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Summary

Shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize.

An Observer Top 10 Debut 2020.

Rainbow Milk is an intersectional coming-of-age story following 19-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. Paul Mendez is a fervent new writer with an original and urgent voice.

©2020 Paul Mendez (P)2020 Hachette Audio UK

Critic reviews

"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 [listen to] 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)

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Couldn’t put this down!

Such a powerful and gritty story of finding oneself and overcoming. So many layers and beautiful character development, so it doesn’t feel like a debut. Excited to hear more from this author. As a queer black brummie who moved to London and found myself in the process, this story resonated a lot.

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Sensational

I read the book and loved it, but when I heard it had been recorded by the author I couldn't resist.
I missed a lot of the nuance when I read it and found pain and humour in listening I hadn't realised when I read it. This book is like a film that gets better every time you watch it, noticing stuff you missed the first time around.
I could not recommend Rainbow Milk more highly. The content is timeless, the characters are rounded and you get the sense that they continue on even after they have departed the story. I want to know what happened to them all, I want to meet them and hang out.
No need for a sequel per se, but perhaps some short stories that continue the tales of those characters introduced here?

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Deep dive into a (previously) unknown world to me

Author/narrator created distinct characters.

AMAZING accents!

I found his writing quite graphic but recognise the narrative's intent and that my shock/horror probably spoke more to my sheltered upbringing than anything else.

My heart bled many times for Jessie throughout his story and I felt genuine joy when he found a level of peace.

I nodded in recognition several times at the religious oppression and repeated human failings because of it.

I really enjoyed the musical references throughout adding a recognisable soundtrack to his work.

My only criticism would be - I'd have liked to know more about Jessie's reunion with his mother (if there was one) and poss. Graham? His name appeared so frequently in the story, yet I left feeling there was much more there...that Jessie's deserved more closure/answers regarding that part of his life, maybe?

Superb storytelling, though - with a great redemptive conclusion.

Thank you for sharing, Paul.

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Great story, brilliantly read

Really enjoyed this account of a young man’s journey to self discovery and acceptance , from his family’s roots in Jamaica and the Black Country of the Midlands. The narrator’s accents of both those places are spot on - I’m from Kingswinford near ‘Jesse’s’ birthplace and now live in South London so both those locations resonated with me. The exploration of the closed world of Jehovah’s Witnesses was a ‘revelation’ too . I recommend this to all , especially those interested in UK black and LGBTQ experience; some of the material is very graphic , but essential to the story, so that should be borne in mind by potential readers of a sensitive nature !

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Mundane filth!

Boy is the person that nominated this book for our book club in trouble!!

The first 1.5 hours set in 1959 was dull - i’ve ready much about the Windrush generation and this gave me very little new insight - but when it moved onto modern day chapter one I almost missed it! It was such an extreme difference! Let’s just say the sexual descriptions were very much not like a Bronte novel! It was harsh, crude and pornographic. It was so filthy, I was convinced it had been written by a 16 year old boy that has been asked to write a story by his teacher for his gcse and he wants to be ‘edgy’.

I’m a similar age to the main character, so I get the cultural and music references. Even then, I found the narrative mundane, and can only imagine that if you’re not au fait with the music genres, it must be mind numbingly boring. These sections just felt like ‘filler’ between bouts of references to gay sex, poppers and bondage.

Anything of slight interest in this book is diluted by rambling dialogue and not well-executed.

I never thought I’d see the day where a man’s appendage is described as a black tapirs nose....