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Leila Mottley, in conversation with Mitchell S. Jackson

Leila Mottley discusses her best-selling debut novel, Nightcrawling, with Mitchell S. Jackson at 2022 #PDXBookFest.

This week’s episode of The Archive Project features a conversation from the 2022 Portland Book Festival. Portland-born writer Mitchell S. Jackson interviewed Leila Mottley about her debut novel, Nightcrawling.

Jackson is the author of the novel The Residue Years and the nonfiction book Survival Math. He is the winner of a Whiting Award and he received the Pulitzer Prize in Feature Writing for his piece on Ahmaud Arbery. Leila Mottley is the former youth poet laureate of Oakland, California. Nightcrawling is her first book, and she was just nineteen years old when it was published last year.

We paired Mitchell with Leila because despite their generational differences—there are thirty years between them and they are, of course, at very different points in their careers—they’ve both written novels about the beauty and the darkness that exist side-by-side in their complicated hometowns: Portland and Oakland, respectively. Leila says in the conversation about Oakland, “There is no where I feel more at home and nowhere I feel less safe,” and that those two feelings can exist at once.

A quick note for listeners: Parts of this conversation touch on mature themes of police brutality and sexual assault that may not be suitable for all listeners.

Find your copy of Leila & Mitchell’s books through

Leila Mottley is the 2018 Oakland Youth Poet Laureate. Her work has been featured in The New York Times and Oprah Daily. She was born and raised in Oakland, where she continues to live. Nightcrawling is her first novel.

Mitchell S. Jackson’s debut novel The Residue Years received wide critical praise. Jackson is the winner of a Whiting Award. His novel also won The Ernest J. Gaines Prize for Literary Excellence and was a finalist for The Center for Fiction Flaherty-Dunnan First Novel Prize, the PEN / Hemingway Award for Debut Fiction, and the Hurston / Wright Legacy Award. His honors include fellowships from the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center, the Lannan Foundation, the Ford Foundation, PEN America, TED, the New York Foundation for the Arts, and the Center for Fiction. His writing has been featured on the cover of the New York Times Book Review, Time Magazine, and Esquire Magazine, as well as in The New Yorker, Harpers, The New York Times Book Review, The Paris Review, The Guardian, The Washington Post Magazine, Harper’s Bazaar, and elsewhere. His nonfiction book Survival Math: Notes on an All-American Family was published in the spring of 2019 and named a best book of the year by fifteen publications, including NPR, Time Magazine, The Paris Review, The Root, Kirkus Reviews, and Buzzfeed. He teaches in the Creative Writing program at the University of Chicago.

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