Cover Image: Woman of Light

Woman of Light

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Member Reviews

Given the place in time we are in society, I did have some trouble reading this. It felt very heavy in places. The characters came off the page and I felt very connected to them. Which is also why it was difficult. I loved the writing and story.
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Luz and her brother are living in 1930's Denver.  They come from the Lost Territory and when Luz starts having visions of her Indigenous ancestors, she comes to understand her own life as well as those who brought her to Denver and raised her as best they could.  There is so much heartache in the hatred of those who conquer the land.  But Luz is able to carry forth her family message of love and resilience through these visions and find the courage she needs to live her fullest life.  

I appreciate the look into the lives of these people.  Again, it's heartbreaking the struggles so many in this country have fought through, but I always appreciate seeing stories of overcoming them, not just sinking into despair.  While there was so much possibility in this story, it did fall a little flat for me.  

Thank you to NetGalley and One World for an ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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In the Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine, readers are transported to the West in this early 20th century, multigenerational story of a Chicano family in the Lost Territories. Told in a non-linear style, the story focuses mainly on Luz who lives in a small apartment with her aunt and brother in Denver in the 1930s. Her brother Diego is a snake charmer and Luz can read tea leaves and has visions of earlier generations, becoming the torch bearer of her family’s story.

With that gorgeous cover and such an enticing synopsis, I wanted to love this book so very much, but I just did not. It begins much like the premise promises, but then very quickly becomes a disjointed tale where the magic just sort of dissipates into thin air. It read like a series of short stories where our protagonist made some very questionable choices against a backdrop of racial tumult during the cusp of a very transformative period of time. There was just a quick glimpse into the stories of the women of earlier generations, then the story would drag readers through Luz’s attempt to decide between two suitors. The ending read like a fever dream from one of the minor characters that only added confusion to the story. The prose was often beautiful, but overall it was very difficult to grasp the intention. I wanted more history, cohesion, and of course, magic. 

Thank you to the publisher for the opportunity to read and review.
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Thank you to Random House/One World for my ARC of Woman of Light, as well as my ALC!

Pub date: 6/7/22
Genre: historical fiction, family saga
In one sentence: Luz “Little Light” Lopez is a laundress struggling to make ends meet in 1930s Denver when she begins having visions of her ancestors.

I love a family saga, so I had to read this book! I fell in love with Luz and her family from the beginning - they experience discrimination and poverty at the hands of the white upper class, and Fajardo-Anstine captures their determination and frustration so poetically. The story jumps around to show perspectives from multiple generations, but Luz is the anchor point. Some readers might be bothered by the perspective and time shifts, but I really enjoyed them. I think the changing perspectives speak to the fact that life is circular, not just linear, and I saw the commonalities of the Lopez family members' experience because of this structure.

This book reminds me of The House of the Spirits given the magic of Luz's visions and the generational ties. If you enjoy family sagas, give this one a try! Both the audio and text were excellent. 4.5 stars rounded to 5.
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I really enjoyed this multi-generational read. I loved the Indigenous/Mexican theme/characters. Myself, being part Mexican, can really enjoy books like this. I loved the 3 narrations, Luz, her mother/aunt and her grandmother. I enjoyed seeing the connections even though they never got to spend too much time together. Luz is a very likeable character and easy to root for!
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A story that follows Chicano women in the Southwest, primarily New Mexico and Colorado from early in the century into the 50’s.  Each women had their own story to tell.  Luz, the last, read tea leaves and told fortunes until she could begin to see the future.  I was particularly struck by the racism that existed in the Southwest back then.  Denver at that time was similar to the Jim Crow South that we know more about.  There was a white side of town and a Chicano side, the KKK was active and you had to be careful.
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An engrossing, character-driven story of three generations of a Mexican-American family. I liked how the story bopped around leaving it to the reader to fit the pieces together. The ending was a bit unsatisfying in a way that’s hard to put my finger on. Nonetheless, I recommend picking this one up, especially the audio.
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Luz “Little Light” Lopez, a tea leaf reader and laundress, is left to fend for herself after her older brother, Diego, a snake charmer and factory worker, is run out of town by a violent white mob. As Luz navigates 1930s Denver, she begins to have visions that transport her to her Indigenous homeland in the nearby Lost Territory. Luz recollects her ancestors’ origins, how her family flourished, and how they were threatened. She bears witness to the sinister forces that have devastated her people and their homelands for generations. In the end, it is up to Luz to save her family stories from disappearing into oblivion.

Review: I enjoyed this multigenerational book. I found that the characters were compelling and over all the pace of the book was a bit slow.
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I requested this title because I had read the ARC of Sabrina & Corina in 2019 and loved it.   I am appreciative of the opportunity to read this new novel.

In Woman of Light we meet Luz Lopez, an indigenous Chicana, who reads tea leaves.  Her brother, Diego, is a snake charmer.  Both are being raised by their aunt. Maria Josie, while navigating 1930's Denver.  We learn about Luz's life and those of her mother and grandmother. through her gift.

This intricately woven story of past and present shows the discrimination that native peoples and Mexicans had to navigate much like black people living in the south.  Diego is beaten within an inch of his life and run out of town by a white mob  because he dared to date a white woman. Luz discovers of many unreported crimes while working for a Greek communist lawyer

Luz learns about life, love and lust as she tries to find a place for herself in the world.  In the end she finds hope when Diego returns and together they claim the next generation from the local Catholic home for women.
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Woman of light
I really wanted to love this book and maybe that’s where I went wrong. I had expectations that were too high and so the book fell flat (or at least that’s what I’m telling myself).

This multi generational story introduces us to Luz, her family and friends, and the challenges they faced in the segregated US. The overall plot was semi slow paced, but still engaging enough that I finished the book (and actually enjoyed the plot twist at the end). The underlying theme revolving segregation and how that impacted their lives definitely left me uneasy throughout, so a solid job there. I think what fell flat to me were the supporting characters - we got a peek into Lizette’s (Luz’s bff), Alonzo’s, David’s, Avel’s, Maria Josie’s, and Diego’s life, but we didn’t learn enough to fulfill our curiosity about them / get too attached to them. However, big ups to the author because she did a really good job at giving that feeling that you get after you hear your parent go off on a tangent, telling a story of folks they once knew a very long time ago en el cerro de la Atalaya.

I would recommend this book to folks who enjoy tales of the past, that leave you wanting a bit more, but give you juuuust enough. Thank you to NetGalley and One World for the ARC!
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Loved this one! I'm not really one for historical fiction, especially when it follows like multiple generations and you have to spend half your time figuring out how they connect, BUT I really enjoyed this story. Every character felt so visceral and real to me and despite the fact that some characters have bad qualities about them you never really grow to loathe them - which can sometimes put me off a book! I can't wait to check out more of Fajardo-Anstine's work in the future because her voice is truly so lyrical and complex, even when it seems simple. Definitely recommend this one
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When you pick up a book by Kali Fajardo-Anstine, you know that you’re in for a story that centers generations of Latine and Native American women in western United States. Woman of Light, her latest release, continues in this magnificent tradition by introducing us to a line of women whose lineage holds both turmoil and an immense capacity for finding their individual joys. 

It’s the 1930’s in Denver, Colorado and Luz Lopez has come to feel as comfortable as a young woman of color in a town full of bigots can be. Having moved from town to town for the majority of her young life following the dissolution of her parent’s marriage, Luz has become very content with the community she’s cultivated with her aunt, cousins, and friends that she’s made in the city’s Latine community. As with her earlier living situations, this too falls apart when her older brother, a romantic with his savvy head on his shoulders, falls in love with the wrong white woman. After he’s run out of town by the woman’s racist family, Luz becomes untethered to all that she holds dear, feeling as if a major piece of her is wandering in the wind. Just as her brother drifts further away from her to guarantee his safety, she gains insight into why it seems her family has always been fated to never remain together. As if the timing of these major events were not enough to set her into a self-examination spiral, her best friend is determined to marry within the same couple of months, a childhood friend provides her with a job that may have strings attached, and her steady boyfriend seems to hint towards a commitment that she may not be ready for.

In Woman of Light, Fajardo-Anstine has developed a very realistic historical account of a community of color making the best of the hostile environment that is the U.S. in the 1930s while also invoking character motivations that one can only find in fiction. I found the author’s voice consistent across the works that I’ve read from her and look forward to seeing any additional forays she may take into historical fiction in the future. This is definitely a book for those who like elements from the Western genre yet have yearned to hear a tale told from a marginalized point of view.
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I truly enjoyed Fajardo-Anstine’s collection of shorts and was looking forward to WOMAN OF LIGHT. My favorite part of this book was the perspective Luz brings as an Indigenous Chicana living in the post-Depression Midwest. It’s a voice that I feel is missing in the literary world — similar to HOW MUCH OF THESE HILLS ARE GOLD.

With that said, the story was missing some pizzazz for me. I felt the pacing was off and the jumping timeline didn’t really add to the story. I wasn’t sold by the contest set-up and while I appreciate the revisionist history perspective, I thought some things were too anachronistic: mainly Lizette and Luz’s sass and Marie Josie‘s queerness being so widely accepted. My understanding of women back in the 1930s were a lot more…stifled? But maybe that’s what Fajardo was trying to explore in her book? An intergenerational family of women who defied norms despite the sexism, racism, poverty, and overall the times.
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Kali Fajardo-Anstine, National Book Award finalist for Sabrina and Corina, now gives us Women of Light, a complex multi-generational portrayal of a struggling Chicano family descended from a mixed-race foundling.  The Prologue relates Desiderya Lopez’s 1868 discovery of Pidre, an infant boy, on the riverbank near the Pardona pueblo where she lives and is known as the Sleepy Prophet because of the hit or miss nature of her visions.

Although the story largely focuses Luz Lopez, Pidre’s tea leaf-reading descendent living in 1930s Denver, it moves back and forth through time, slowly filling in the stories of Pidre, his sharp-shooter wife Simodecea, his daughters, and his grandchildren--Luz and her older brother Diego, who charms both rattlesnakes and women.
Nicknamed “Little Light” as a child, Luz is said to contain the elders within her.  She has not only the ability to predict the future through tea leaves, but the gift to know the stories of her ancestors and to have the responsibility to perpetuate those stories. 

Covering the years from 1868 to 1934, Fajardo-Anstine divides Woman of Light into four parts, each part containing multiple chapters. The author clearly marks each time shift with location and year, such as “Denver, 1933” or “The Lost Territory, 1922-24.” Furthermore, she provides an outline of the generations, complete with character names and places, at the front of the book.  Although Fajardo-Anstine might have written the book chronologically, she would have lost the focus on Luz, the Woman of Light for whom the book is named. The slow revelation of each character’s backstory seemed the perfect organization. 

The result is not only an engaging family saga, but also a multicultural one bringing out the social and economic challenges a Chicano family faced during the Great Depression as well as asking questions about what determines the outcomes of one’s life. 

Thanks to NetGalley and One World/Penguin Random House for an advance reader copy of this highly recommended historical novel.

Shared on Barnes and Noble.
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Kali Fajardo-Anstine can do absolutely no wrong in my opinion. Her writing is gorgeous. It is arresting, compelling, lyrical, the kind of writing that makes you want to reread paragraphs over and over again to savor the words. I love a good multigenerational story, and this is a fantastic one. Sometimes the shifts from one timeline to another could be a bit abrupt, and there were times when I wanted more of a particular story, but overall I think this is just a beautifully written book that fans of historical fiction will love. I hope we will see more stories by and about folks of Mexican and Indigenous descent like this one.
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What a beautifully written historical fiction following the lives of a family and the struggles they face being chicanos. The first 1/4 of the book jumped around to different characters and time periods and I wasn’t paying enough attention so I had to go back and make sure I knew who was who but I loved the book.
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Thanks to Netgalley for this ARC: This is a luminous book--the central character is Luz-"Little Light" and the book is a chronicle of her family's experience in Denver and the "Lost Territory". The book explores Luz in the 1930's and her mother in the 1910's. The women in the family have some clairvoyant powers. They experience discrimination, betrayal, assaults and yet through their loving family ties, it is not an angry or hopeless book, but a book of beauty. I did find that I needed to go back and reread earlier chapters to recall the circumstances of Luz's brother Diego's banishing, and I think with the multiple narratives it is a book that will only improve with rereading. It is not magical realism, but beautiful prose and compelling narrative. A strong sense of place and characters.
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This book is full of magic. The way it made
me gasp and cry. Woman of Light weaved it's
story deeply into my heart. Thank you to the Author, publisher and NetGalley for the ARC
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This Western saga follows multi-generations of an Indigenous Chicano family from the late 1800s to the 1930s.  Most of the story focuses on Luz “Little Light” Lopez during the early 1930s as she fights for survival against poverty and racism, uncovers family secrets and history, and learns to love on her own terms.  

What I loved:
✨Luz’s coming-of-age storyline
✨History of strong women - living life on their own terms but still rooted in family traditions and values 
✨Beautiful storytelling - almost like listening to oral history from your elders, including vivid setting descriptions that transport you through each generational story 
✨Symbolism and Magical Realism elements.

Why Not 5 stars? 
✨Told in a nonlinear fashion made the audio confusing at times.  I recommend pairing the audiobook with the physical book.   
✨I wanted more!   The story is so beautifully written but mainly focused on Luz, which left me wanting to know more about Luz’s grandmother and great-grandmother.
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This is a character driven story about three generations of a Mexican/native family living in the US.  The story focuses mostly on the 3rd generation with flashbacks to the 1st.  Luz and Diego live with their aunt in Colorado in the 1920s. Racial tensions are high and there are frequent cases of police brutality or police looking the other way when the victims are not white.

I think that the story is an important one to read.  It offers an important perspective of groups that are often overlooked.  The characters are dynamic and flawed and experience a great deal of growth.

The book has a slower pace and at times I had difficulty staying engaged when it would switch POV/timelines. I think this book shows the effects of generational trauma.  The expenses involved with poverty and the difficulty of the American dream if you don't look a certain way.
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