely — all from a Black perspective and what that means. It's great to see this new generation of writers get the chance to write from that perspective."

Reproduction by Ian Williams

Ian Williams is a Brampton, Ont.-raised poet and writer. (Justin Morris, Random House Canada)

"Reproduction is really interesting. It also deals with an unlikely relationship between Felicia, from a small unnamed island, and a wealthy middle-aged man named Edgar.

"It's a great book, but it's also really experimental. It kind of breaks into forms and terms. It's like 23 sections that represent 23 chromosomes and then they split off. Then the book itself develops cancer as one of the characters in the book develops cancer. It's a challenging read, but it's really enjoyable. 

These are flawed, imperfect people trying to navigate their way through the world against the backdrop of the intergenerational trauma. ​​​​

"I love the idea of the form of the book based on cell division. Sometimes literary tricks like that can detract from the story. But it never lets you down in Reproduction."

"These stories are very specific, but they're very universal in scope. Both books have female Black protagonists. These characters are really flawed people. They make unwise decisions all the time. But that's why I love them as well. They're not paragons of virtue. These are flawed, imperfect people trying to navigate their way through the world against the backdrop of the intergenerational trauma that they've suffered in their own lives." 

Ryan B. Patrick's comments have been edited for length and clarity.

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