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.