“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.”


Rainbow Milk is Paul Mendez’s stunning and exciting début novel that was first published in 2020. It is a coming-of-age tale that follows nineteen-year-old Jesse McCarthy – a Black, gay, British boy from Wolverhampton – as he struggles with his racial and sexual identity within his Jehovah’s Witness upbringing and later, the wider world.

Navigating adult life, Jesse must find his safe space by unlearning all he has been taught about Blackness and gayness from being a Jehovah’s Witness, while also trying to discover what it means to be Black, to be gay, to be a lover, and even be a man in this world.

Mendez’s novel is an explosive and, at times graphic and erotic, book that roves from sex and sin to salvation and deep emotions. The writing explores race, sexuality, identity, family, friendship, and the LGBTQIA+ community.

What’s more, by opening the novel in the late 1950s and then jumping to the 2000s, Mendez explores the Windrush Generation whilst also highlighting issue of racism in Britain and shining a light of how far we still have to go to achieve equality and anti-racism in this country. While, through issue such as HIV+ and Section 28, the author also explores the LGBT+ rights movement in the UK.

As well as delving into some serious topics, Paul Mendez has also created a book that is extremely sensual, dragging his readers along for the ride with Jesse. The author uses phonetic dialogue to create dialect and a strong voice for each of his characters, particularly in the case of Jamaican and Black Country raised characters. While the plot of Jesse’s life moves along quickly, building towards an exciting and satisfying ending.


Reviewed by:

Catherine Muxworthy, Booksbirdblog

Added 31st August 2021

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Catherine Muxworthy