Cover Image: Woman of Light

Woman of Light

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Member Reviews

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 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 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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Woman of Light was a solid 5 star book for me.  I loved "Sabrina and Corina: Stories" so had to request this arc.  I will be honest that it took me a bit to get into the first two chapters.  I was trying to figure out who the main characters were going to be.  After that the story took off for me.  It was such a page turner and so beautifully written.  

We start off in the late 1800's during "The Lost Territory" time and go all the way to the 1930's in Denver.  We meet 5 generations of Indigenous/Chicano women and their family.  One of my favorite characters was Simodecea.  She's Luz grandmother and a circus performer.  She's a very courageous and brave woman despite living in a time when women specially a WOC were seen as less than.  Her story really hit me emotionally.  

I also really loved Luz and she's the one the story mainly focuses on.  She isn't as strong as the women before her but I loved her journey in the story.  We do see her growing into a strong woman and while the ending was a little sudden, I was glad where it ended.  I thought it was beautiful.  I know its a long shot but I do wish we would get a sequel for this one.
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I loved Sabrina & Corina and Woman of Light just solidified Kali Fajardo-Anstine as an autobuy. This book was stunning. 

It did take me a minute to get into, and it's one of those books that you have to commit to and get decently far in before the threads start connecting and fully making sense—but the writing is so beautiful that it's just as much about the journey as the destination. 

I just moved from the Front Range area after living there for three years and reading this book, though it's set in the early 20th century, made me so nostalgic for that area! I loved reading about a past Colorado, especially from a non-white perspective. I know a lot of research went into this novel and it shows. I would absolutely recommend this to anyone interested in US history, Colorado history, and plain old good fiction.
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Woman of Light is Kali Fajardo-Anstine first novel and is this summer's must read. Fajardo-Anstine has a unique voice and perspective. Loved that this book is set in 1930s American West and gives a spotlight to Indigenous folklore from a territory that so often get overlooked. I can't wait to buy a physical copy of this book once it releases.
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Woman of Light is the historical fiction, multigenerational saga that we all need. Similar to her previous book, Sabrina & Corina, Fajardo-Anstine’s manages to transport readers to a very specific time and place, the American West. She does this through storytelling, where she centers the voices and experiences of Indigenous Chicano and Latinx characters.

This book has tea leaf readers, snake charmers, romance, and heartache, as well as themes of race, class, gender, sexuality, and generational trauma. This reads like a movie, with each storyline/character unfolding before your eyes. My only complaint is that I wanted more at the end. I wasn’t quite ready to say goodbye to the characters and I wanted to know more about Liz’s future, as well as her family’s past.
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✨ Review ✨ Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

I went into this a little nervous -- "multigenerational western saga" can go either way right? I'm so glad I picked it up though - this was an absolutely incredible fictional reflection on race, space, and place in Denver and in the Lost Territory (a fictional place in the US West / borderlands that the author made up to have some more leeway in her writing). 

The story centers on Luz, a teenage fortune-teller (tea leaves) and laundry worker, in 1930s Denver, as well as the backstory of generations of her family making their way through the Lost Territory that Luz begins to see through her visions. This shows the messiness of race and identity in a place over generations as this Indigenous Chicano family fights to protect family, to find love, and to celebrate their ideas of home.

My specialization for my PhD was the history of the US West and so many pieces of what I love about that field came together here -- the messiness of racial identity and boundaries, the consequences of urban growth, the centrality of place, mixed with just a bit of the mythic west through Luz's ancestors.

I admit this was a little more challenging via audiobook because of the jumps between timelines, but still very doable. There were a few things about the storyline that could have been a bit clearer, but otherwise I absolutely loved this book. The way that it centered storytelling and home as a place were really beautiful and I hope you love it too!

Genre: historical fiction with a bit of magical realism
Location: Colorado and the Lost Territory
Reminds me of: The Divine Inheritance of Orquídea Divina (but with less magic)
Pub Date: June 7, 2022

Thanks to Random House, One World and #netgalley for an e-copy of this book!
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Without question, I'll bring WOMAN OF LIGHT by Kali Fajardo-Anstine to my creative writing students. I already use a few of her short stories, so many of my students are somewhat familiar with her work. WOMAN OF LIGHT is a fantastic example of how you can find inspiration in where you are rooted, both by family and place. Having read several interviews with Fajardo-Anstine, it's clear how her ancestry and family lives through her writing, which is an especially important idea to share with students of marginalized identities. In terms of the story of WOMAN OF LIGHT, the concept is excellent and the imagery is vibrant; however, the characters were not as gripping as I'd hoped. Somehow, the emotional connection I thought I would have didn't emerge. Still, I look forward to sharing this with my advanced students in the fall.
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Woman of Light is a multi-generational story spanning five generations of a Chicano family living in the American Southwest.  The protagonist is Luz Lopez, a teenager living in 19302 Denver with her Tia Maria Josie and her brother Diego.  Diego is a successful snake charmer, but after being attacked by a white mob, he is forced to leave their home to keep his family safe.
Luz has the gift of sight as several of her ancestors did and earns money by reading tea leaves. Throughout the book, we witness Luz’s gift evolve and develop, revealing more about her family’s past via visions. Luz is an easily loveable character, displaying the perfect mix of naivete, wisdom, and courage and the love she has for her family (and that her family has for her) is inspiring. I enjoyed the other characters as well, especially Lizette (Luz's cousin) and Diego. 
I really enjoyed this book and honestly was hooked from the beginning (this is not a slow burn).  As a born and raised New Englander, my knowledge of the regional history of the American Southwest is minimal at best.  That being said, the pervasive theme in this book of racist oppression is unfortunately not unique to the Southwest. And while we’re on the topic of content warnings, violence and white supremacy are also present in the book (the violence described is pretty graphic).
I really liked the infusion of culture through the use of Spanish words, mention of traditional foods, and dress found throughout the book. I had to look quite a few of these words and foods up to better picture the scene, but this did not detract from my enjoyment at all.  The use of Luz’s gift of reading tea leaves to illustrate the history of her family going back several generations was very skillfully done and very entertaining to read.
My only critique of this book was how abruptly it seemed to end.  Everything came to a head in one of the final chapters and the story ended but there still was much to be resolved in my opinion and it left me with a lot of questions. (but maybe this is just me wanting a happily ever after unrealistically as many of the big issues raised in the book are still ongoing today). 
Read this one if you:
-Like multigenerational sagas
-Are interested in learning about Chicano culture
-Enjoy historical fiction
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Beautifully written but difficult to follow, WOMAN OF LIGHT is best enjoyed as a remarkably written series of exquisite scenes that paint powerful pictures of life for Indigenous Peoples moving from their Lost Territory through Denver. Author Kali Fajardo-Anstine is a gifted writer able to transcend generational tales and bring them to readers, boldly and once again alive.  I had difficulty following the larger tale but was drawn to the smaller scenes.  This is a compelling book.  I received my copy from the publisher through NetGalley.
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There is something magnificent when you are held by a work of fiction. It is hard to describe this feeling perfectly, but perhaps it is a twofold proposition. First, the story itself is gripping. You turn the pages eagerly. You want to know what happens as you imagine the action unfolding with a cinematic flair. Second, however, when the writer itself is deft and can cradle you with her words, to make you feel a full gamut of emotions, you know you have found something special.

And that is exactly what is happening with this outstanding offering of sizzling fiction from Kali Fajardo-Anstine, one that deserves all the accolades. "Woman of Light" is scorching, a magnum opus of pitch-perfect tension but also quiet dignity. The characters are potent but delicate, ones that leap off the page and into your soul. Further, from the opening sentences, you are immersed in the Colorado panoramas of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. And I just reveled in the atmosphere, both in its rural and urban splendor. Consider this excerpt:

"The mountains were permanent yet shifting, ancient though young, their white peaks reminding Luz of gray hairs while their aspen groves resembled veins. Luz felt partly made of mountains, as if the land was family. But the city was different. Smog and concrete. Morning light spilling between stone squeezes, landing on the worn hoods of Model Ts resting on Curtis Street. In the evenings, the sun slipped behind the mountains, sinking away with long tentacles of light reaching over the brickwork city for another chance at brilliance."

Lines like that make a reader stagger in awe. The gems are innumerable here, as incandescent as a western skyline. I do not quite know how Fajardo-Anstine birthed this magnetic writing into existence, but we are all the more enriched by it.

This is a work of historical fiction, a genre I adore. But this is more than that. These characters didn't just live in the past. They were alive, and my own room was bathed in light when I opened the pages. There is also a fierce urgency here, which might sound odd to articulate, but these are stories that deserve to be told. This is a celebration of culture, stories that are not just printed on the page but soar into your world, piercing your heart and lingering there.

The family dynamics here are also imbued with a lively warmth, from the reflective prescience of Luz, our title character, to her feisty cousin Lizette and her attentive aunt Maria Josie. Their family tree is also explored in intricate detail, including one ancestor who "had become a divine reflex fueled only by fury and heartache" (what a line). Matters of justice are sharp and searing, home even in today's landscape. Consider the following plea:

"This could be your loss. But it's not. It's mine, and you might think you're lucky, but for every lucky person, unluckiness arrives. Our existence shouldn't depend on luck. It should depend on justice, what is good, what is right."

Yes, there is injustice in this book. The author won't let you look away. But these are necessary chronicles, ones in which you can feel the writer reach out through the page, as if she is saying: "Listen to these stories. They need to be shared, especially today." To have Fajardo-Anstine weave this tapestry of a multigenerational Indigenous Chicano family is a tour de force, and we can only hope that we have the sensibility to marvel in it.

In short, this is a beautiful saga that illuminates our world. What the author began in "Sabrina and Corina" continues on full display here, with even more interconnected wonder. I could not give "Woman of Light" a more robust recommendation, and I think I've found my next must-buy author. What an absolute, unforgettable masterpiece. May we all be touched by its radiant glow.

The heartiest of thanks to Random House for this ARC!
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Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher and the author, for an ARC of this book, in exchange for an honest review.
The premise of the book drew me in but once I started reading it, I just couldn’t get into it at all.
I wish the author, publisher and all those promoting the book much success and connections with the right readers.
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Interesting book. About a chicano family trying to make it in Denver.  For several generations, they deal with discrimination, poverty, and inclusion issues. Story line is not new, of course, but the author does a good job on character development.  Parts of the book are hard to follow because the story line keeps going back and forth.  I enjoyed the book.
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Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine is the story of an Indigenous Chicano family set between the late 1800s to the 1900s. The struggles and successes of over five generations.

It all starts with the Sleepy Prophet and the Child from Nowhere. Desiderya Lopez found an abandoned baby in the forest. She named him Pidre. Right before Desiderya died she told him about his future. 

Pidre would marry and have two daughters. The sisters would have many struggles. Marie Josie would suffer a miscarriage and be poor. Sara would give birth to Diego and Luz. After Sara's husband abandons his family, Diego and Luz would live with their aunt. 

As the story unfolds, the past, present, and future are one. Luz is a seer like the Sleepy Prophet. She reads tea leaves and has heightened senses. Knowing things doesn't stop them from happening.

There's lust, love, family, and tragedy. Learn about the Women of the Light. 

I enjoyed this read. I haven't read a story about an Indigenous Chicano family. It's nice to hear from their point of view. 

I can't say much about the book. It's about peoples' lives. There's no way to critique a life. It is what it is even if it's fiction. The writing, pace, and all of the technical aspects are spot on. I can't wait for more stories!
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This book starts out with a bang the prologue draws you and I was really looking forward to seeing where the story would go.  Unfortunately not a lot happened and while the writing was lovely it was hard for me to stay focused on the story because it often seemed like it was just a description of a persons life without a clear plot.  I think I am  used to a quicker pace and probably just not the right audience.  Because I was never fully engaged I kept picking the book up and then putting it down for a week or more so often had to try to remember where I left off, I am sure this didn't help.  

I probably would have decided I wasn't the right audience for this and DNF but this but received an ARC from NetGalley and felt I should give it my all.  Hopefully nothing I have said will put people the right readers off because I think the writing is good just not for me.
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