A Different Side of NYC: The Launch of UPTOWN THIEF

Uptown Thief by Aya de LeonThis week we celebrate the launch of Aya’s book, UPTOWN THIEF, which is a thrilling story of a Robin Hood–style madam in New York, Marisol, who steals from rich alpha males and runs a high-class prostitution business to fund her health clinic for women with nowhere else to turn.

I’ve written elsewhere about reading out of genre, and I will say that UPTOWN THIEF is not a book that I would have considered as “in my comfort zone.” But the moment I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down. The action! The sex! The politics! The sex! This book is downright steamy and super fun. (And for those participating in Book Riot’s Read Harder Challenge, UPTOWN THIEF is the first in a series, so it absolutely counts as “Read the first book in a series by a person of color.”)

For me, one of the most surprising things about UPTOWN THIEF is the view of New York City that it gave me. Now, I know New York. Duh! I researched it thoroughly for MODERN GIRLS. I studied street plans and subway maps and read books on the history. I lived in New York for eight years, so I visited all parts of the city from the Bronx Zoo down to the Staten Island ferry. Heck, I ran the NYC marathon twice, so I’ve actually run in all five boroughs. And nowadays, I head to the City four or five times a year to visit my sister, who lives there full time, and my parents, who are there part-time (when you live in Florida, where else is there to retire except New York?). New York is my town.

Except, after reading UPTOWN THIEF, I realize there’s a whole world of New York, on the very streets I visit, that exists side-by-side with mine. New York is constantly reinventing itself, but the layers are buried and don’t go away just because a new multi-million dollar townhouse has gone up. The Lower East Side that I knew from my days in New York and the Lower East Side that Dottie and Rose live in are vastly different from each other and when you throw in the clinic that Marisol runs in Loisaida, an entirely new city appears. The grittiness of Marisol’s New York is well portrayed and becomes as much a character as a setting. The dichotomy between the clinic–which is harassed by pimps and always in danger–and the swank apartments of the clients her escorts visit…and rob–show the starkness of the inequality of the City.

UPTOWN THIEF is a wild adventure, taking you to parts of New York you probably never knew existed. It’s an absolutely compelling story that deftly weaves in gender, economic, and race politics while sucking you into Marisol’s life. And did I mention there’s sex? There’s sex! Enjoy UPTOWN THIEF!

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Jennifer S. Brown is the author of MODERN GIRLS (NAL/Penguin). The novel, set in 1935 in the Lower East Side of New York, is about a Russian-born Jewish mother and her American-born unmarried daughter. Each discovers that she is expecting, although the pregnancies are unplanned and unwanted, in this story about women’s roles, standards, and choices, set against the backdrop of the impending war. Learn more at www.jennifersbrown.com.

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