Cover Image: Woman of Light

Woman of Light

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🇲🇽 Book Review 🇲🇽

#womanoflight
#KaliFajardoAnstine
#historicalfiction 

🇲🇽🇲🇽🇲🇽.5/5 (rounding down for ratings) 

This book had been listed as a family saga. I've always knows sagas to be generational. This book does discuss 3 generations but on 3 timelines at once. Constantly jumping back and forth. Clearly marked but nonetheless, confusing. I was never able to get invested in one of the woman's lives before I got shifted to the next. 

I truly wanted to like this more. But I felt like I had to force myself to continue to pick it back up. Sadly, this was a meh for me. 

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Rich storytelling that expertly weaves stories across generations. Characters are beautifully written with every sentence carrying a lot of meaning. The story left me wanting more and inspires me to learn more about Indigenous Chicano experiences during this time period in the American West. 

Thank you to the publisher and NetGalley for sending me an arc!
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Luz is a wonderful character! this book is very interesting and a really complex story. Very informative and unpredictable. An entertaining book that is a real page turner. The characters are complex and interesting,A really unique story! a must read!
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Woman of Light is sure to be one of THE summer books of 2022. It reads like a love letter to Colorado as we follow the tale of multiple generations of an Indigenous family in the 1930's. Beautiful prose with richly developed characters that you will fall in love with. Historical fiction lovers will really enjoy this one.

Thank you to Random House Publishing Group and NetGalley for this ARC.
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Woman of Light is a multi-generational story of a family in the wild west in the early 20th Century.  It spans the 1800's through the 1930's as we follow the Chicano family fight for survival against racism and harsh terrain they live.  There are also elements of magic through visions in the tea leaves foreshadowing the families plight through the years. 

The author has vividly written a story of the importance of family, traditions and survival.  Woman of Light is truly captivating historical fiction novel.  Highly recommend. 

Thank you Random House Publishing Group - Random House, One World  for the complimentary copy.
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Honestly, I loved Kali's short story collection. I actually had the chance to host her for a reading at our library and she is phenomenal in that regard as well. I am so glad to see that she has found success through her work and continues to share her words with the world. Her writing is so beautiful and descriptive. 

I could not get into this novel. It felt hard for me to follow and the setting didn't grab me. I am going to try to pick it back up again and use it for a book club discussion.
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✨Book Review✨

Thank you to @netgalley and @randomhouse for the eARC of Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine. This book released on June 7, so happy belated book birthday. 🧁📘

This novel primarily follows Luz “Little Light” Lopez. Though, the chapters do jump around between her family’s generations, which can be a bit confusing in the first part of the book. 

I loved the fact that this book shared the story of how life was for indigenous and other non-white peoples during the first few decades of the 1900s. History books are primarily so white washed and this one opens your eyes to how it was for the other side. 👀 Lots of good group discussion topics covered here!

Luz can read tea leaves, giving her a bit of a magical quality. I really enjoyed her character development and growth even though there were a few times I had to shake my head at her decisions. 

This book just kind of ends? So, I’m curious to see if there will be a sequel, perhaps the beginning of a series? We shall see!
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Such an engaging read about history I knew nothing about.  Told in alternating timelines and voices, this story follows 5 generations of an Indigenous Mexican family in Denver, Colorado.

Spanning the years of the 1860s to the 1930s, the story feels mainly about Luz "Little Light" Lopez and her journey to find her history and her future.  She and her brother lost their parents when they were young, and were then raised by their Aunt.  Each of the three work hard to provide for each other, but still swim in poverty.  They are considered underclass citizens and are observed as less than. Luz's story intersperses with a "seer" woman in the 1860's called, the sleepy prophet, and a woman, Simodecea, in the 1900s who is a celebrated sharp-shooter.  Luz's best friend from childhood is Lizette and I just loved her.  She is full of energy, personality and self-confidence. But what I liked best about this story was uncovering how the strings of all these women's lives intertwined.

This vividly descriptive story walks the reader through racism, poverty, family, loyalty, strength, self-discovery and small bits of magical realism.  I felt transported to the old West and could feel the heat and the oppression.  Luz is able to read tea leaves, and as the story progresses, her ability to "see" also expands.  She knows very little about her ethnic history and her ancestors. The story reveals pieces of her history little by little through other characters.  This family has faced so many hardships and set backs, but continued to move forward with faith in a better future.  

This is definitely a slow-burn novel, but one that will captivate and engage the reader throughout.  I really enjoyed hearing from a perspective that was completely unknown to me.  I also appreciated the story focusing on a part of the US that feels less explored.  There were so many aspects to this book - history, family, destiny, relationships and purpose.  I definitely recommend.  

Thank you to NetGalley and Random House/One World for the arc to read and review.  Pub date: 6.07.22
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Could not get into this story. Giving up after reading the first 100 pages, which is highly unusual for me.
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A powerful and moving piece of historical fiction about a young Indigenous woman with the sight and the trials and joys of the generations before her, with deeply vivid imagery that transports the reader to stand alongside each character, to see and hear and feel as they do. Elegant prose, if sometimes at odds with the short dialogue style; the shifting timeline of the chapters avoid confusing the reader by linking easily in theme and plot to the chapters immediately before and after. Themes of fate, family, and self-actualization/responsibility make this saga feel timeless.
comp to: The Invisible Mountain by Carolina de Robertis (more TK)
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The writing in this historical novel set in Denver is beautiful. Luz is a tea reader and seamstress. Her story illustrates the challenges of being Hispanic or black in 1934, with the added weight of being female and paid less for the same work while being sexually harassed. 

The story is told in a disjointed manner, sometimes jumping back in various times in history of Luz’s ancestors. Sometimes this worked, other times it was frustrating because it interrupted the flow of the storyline, so I’d get into the plot and then get taken right out of it. For that reason, I didn’t love this book.

Thanks to NetGalley for the opportunity to review this novel.
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Thank you to Random House and NetGalley for an advanced copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

This felt like a Kristen Hannah book but with some more context and history. I think the multiple timelines left me unsatisfied and I was really upset about what Lutz did at the end and how everyone reacted. I think it was on the cusp of being something really engaging -- and I did learn a lot! I want to do more reading on this time period but maybe nonfiction. 

3 stars.
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I received a digital advance copy of Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine via NetGalley. Woman of Light was released on June 7, 2022.

Luz is the Woman of Light. She is a tea leaf reader, a laundress, and a legal secretary in 1930s Denver. When Luz’s brother Diego (a snake charmer) is run out of town by an angry white mob, Luz struggles to find her place in Denver and her scattered family. In the tea leaves, she begins to catch glimpses of her ancestors, revealing snippets of her family story she was unaware of.

While the novel focuses on Luz, we meet several generations of her family, seeing moments from the past that led to Luz being who and where she is. As we spend the most time with Luz, we get to know her well. The characters around her are also well-developed, even in the short glimpses we get of them. While I would gladly have spent more time with any of those interesting characters, I felt like Fajardo-Anstine did a solid job of presenting them as complete people.

Fajardo-Anstine presented these generations using storytelling techniques reminiscent of both native tribal and Mexican cultures. From the beginning of the novel, there was a feel of hearing an oral myth or legend, embedded in natural forces as the sources of power. There is also magic woven throughout, without a need to explain how or why this magic is occurring. These literary traditions are very at-home in Fajardo-Anstine’s hands, woven together and into the narrative as if they were necessary parts of the story itself.

I did struggle a bit to keep up with the story in the last quarter or so. Luz has a big aha moment based on a vision she has courtesy of the tea leaves. As a reader, I wasn’t able to have that aha with her, as I couldn’t quite piece together what she saw and what meaning that had for her. I expected the last portion of the novel to unfold that moment for me, and it did, to an extent. In the end, I felt I had the gist of what she had experienced and realized in that moment, but also felt as if there was some nuance I was missing. I would have liked a little bit more through this portion of the novel to clarify for me what Luz learned from that vision.

Overall, Woman of Light was a beautifully written, semi-fantastical historical fiction. It explores 1930s Denver, as well family and the secrets they often hold.
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What happens when a determined woman meets a wall of silence? When we're very lucky, and she's very lucky, a writer comes on the scene and becomes An Author. That's the trajectory of Author Fajardo-Anstine. Sabrina & Corina, her literary debut, was a collection of stories and...it went nowhere. It wasn't a flop. It was invisible.

Bemoaning her fate being beneath the bearer of such stories to the world, she got up and made a book tour for herself...got the grassroots interested in the book...and got nominated for a National Book Award. For a debut collection of stories! Grassroots support is crucial, but let's be honest: You gotta have the chops to get anywhere after that.

And here we are, talking about Author Fajardo-Anstine's debut novel, a real gift of a tale about people whose American history goes much deeper than the majority of those reading this blog's history goes. It's not a linear, "in 1868 this unusual thing happened, in 1879 the next unusual thing happened..." narrative strategy. Luz, our literal Woman of Light, is also our PoV character. Everything that happens to her is grounded, contextualized, in her family's...her people's...history. It's a scary thing to think of taking on this much underknown history, and Author Fajardo-Anstine is up to the task. You, the reader, won't get it spoon-fed to you. I won't make it sound like work, or an assignment, but it is not effortless storytime fiction.

That said, the stories are wonderfully deeply told, limned against a background not unfamiliar today. It's not like the USA is racism-free. It's not like it was in earlier times, in that it's still regarded as a more fringe belief than it was in, for example, Luz's 1933 Denver. But the KKK is recrudescing under new names, the old hate gets poured into new bottles and different labels get slapped on them. Make no mistake, it is still less pervasive than the world Luz, her cousin Lizette, her brother the hapless Diego, and company all face every time they open the door.

It's Diego, and David, and frankly all the men in the book, that brought an inevitable fifth star off the rating. I wanted to feel immersed in a time and a place, and was; but the caddish men, not a decent soul among them, made me think "oh, twenty-first century feminism goggles are on, so I (sadly a Y-chromosome bearing person) am in for a drubbing." There are white people who will feel left out, too, but that comes with the story and is, frankly, the point...white folks don't need to be centered, or even there on the periphery, if the author telling the story of a time and place doesn't want them to be. Men, though? She's got those. And does she unload on them. Spineless and useless; abusive and cruel; just flat evil (as anyone who joins the KKK in fact was).

I don't think it was necessary, and it smacks of score-settling. So there went star #5.

Still think it's time to rev up your book club's drinks tray, y'all, and get this terrific, well-told, challenging, and deeply satisfyingly immersive read on the coffee table.
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Luz Lopez is left to fend for herself in 1930s Denver after a white mob runs her brother out of town. She begins to have visions of her Indigenous ancestors’ origins, how her family flourished, and how they were threatened in nearby Lost Territory. It is now up to Luz to save her family's stories.

The story is told in a nonlinear format, skipping between five generations. There's a general forward momentum, but pay careful attention to the years listed on the chapters. Mostly we follow Luz, but occasionally we follow other characters along her family tree. There's a thread of family, community, and magic throughout the story, as Luz can read tea leaves and see more than just the shape of the leaves. She sees what had happened and has flashes of the future, though it's not usually clear enough to do something about it. Her ancestors all chased their dreams, sometimes failing badly, but pushed past the limits of who they thought they could be. This brought one of her ancestors out to the Lost Territory and made her yearn to do more than tell fortunes and scrub laundry while being belittled by whites.

The story primarily belongs to Luz, who makes some incredibly bad decisions along the way. The asides regarding the women in her family tree are fascinating, letting us see the circumstances they lived with and how they were perceived by the outside world. They don't really tell their stories, leaving it to Luz (and us) to see it via her gift. Ultimately, it's her family that's there for her, and the primary reason to keep going. That's the same thing for most of her family, so she's in good company.
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The Lost Territories of the American Southwest, 1880s, sets the stage for this engrossing multigenerational story of a Chicano family. Mostly featuring Luz, a tea reader who is finding she can see much more than what the tea leaves show, exploring her family's roots and ancestors. Recommended reading!
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Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
☀️
Happy Pub day to Woman of Light!! I really enjoyed this multi-generational story of a family in 1930’s Denver. Luz has the gift of visions and can see what happened to her ancestors in the nearby Lost Territory. She sees the pain and joy of the past and even the future. It was a difficult time to be alive and scraping out a living in a world that is racist and prejudicial towards people of color. It seems like not much has changed since then. This is a beautiful story and definitely one worth reading.
☀️
Thanks to @netgalley for the arc!
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A beautifully piece of literature focused on Luz, Little Light, but transversing us to earlier times and the Lost Territory from where her ancestors came.  It is a story that once again highlights our country’s prejudices and how those who are mis-treated handle them.  Luz is a tea-leaf reader and a laundress who then becomes a secretary for a local lawyer.  Her brother is a snake charmer who is ‘run out of town’ and he cousin and best friend is also a laundress who becomes a seamstress.  Intertwined there is romance, sadness, happiness and misfortunes.  It is a complex and wonderful book.
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Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo Anstine is a multigenerational story of betrayal, love and fate of an Indigenous Chicano family in the American West. Luz “Little Light” Lopez is a tea leaf reader and laundress who lives with her Tia Maria Josie and her older brother Diego in 1930s Denver, Colorado. When Diego is run out of town by a violent white mob, she is left to fend for herself and finds herself fighting against bigotry and racism. She begins to have visions that transport her to her Indigenous homeland of the Lost Territory. She thinks back to her ancestors’ origins, how her family has been threatened and how they have survived. Luz begins to realize that it is up to her to save the family stories and ensure that they will be passed on and remembered. What will she discover about her family’s secrets and their will to survive? 
Woman of Light is beautifully written, weaving past and present together like a tapestry of one family’s heartaches and joys. It is slow paced as the story weaves in and out of time. Unfortunately, I felt no connection to Luz or her family. The story ended abruptly leaving me with a lot of questions. I did enjoy the mystical aspects of the story which added an air of mystery. However, the story still felt wanting, like something was missing. There were historical aspects of the 1930s that didn’t seem to fit into the story and out of place. For example, the constant newsreels of Bonnie and Clyde. I understand that the nation was following their exploits but how does it connect with Luz? Why would she care? If the premise of Woman of Light, I recommend giving it a read. Maybe it will speak to other readers more than it did for me. 

Woman of Light is available in hardcover, eBook, and audiobook.
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This was a beautiful story! I loved the history and the characters! I would absolutely recommend this one!!
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