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04 November 2021

Paul Mendez on Rainbow Milk. 4th November

 Paul Mendez talks about his debut semi-autobiographical novel: RAINBOW MILK

4th November at 7.30pm in Keats Community Library


Paul talks about his life and his semi-autobiographical debut novel "Rainbow Milk".

Born in the West Midlands to a second generation Jamaican-British family, he was raised as a Jehovah's Witness.

He was kicked out of his parents' house when he was seventeen and moved to Tonbridge to study engineering at the University of Greenwich. He dropped out after nine months but remained in Kent before moving to Birmingham in 2002. He moved to London in 2004 and became a sex worker.

In 2012, he met Sharmaine Lovegrove at a party and when she became a publisher at Dialogue Books, Mendez sent her the manuscript which would become his debut novel, Rainbow Milk

He is studying for an MA in Black British Writing from Goldsmiths. He lives in Hampstead with his partner Alan Hollinghurst, a Patron of the Library.

In 2020, Dialogue Books published Rainbow Milk, which featured in the Observer’s prestigious Top Ten Debut Novels list and was shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize. See Reviews below:

Paul has contributed to The London Review of Books, Esquire, The Face, Vogue, the Times Literary Supplement and the Brixton Review of Books.


Tickets are £10 in the Library and available on line from Please click this link




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

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

Sensuous and thrillingly well written - Observer

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

Moving and memorableRainbow Milk heralds Mendez as an original new voice in queer fiction - AnOther Magazine

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

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

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

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 - Angela Chadwick

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

Vivid, moving and packs a visceral punch - Lisa Appignanesi

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

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

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

[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

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