Rainbow Milk

Paperback edition released 04/02/2021

by Paul Mendez

Modern and Contemporary Fiction Erotic fiction Debuts Sharing Diverse Voices Literary Fiction

LoveReading Expert Review of Rainbow Milk

This ground-breaking and fearless debut shows how its young black protagonist tests the limits of sexual freedom.

This ground-breaking and fearless debut shows how its young black protagonist tests the limits of sexual freedom.

From the Eden of Jamaica to Wolverhampton in the 1950s, a Windrush couple and subsequent generations lament their decision to come to the UK.  By 2002 we meet their grandson Jesse McCarthy, a naive young black man struggling to make a living in London as a rent boy.

It's a coming-of-age story that touches on Jesse's journey with sex, with race, with religion and we really do journey with him side by side. It's so wise and so accomplished that it's difficult to believe this is a debut. Paul Mendes is an exciting new voice and one we can't wait to read more of.

Head to our 'Black Lit Matters' list to find more must-read novels by black writers.


Rainbow Milk Synopsis

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. Paul Mendez is a fervent new writer with an original and urgent voice.

About This Edition

ISBN: 9780349700588
Publication date: 4th February 2021
Author: Paul Mendez
Publisher: Dialogue Books an imprint of Little, Brown Book Group
Format: Paperback
Pagination: 368 pages
Primary Genre Modern and Contemporary Fiction
Other Genres:
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Closing date: 30/05/2022

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Paul Mendez Press Reviews

A very beautifully and tenderly written account of what it was like to come to the mother country , expecting a welcome and finding prejudice -- Stephen Hough - Telegraph

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 - Independent

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 - i newapaper

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 - BBC Radio 4 Front Row

A fearlessly groundbreaking debut -- Colin Grant - Guardian

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 - The Skinny

Daring, dexterous, exciting and accomplished, Mendez is a writer with plenty to say - Attitude

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 - New European

Urgent, original and heartbreaking - Irish Times

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 -- Alex Preston - Observer

[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 -- Johanna Thomas-Corr - Sunday Times

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 - Stylist

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 - GScene

Mendez's remarkable debut is a fervent, hope-filled and ultimately uplifting coming-of-age story - The i

Vivid, moving and packs a visceral punch 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 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 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 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 - The i

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 -- Okechukwu Nzelu, author of The Private Joys of Nnenna Maloney Moving and memorable, Rainbow Milk heralds Mendez as an original new voice in queer fiction - AnOther Magazine

Eye-poppingly frank, urgent and fresh -- Suzi Feay - Financial Times

Sensuous and thrillingly well written - Observer

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 -- Andrew McMillan 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 - Cosmopolitan

Other editions of this book

ISBN: 9780349700588
Publication date: 04/02/2021
Format: Paperback

ISBN: 9780349700595
Publication date: 17/06/2020
Format: Hardback

View All Editions

About Paul Mendez

Paul Mendez was born and raised in the Black Country. He now lives in London and is studying for an MA in Black British Writing at Goldsmiths, University of London. He has been a performing member of two theatre companies, and worked as a voice actor, appearing on audiobooks by Andrea Levy, Paul Theroux and Ben Okri, most recently recording Ian Wright's A Life in Football for Hachette Audio. As a writer, he has contributed to the Times Literary Supplement and the Brixton Review of Books. Rainbow Milk is his debut novel.

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