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.
... rejects such simplicity, asking readers to consider the ways the past might move through and around each generation, emerging into the present in complicated ways ... Fajardo-Anstine writes effortlessly stunning sentences, each unspooling to create a rich and engrossing tableau. In fact, Woman of Light is much like the visions Desiderya experiences, plunging readers into an unfamiliar past, one that seems to hold vital truths if only we will see them ... a sprawling and gorgeous exploration of the land we have come from, the past we have failed to acknowledge and the persistence of stories through time and space.
I get that the term "transportive" is overused in blurbs, but I don’t know how else to describe this gorgeous novel from Kali Fajardo-Anstine. I was swept away by Woman of Light ... In beautiful, decadent prose, Fajardo-Anstine shows us everything from traveling circus acts and fortune tellers, to turn of the century Denver nightlife, house parties and wedding festivities. This is a love letter to the American West that was left out of the classic cowboy films, to the Indigenous and Latinx communities who have lived there for centuries. I loved every word.
Combining extensive research with a propulsive narrative that spans decades, Fajardo-Anstine delivers a historical novel that never feels like a history lesson. She does so in prose often joyous and warm but unsparing in its depiction of oppression based on race, gender and class. Mysterious and vivid, Woman of Light is an extraordinary painting of a vibrant world both old and new.