Title Sterling Karat Gold
Author(s)/Editor(s) Isabel Waidner
Publisher Peninsula Press
Pages 192
Dimensions 129 x 199 mm
Format Softcover
Year 2021

Sterling is arrested one morning without having done anything wrong. Plunged into a terrifying and nonsensical world, Sterling – with the help of their three best friends – must defy bullfighters, football players and spaceships in order to exonerate themselves and to hold the powers that be to account.

Sterling Karat Gold is Kafka’s The Trial written for the era of gaslighting – a surreal inquiry into the real effects of state violence on gender-nonconforming, working-class and black bodies.

Following the Goldsmiths Prize–nominated We Are Made of Diamond Stuff, Isabel Waidner’s latest novel proposes community, inventiveness and the stubborn refusal to lie low as antidotes against marginalisation and towards better futures.


‘Sterling Karat Gold reminds me of nothing else. With atypical inventiveness Waidner steers us through a marvellous spinning parade of matadors, red-cards, time travel and Cataclysm. A beautifully defiant miracle of a book.’ – Guy Gunaratne, author of This Mad and Furious City
‘We join football-shirt-skirted, velvet-and-montera-clad Sterling in a fiction replete with time travel, Chariot Roman Spas, a living pink fountain and queer working-class histories. Let’s face it: Waidner’s Sterling Karat Gold deals a fatal blow to jobsworths everywhere! Indeed, in an ever obtuse and hostile Britain, where the flattening of queer and trans expression is borderline de riguer, Sterling makes me feel heartened and defiant in all its revelry and multiplicity and deftness: and here in the UK! and happening now!’ – Shola von Reinhold, author of LOTE

‘A sublime, mesmerising feat blending the surreal and political. Waidner is a ferocious, uniquely gifted talent and the world feels all the better for it.’ – Irenosen Okojie, author of Nudibranch

‘Effortlessly referential, fluid and funny, endlessly inventive, furious and resistant, Sterling Karat Gold doubles down on Isabel Waidner’s disruptive ongoing analysis of UK psychic architecture. A real joy to read.’ –M John Harrison, author of The Sunken Land Begins to Rise Again

‘Ferocious and nebular, kind and strange—where strange means ‘queer, surprising’ and ‘outside of’—Sterling Karat Gold crackles on the edge of new language(s) while simultaneously demolishing language altogether. Narrator Sterling (think a nonbinary young Genet in foam spikes) is fomenting and canny, bent on surviving the mania of a rapidly morphing and out of control British regime. But what to lob against murderous nationalist illogics? Like all Waidner’s words, each verbal pulse is funneled velocity, gives no F’s, scraps for its place on the page, belongs, glitters. As much an elegy to the loss of mother tongues as mothers (also anticapitalist spaceships, friends, bodies, generations to AIDS, self), Waidner makes soft bombs of binaries, shows again and again how violence against bipoc, migrant, queer life is not fiction, and that liberation and alliance are inseparable. Sterling Karat Gold is fervid, focused, felt in all of its wholly radical clamor. The stakes? Our chest bones and tender communities inside. The mode? A Born-in-Flames-style reckoning that changes futures/leaves no one behind, ie, love.’ – Jess Arndt, author of Large Animals

Isabel Waidner is a writer and critical theorist. Their novels We Are Made of Diamond Stuff (2019) and Gaudy Bauble (2017) were shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize and the Republic of Consciousness Prize (2x), and won the Internationale Literaturpreis. They are the programmer and presenter of This isn’t a Dream, a fortnightly literary talk show hosted by the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, via Instagram Live.

Found in: All / Peninsula Press