AN OBSERVER TOP TEN DEBUT 2020
'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
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.
Mendez dazzles with his debut, an explosive bildungsroman drawing on the legacy of Britain's Windrush generation of 1950s migrants from the West Indies. Blind boxer turned expert gardener Norman Alonso details his history in a ravishing patois as he arrives from Jamaica to the coal town of Blixton in 1956 along with his housekeeper wife, Claudette, and their two children. Norman's hope for a fresh life dissolves into despair as he confronts racism (someone paints "KBW" on their door, for Keep Britain White) and shame over the difficulty in providing for his family ("Depression gwine guh kill me dead," he exclaims in an interior monologue). Mendez then moves 50 years forward to Alonso's gay grandson, 19-year-old Jesse McCarthy, an aspiring writer who was "disfellowshipped" from his Jehovah's Witness family after seeking a more vibrant and free life in London. He cruises public bathrooms, bars, and discos before becoming a rent boy and then (influenced by James Baldwin's Giovanni's Room) develops a relationship with an older white man. After discovering a shocking revelation from his past, Jesse moves toward a promising future. Mendez has a full bag of tricks and a sprawling range, deploying biting social commentary; unflinching, intense sex scenes; and exquisite prose, making his work alternately reminiscent of Bernadine Evaristo, Garth Greenwell, Zadie Smith, and Alan Hollinghurst. Readers will be hard put to find a more inspired voice.