Leila Mottley

Oakland's Leila Mottley Youngest Author Selected for Oprah's Book Club

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A local author is getting worldwide recognition for a book based in the Bay Area.

Leila Mottley this week became the youngest author selected to Oprah's famous book club list for "Nightcrawling," a book that took years to make.

"It's surreal," Mottley said. "The first chapter I wrote at 16 a month before my 17th birthday."

Mottley, 19, was born and raised in Oakland, a city she deeply cares about. The author is hoping to open a window for readers to see the plight of young Black women and spark change and healing.

"I hope everyone in Oakland feels represented by this," Mottley said.

The former Oakland youth poet laureate pens a message of "I see you" to Black and brown girls of Oakland and across the nation.

"The world puts a lot on Black women and Black girls, and asks us to care for everyone else and rarely ever recognizes our vulnerability or fragility," Mottley said.

The fictional story focuses on racism, corruption, and sex trafficking. It is inspired by the 2015 Celeste Guap police sex scandal, where Oakland and Richmond police officers were accused of sexually exploiting the teen.

"I remember just paying a lot of attention to the way this case was talked about and the lack of focus on the harm done to this girl and the thousands of other girls and women who experience this," Mottley said.

And as for being selected to the exclusive book club list by Oprah?

"It's unbelievable. I wrote this book three years ago not thinking anybody would ever read it," Mottley said.

With those pages now in the world's hands, the teen hopes her words will be felt far beyond the last chapter.

"I really hope that we are all able to reflect on what it means to be complicit in the harm of young black girls," Mottley said.

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