Zambreno’s writing is sharpest, most emotionally alive, when it drills into that interior landscape ... Woven into these moments are ruminations on natural history, education and the work of other writers and artists ... Readers looking for sturdier insights into what the virus has meant for human history are unlikely to discover them here. But there is comfort and intimacy to be found in the nest Zambreno builds, with lint and marbles and straw, the objects that matter in her tiny universe. Its achievement is as a sustained narrative of noticing.
As a book that dwells with children in a way that is almost always compassionate and never condescending, The Light Room returns readers to a kindergarten of the senses—to the basic contours of time, the colors of home and public space—and unravels the relationship between labor and the obscurely fascinating objects it produces, around which life, work, and family subsequently orbit ... Her discussions of the aesthetic value of toys function similarly as portals, this time between the subjectivities of children and the world of adults ... Zambreno’s compassion for her young daughters arcs across a terrible and frightening chasm of knowledge: Zambreno must somehow, while preserving the simple beauty and joy of everyday life, prepare her children for survival on the earth they are to inherit.
The Light Room offers readers who are new to Zambreno a perfect entry point into the patterns of thinking and writing that her work is known for ... The unending domestic care work... is balanced by Zambreno’s reading, writing and thinking ... The restrictions, fear and grief of parenting during a pandemic are ultimately measured against moments of joy and glimmers of beauty.
Zambreno’s book gathers a series of diary-esque recordings. Straddling two years, her baseline subject matter is domestic, replete with the quotidian sensations, colors, and textures of cramped pandemic life. Expansion occurs through Zambreno’s wide-ranging and deeply felt artistic preoccupations ... This appreciation of the possibilities posed by small, dense worlds is also reflected by Zambreno’s prose: her delicate balancing of verbs and nouns in particular registers as simultaneously deft and weighty, carrying the various, erratic contentments which might be discovered beneath bedsheets or behind kitchen shelves in all their cozy specificity ... one may question whether Zambreno fashions for her daughters a “light room” of their own in the end. Can such a room exist? After all, windows which allow for sun admit gray and clouds, too. To stay inside is to forgo the pleasures of the world outdoors, just as to remain outdoors is to ignore the myriad worlds within closer reach. If Zambreno offers us a windowed space, then, its blessing lies not so much in any sunlight refuge as in the clarity and breadth of the view it provides: that being is at once shorter and longer and smaller and larger than we can ever hope to know.
Zambreno... brings an erudite perspective to the challenges of motherhood during the pandemic ... Zambreno explores these extraordinary times in shifting personas, from diarist to literary critic to art historian.
Zambreno... lays bare her feelings of near-constant fatigue, effectively contrasting darkness and light, frustration and pure happiness ... Zambreno's writing is lyrical throughout, and allusion, imagery, and color... take on the shape of waves upon which her readers drift pleasantly through this meandering meditation.
Though Zambreno’s repeated complaints about nursing, sleep deprivation, and a problematic radiator may prove tedious even to empathetic readers, her frustration is relatable ... Her mastery of imagery—particularly as it pertains to light and nature—provides welcome moments of transcendence ... An arresting snapshot of caregiving in a time of uncertainty.
...a somber, intellectual gut punch ... At times, the relentless cultural references feel evasive, but that doesn't diminish the book's power. In a passage on Wojnarowicz's work after the death from AIDS of his lover, Peter Hujar, Zambreno asks: 'How do we go on living and making art, in the face of so much death?' This intellectually rewarding book is an attempt to find an answer.