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Rainbow Milk

On sale

4th February 2021

Price: £9.99

Jhalak Prize, 2021

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Selected: Paperback / ISBN-13: 9780349700588

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AN OBSERVER TOP TEN DEBUT 2020, SHORTLISTED FOR THE GORDON BURN PRIZE, JHALAK PRIZE, POLARI PRIZE, AND THE FICTION DEBUT CATEGORY OF THE BRITISH BOOK AWARDS

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.

Rainbow Milk is a bold exploration of race, class, sexuality, freedom and religion across generations, time and cultures. Mendez is a fervent new writer with an original and urgent voice.

‘Sensuous and thrillingly well written’, Observer

‘When did you last read a novel about a young, black, gay, Jehovah Witness man from Wolverhampton who flees his community to make his way in London as a prostitute? This might be a debut, but Mendez is an exciting, accomplished and daring storyteller with a great ear for dialogue. Graphic Erotica Alert! Don’t read this book if you like your fiction cosy and middle-of-the-road’ Bernardine Evaristo, winner of the 2019 Booker Prize for Girl, Woman, Other


‘The kind of novel you never knew you were waiting for. An explosive work that reels from sex, to sin, to salvation all the while grappling with what it means to black, gay, British, a son, a father, a lover, even a man. A remarkable debut’ Marlon James, Booker Prize winning author of Black Leopard, Red Wolf


‘This debut cements Mendez as a stunning new voice in fiction’ Cosmopolitan

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Reviews

Cosmopolitan
This debut cements Mendez as a stunning new voice in fiction. Semi-autobiographical, this gripping coming-of-age story set in the Black Country in the 1950s follows 19-year-old Jesse as he comes to terms with his racial and sexual identity against the backdrop of his repressive religious upbringing . . . An original addition to the queer fiction canon
Andrew McMillan
Exquisite descriptions of the body, of longing and lust, set against the recent history of the nation. Proof once more there can be no discussion of English history that isn't also a discussion of blackness, queerness and class
Observer
Sensuous and thrillingly well written
Suzi Feay, Financial Times
Eye-poppingly frank, urgent and fresh
AnOther Magazine
Moving and memorable, Rainbow Milk heralds Mendez as an original new voice in queer fiction
Okechukwu Nzelu, author of The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney
This book is marvellous. It is beautifully written, balancing fine observation and pathos, sexuality and high culture, struggle with triumph. It's pacy, witty and gentle. I loved every minute of reading this, and I am excited for its future readers
The i
Mendez's powerful coming-of-age story tackles subjects from immigration and religion to sex and race as nineteen-year-old Jesse struggles to make sense of the world
Bernardine Evaristo
When did you last read a novel about a young, black, gay, Jehovah Witness man from Wolverhampton who flees his community to make his way in London as a prostitute? This might be a debut, but Mendez is an exciting, accomplished and daring storyteller with a great ear for dialogue. Graphic Erotica Alert! Don't read this book if you like your fiction cosy and middle-of-the-road
Angela Chadwick
Rainbow Milk is a rich, beautifully-crafted story, uncompromising in its exploration of identity and privilege. The characters are portrayed with such tenderness and honesty - I know that I'll be thinking about them for years to come
Marlon James
The kind of novel you never knew you were waiting for. An explosive work that reels from sex, to sin, to salvation all the while grappling with what it means to black, gay, British, a son, a father, a lover, even a man. A remarkable debut
Lisa Appignanesi
Vivid, moving and packs a visceral punch
The i
Mendez's remarkable debut is a fervent, hope-filled and ultimately uplifting coming-of-age story
GScene
This is a debut novel but it reads like a pro . . . His prose is cool, slippery and cuts clean to the quick. He takes you places unfamiliar and confusing and with a sentence connects you to the core of the character's mind. It's a fast ride in an astonishingly cool car . . . His sensual explorations of desire are mixed together with withering condemnations of British imperialist ideology, folded in with tender reflections on parenting, and what it means to be young, queer and black in the UK today
Stylist
One of the most widely anticipated books of 2020 (The Observer named Mendez as one to watch), Rainbow Milk is a coming-of-age story that touches on racism, the Windrush generation, sexual identity and love. Beautifully written, this is a must for your reading list this month
Johanna Thomas-Corr, Sunday Times
[Rainbow Milk] is more real and generous than most contemporary novels.Ultimately, this is a searing account of the human need for physical connection. Mendez never shies away from the melodrama of sex, the cymbal-crashing opera of desire. He is a unique new voice in the British novel
Alex Preston, Observer
A novel that does what great debuts do - bringing an originality of voice and vision to the form, refreshing our ideas of what is possible in fiction . . . a novel of huge power and emotional impact, written in language that is sharp, distinctive and often beautiful. 2020 has been a year of superb debuts and Rainbow Milk is among the best
Irish Times
Urgent, original and heartbreaking
New European
A debut novel set to make a name for its author, Rainbow Milk is a tightly-written but wide-ranging exploration of race, sexuality, class and religion
Attitude
Daring, dexterous, exciting and accomplished, Mendez is a writer with plenty to say
The Skinny
The prose is muscular, the sex graphic, the dialogue sharp . . . Rainbow Milk is a complex and intersectional treatment of race, class, sexuality and sex work and a powerful, thrilling and accomplished debut novel
Colin Grant, Guardian
A fearlessly groundbreaking debut
BBC Radio 4 Front Row
A state of the nation novel . . . extraordinary . . . the voice of the character is so strong . . . Paul Mendez is now a significant new figure in the literary world . . . James Baldwin would be very proud of this book
i newapaper
Exhilarating . . . Rainbow Milk is an important and ambitious book . . . a bravura piece of writing, with echoes of Andrea Levy's Small Island . . . think Barry Jenkins's Moonlight but set in the West Midlands, with Bibles instead of crack . . . if Rainbow Milk is anything to go by, Mendez looks set to shake up the literary establishment in the most thrilling way
Independent
A fearless and hopeful account of one black man's entry into adulthood that explores identity, family and sexuality against the backdrop of the Windrush legacy . . . this is a wonderful read from an exciting new voice in British fiction
Stephen Hough, Telegraph
A very beautifully and tenderly written account of what it was like to come to the "mother country", expecting a welcome and finding prejudice
Nadifa Mohamed, New Statesman
Rainbow Milk is a bold and raw novel . . . memorable and affecting
Kit de Waal, The Week
Described as "explosive", "beautiful", "original", this exciting debut is all of these things . . . Full of lust, longing and pathos
The Times
Mendez's novel, based on his experience of growing up black and gay in a West Midlands Jehovah's Witness community, is one of the most exciting debuts of recent years. His vivid prose elevates and brings to life an already extraordinary story
Daniel Hahn, Spectator
There's something particularly thrilling about discovering a great debut, and none this year could be more electric than Paul Mendez's Rainbow Milk. Sex, blackness, class, religion, male bodies, self-understanding and finding a community are all explored in new ways with startling assurance
Johanna Thomas-Corr, New Statesman
Full of tenderness and soul, it's a book about shame and humiliation and how you overcome it
i newspaper
Hard-hitting and lingers long after the final page
BBC
New writer Paul Mendez explores sexuality, race, class and religion across generations and cultures in his semi-autobiographical debut novel Rainbow Milk
Stylist
Brilliant
Justine Jordan, Guardian
Fearless
Maaza Mengiste, Observer
Unflinching, revelatory
Observer
A page turner with a lot of heart
Nicole Flattery, Irish Times
I was more than happy to spend time reviewing Paul Mendez' Rainbow Milk, an ambitious, clever and candid debut
Esquire
This sharp coming-of-age novel explores exactly what it means to be a young, queer Black man in Britain. It's bold, fearless and fresh