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Nightcrawling Reader’s Guide

By Leila Mottley

Nightcrawling by Leila Mottley


The following questions and topics are designed to spark thoughtful reflection and lively discussion for your book club’s study of Nightcrawling. We hope they enrich your experience of this gripping debut from a shining new literary talent.

Questions and Topics for Discussion

1. A recurring element in Nightcrawling is the imagery of water, from the swimming pool in Kiara’s apartment complex to the San Francisco Bay and the Pacific Ocean. What do these bodies of water represent to Kiara and how do they manifest themselves in her emotional state throughout the text? Returning to the first and last pages of the novel, how does Kiara’s perception of the pool change?

2. Which images of Oakland stand out to you most? How do development and underdevelopment contrast each other within the city? Could your own hometown be described in this way?

3. In the absence of parental figures, Kiara must piece together her own family, reflecting, “Mama used to tell me that blood is everything, but I think we’re all out here unlearning that sentiment, scraping our knees and asking strangers to patch us back up” (page 32). Does Kiara succeed in creating a chosen family? Who are the members and how do they support one another?

4. What are the different degrees of success and survival that Kiara sees in the characters around her such as Alé, Cole, and Uncle Ty?

5. Nightcrawling is interspersed with flashbacks to moments in which Kiara felt connected with her big brother, Marcus. Is Marcus a good brother? How do these flashbacks differ from the Marcus who interacts with Kiara within the timeline of the story? In what ways does he support Kiara and in what ways does he fail her?

6. Describe the circumstances that lead to Kiara’s nightcrawling.

7. On page 82, Kiara reflects, “Houses give away all their secrets at the door. Dee’s is full of scratches. Mine doesn’t have a working lock no more.” Do you see symbolism in Kiara’s unlocked door? Over the course of her story, how does she attempt to find and/or create safety for herself and Trevor?

8. On page 130, Kiara describes watching Camila dance and realizing that she is not as free as she thinks she is. How does the protection Demond provides Camila parallel the protection the police department provides Kiara? Is either woman really safe or free?

9. Compare Kiara’s father’s experiences with the Oakland Police Department as a Black Panther to those of Kiara and the sex workers she encounters. In what ways are their experiences similar and in what ways are they different?

10. Do you think it is important that the story is written from a first-person perspective? How would the novel be different if it was told by a character other than Kiara?

11. Despite their strained relationships with their mother and father, do Kiara and Marcus inherit any of the behaviors and personalities of their parents?

12. Describe your impressions of Marsha and the development of her relationship with Kiara. What steps must Marsha take to gain her trust? In what ways can Marsha see Kiara, and in what ways is she blind to her experiences?

13. How did your perception of Kiara and Alé’s relationship shift as the novel unfolded?

14. What is the significance of Marcus’s choice to bail out Cole instead of himself? Were you surprised by his choice? Why do you think he made this decision?

15. During her testimony for the grand jury, Kiara repeats, “I was a child” (page 263). Why is this important for Kiara to recognize?

16. How did you react to the grand jury’s verdict?

17. Read or listen to a few poems by Leila Mottley. As you reflect on the novel, what elements of her poetry do you notice being incorporated into Nightcrawling?

Suggested Reading

The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman
Monday’s Not Coming by Tiffany D. Jackson
There There by Tommy Orange
Push by Sapphire
Dear Martin by Nic Stone
The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Once On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward
Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson
The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola Yoon
American Street by Ibi Zoboi
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