Cover Image: Woman of Light

Woman of Light

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Member Reviews

Back in high school I was a participant to a youth program that allowed me to visit Denver, CO. A metropolitan city surrounded by mountains and creeks.

I was excited to read Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s Sabrina & Corina knowing her stories took place in Denver and loved the introduction to the town she created, Saguarita.

In Women of Light, Fajardo-Anstine makes nature a prominent character in the novel. From a sky full of stars to the scent of plantitas these elements drew me in and made me feel abuelita vibes teaching me the power of plant medicine.

This novel takes you across timelines, locations from Mexico to Colorado. Reading through felt like time travel, taking a peak into history intentionally erased by colonizers.

Women of Light centers women survival, love and special abilities. Women bring to the front intergenerational stories weather through the ability of vision or tradition keeping.

Kali Fajardo-Anstine is one of my favorite writers for giving stories like these the place to be read and learned from.

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Woman of Light--a great book that not only entertained me, but expanded my perception of the western part of our country. Fajardo-Anstine writes about foundational people who have been erased from the history and literature of the West--Native Americans, Mexicans/Chicanos, Hispanics, and their interrelated descendants. Set in Denver and in an area named The Lost Territory, the story spans from the mid 19th century to the 1930s, and references to historical events are woven into the story. The first thing that struck me as I read the book and has remained with me long after finishing it, is the rich, striking imagery. The author can paint a picture with words. In some cases, it was more than a picture, but moving images. I could see certain scenes play out as if I were watching them on film. The second is that she has upended the stereotypical depiction of the Mexican grandma as silent and subservient. The Mexican grandma here is a professional gunslinger, a woman with agency and a voice. I think too often writers internalize stereotypes and unwittingly reproduce them. Here, Fajardo-Anstine does the opposite--she creates a world, one rooted in imagination, but also in history. This book is an original.

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A multigenerational story that has more heart than most people...
Our character Luz is a brave, fierce one and her part in this story was phenomenal.
All the characters were amazing and portrayed very well.
I loved all the period detail and the strength of the conflict and relationships. 
With vivid descriptions I was transported to a time unlike anything I ever experienced before.
The story is so engaging, rich in detail, beautifully written and hugely absorbing for those who enjoy good literary fiction and historical fiction.
I wanted to keep reading when I finished this book.
That's how amazing this book was.
I was started yesterday and was up way too late finishing this one and I regret none of it!

Random House|One World,
Thank You for your generosity and gifting me a copy of this amazing eARC!
I will post my review closer to pub date.

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holly smokes another five star read for this AMAZING author!! the magic her stories bring are out of this world. i get chills thinking about Woman of Light. It took my breath away and made me cry. Our ancestors are PROUD for sure. thank you netgalley for the opportunity to read this magical book in advance. Kali is one of the best authors and a beautiful soul!!

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This is a beautifully painted portrait of a story. Luz is trying to figure out how to move through life as a Native American and Latino and all the discrimination that comes with that. She reads tea leaves and her brother is a snake charmer.
Luz is just trying to figure out where she fits and how to navigate family and love.
The descriptions of the landscapes are very vivid and beautiful.
A must read for 2022!

Thanks NetGalley for this ARC!

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Woman of Light is an immersive, multigenerational story about an Indigenous Chicano family, primarily spanning the early 1890s through the early 1930s. The main story, in 1933 and 1934, focuses on Luz Lopez. Living in Denver with her aunt and older brother, she’s already been working for years despite being only 17 years old. Between reading tea leaves and working as a laundress, she does what she can to keep her small family afloat. Her brother, Diego, is a snake charmer in addition to his day job. One day, Diego has a tragic run-in with some violent people, and he’s forced to leave town. Without his income, Luz looks for better work and ends up getting a secretarial position at a law firm started by a longtime family friend.

Interspersed between her chapters, we also get glimpses of the lives of her ancestors. In the late 1800s, in the Lost Territory (the southwestern areas of the United States that was previously part of Mexico), we get to know Luz’s grandparents, Pidre and Simodecea. Later, we also get a look at her parents’ generation, including her mom Sara and her aunt Maria Josefina.

While reading it, even once I’d read a significant percentage of it, I found it hard to explain the plot of Woman of Light. There isn’t a strong end goal for our characters. In some ways, it feels more like a slice of life, following Luz as she comes of age. Her story arc revolves around figuring out who she is, what she wants in life, and what her ambitions are. Part of this comes in the form of her new job as a secretary. Another part focuses on her romantic relationships, including her first boyfriend and the older guy she once had a crush on. There’s a bit of a love triangle there, and Luz makes some questionable choices. What will she learn or gain from these romances?

A major theme within Woman of Light is the racism Luz and her family face on a daily basis. They’re Indigenous and Chicano, and both their physical appearance and their Spanish language put them at the receiving end of bigotry and racism. It can be seen in Luz’s limited job opportunities, her being barred from even applying for roles in the more affluent, white neighborhoods. It’s obvious in the mob of racist men who attack Diego and cause him to flee town. And now that Luz is working in law, it’s woefully present in the lack of justice people of color see when a racist cop kills a man and gets away with it. In this book, we see the harsh realities of racism and hatred. We see the KKK marching through the Denver streets and feel the fear our characters feel. It’s hard to see it so overtly here, but although we’ve made progress in the past century, racism is still all too prevalent today.

These are also working class characters, living paycheck to paycheck and lacking savings when emergencies arise. Luz and her family had to drop out of school early on so they could work. Their limited educations – coupled with the racist barriers in place – make it difficult for any upward mobility. It’s by luck and being owed a good deed that Luz forges a better opportunity, with increased pay and even a chance at some further education. Though my own life situation wasn’t nearly so dire, I was poor growing up, and I always like reading about working class characters and identify with them much more than middle or upper class ones. Here they take center stage, offering an intimate glimpse of what life is like when you’re poor and marginalized.

But Woman of Light also depicts joy and love, too. Luz’s cousin Lizette is about the same age, but she’s at a completely different place in terms of love. Over the course of this novel, Lizette dreams about marrying her boyfriend Alfonso, and although money is tight for them all, she works hard to finally be able to afford a wedding. Maybe Luz isn’t quite there yet, but there is hope for her yet. Perhaps there is hope for Diego, too.

Woman of Light is a beautifully written novel, filled with immersive descriptions of the landscapes and cities and earnest portrayals of resilient characters. A note at the beginning of the novel described the author’s writing as vivid and movie-like, and I would have to agree. You can see the images in bright color as you move through the chapters, making the read that much more impactful.

Even if I find it difficult to describe Woman of Light in only a sentence or two, I still found it to be an engrossing and delightful read. This is Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s first novel, though she previously published a short story collection, Sabrina & Corina. I plan to read that soon, and will eagerly await her next publication. For now, mark June 7th on your calendars, because Woman of Light is a novel you’ll want to read once it’s out later this year.

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I was very excited to get an advanced copy of this one, as I loved Fajardo-Anstine's short stories and couldn't wait to start her debut novel. While it was a slow start for me, reading Woman of Light was an immersive experience, with beautiful prose depicting Colorado and the Southwest. This is a real love letter to Fajardo-Anstine's home state of Colorado, and it shows.

The tensions and racism against Native Americans and Latinos, as well as anyone not "white enough," was infuriating to read, and reminded me we still have a long way towards equality to go in this country. By integrating several generations of stories, we are able to see how mining and "progress" slowly took over the West, destroying Indigenous cultures and people. At the heart of the story is a family, one of diverse backgrounds and hidden talents, including some of the supernatural. I loved Luz, her relationship with Diego, and her closeness with Lizette. I was less enthused with the love stories! But I don't like love triangles so that was a struggle for me just from a structure point of view.

There were some loose endings that could've used some more development, and I really would've appreciated some more time with Maria Josie and her relationship, but overall, thoroughly enjoyed this love letter to Colorado and the family Fajardo-Anstine created.

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I was really excited to read Kali Fajardo-Anstine's "Woman of Light" after loving her short stories in "Sabrina & Corina." This book did not disappoint! "Woman of Light" is about a few generations of an Indigenous Chicano family with the focus on Pidre and his family in the late 1800s and Luz in Denver in the 1930s. While I would not place this book into the magical realism genre, Luz uses powers passed down from generations to look into the past and see the future. Fajardo-Anstine also reminds the reader about the fluidity of the border between Denver and the "Lost Territory" and the true history of the land and its traditions. Life in 1930s Denver is not easy for Luz. The constant threat of underemployment, KKK lynch mobs, assault, and discrimination makes life challenging and uncertain. The characters make you cringe, cry, and smile. I definitely recommend "Woman of Light."

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Plot: Luz, affectionately known as “Little Light”, lives in Denver with her aunt, brother, and cousin. As she navigates life, her tea leaf reading abilities morph into something more powerful, revealing bits and pieces of her family’s rich history in the Lost Territory. In the end I saw the plot, but it wasn’t very clear while I was reading.

Characters: Luz, a tea leaf reader and daughter, and granddaughter to powerful Chicana women lives in Denver where she explores concepts of love, purpose, and family. Her cousin, Lizette, is such a fun side character. I am still not sure how I feel about David’s character. Or really any of the male characters, they all have some sort of grimy edge to them.

Setting: Set in Denver in the 1930s, there are realistic portrayals of beautiful nature as well as ugly racism. Such a refreshing perspective to read a minority story set during the great depression.

Conflict/Resolution: There were many conflicts that converged during one key event. Things (and people) are not what you think they are. The resolution was heartwarming, but maybe not in the way you might expect. The ending was left open, which is not normally my style but was quite a beautiful conclusion.

Writing: Incredibly rich, descriptive text. This took me a long while to read because every word felt like it mattered, but it was incredibly fulfilling to read even just one chapter at a time. I absolutely LOVED the beginning of the story and how it set the tone for the novel.

Overall/Other notes: I attended an event where this author was a speaker and I absolutely love her personality. If you are tired of reading about white characters in white spaces doing white people things, read this book. I used to live in Colorado and learned so many amazing things about the land I lived on, and felt incredible shame for how racist Denver was (though I could have guessed with how white of a city it still is). I received an ARC from Penguin Random House via NetGalley.

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Woman of Light is a multi-generational story set in the American West during the late 1800s spanning to the 1930s. The story line flowed effortlessly, which is a huge plus for me as a reader. Kali finds an ingenious way to intertwine the family's history through Luz and her current experiences.
The vivid descriptions of the landscapes will transport you right alongside what life would have been during this time period. I loved every minute of this unique story and will be recommending this book to any die heart historical fiction fans!

Thank you to NetGalley and One World/Random House Publishing Group for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.

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This served as an eye-opener into the history of the American West. The author depicted the treatment of the native and indigenous during the time period. This was a great story of love and loss, unique in its own right.

Full review to come and rating may change.

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This epic tale begins on a starry night, as a young mother at the edge of the Land of Early Sky abandons her newborn near a riverside. Sixty-five years later, we meet Luz, who reads tea leaves under a Ferris wheel near the South Platte River in Denver. Vivid and dreamy descriptions put me in the story. I can smell green chilis roasting, and hear tossed nickels land into a tackle box of coins, as Luz’s brother charms rattle snakes during a festival. If you need an escape, this is an excellent story to get lost in.

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Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine is a wonderful historical fiction that takes the reader into the heart of the history of the American West.

This is just such a fabulous book on so many levels. It is a multi-generational story set in the backdrop of the western lands of the US. We can see the ancestors recent and old and their respective stories told through (and around) the main character, Luz “Little Light” Lopez and her family through an array of avenues and snippets. We can see through each time period the triumphs, struggles, losses, changes, and cultural significances within each respective generation. This mainly takes place roughly between 1890 and 1935. It is just fascinating.

This is a story about family, love, loss, keeping one’s personal and family stories and history alive and not forgotten. We see through her eyes the hardships, the treatment of the native and indigenous groups and cultures as settlers and other immigrants move outward. It is beautiful, haunting, harrowing, depressing, and sad all at the same time. Yet there are threads of hope that through Luz her family’s existence will not be forgotten and will continue to live on.

So unique and definitely memorable.

5/5 stars

Thank you NG and One World/Random House Publishing Group for this wonderful arc and in return I am submitting my unbiased and voluntary review and opinion.

I am posting this review to my GR and Bookbub accounts immediately and will post it to my Amazon, Instagram, and B&N accounts upon publication on 6/7/22.

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