Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez

A complex and intersectional treatment of race, class, sexuality and sex work, Rainbow Milk is thrillingly accomplished

Book Review by Galen O'Hanlon | 10 Apr 2020
  • Rainbow Milk by Paul Mendez
Book title: Rainbow Milk
Author: Paul Mendez

Jesse McCarthy is young, gay, black, despised by his mother and recently disfellowshipped by the Jehovah’s Witness community he grew up in. So, he cuts loose from everything, escaping from the Black Country to London with the £300 he’s saved up.

In London he discovers a whole new world of barriers and opportunity. There’s the racist snobbery that comes with a job in an upmarket restaurant and then there’s also the long line of old white daddies who can’t wait for Jesse to fuck them – in the pub, at the station, in their plush flats. He turns to sex work, and he’s good at it. 

The prose is muscular, the sex graphic, the dialogue sharp. The whole thing fizzes with energy and drive, set to a soundtrack that runs from Ella Fitzgerald to Jay-Z, Joy Division and Mary J. Blige. 

Jesse finds friends, a partner and success. But beneath it all are the structures of racism that keep white men at the centre and connect everything, from the hostility faced by the Windrush generation in the 1950s, to the burning looks you get as the only black man at a rural Suffolk town market in 2016. At its core, Rainbow Milk is a complex and intersectional treatment of race, class, sexuality and sex work and a powerful, thrilling and accomplished debut novel. [Galen O'Hanlon]

Dialogue, £14.99, 23 Apr