September 20, 2020

#BookReview: Luz by Debra Thomas






Synopsis: Alma Cruz wishes her willful teenage daughter, Luz, could know the truth about her past, but there are things Luz can never know about the journey Alma took to the US to find her missing father. In 2000―three years after the disappearance of her father, who left Oaxaca to work on farms in California―Alma sets out on a perilous trek north with her sister, Rosa. What happens once she reaches the US is a journey from despair to hope. Timeless in its depiction of the depths of family devotion and the blaze of first love, Luz conveys, with compassion and insight, the plight of those desperate to cross the US border.



Goodreads
Amazon

Rating: star⭐⭐⭐⭐
My Review: 
 I’m going to be honest and say this upfront: I’m highly skeptical of any book written about the modern day immigrant experience from Mexico, Central, or South America that’s by a white person. After the controversy surrounding American Dirt, which Luz will inevitably be compared to, I want to make it clear that Luz feels different from the complaints I’ve read about the other. The characters are portrayed as strong, intelligent, and compassionate and I didn’t personally pick up on instances of cliched characterization according to what a white author thinks a Mexican teenager might be. There was an instance of colorism, which was painted as being wrong and unfair (which colorism is). 

The above is what made writing this review so difficult for me. I do believe strongly that the author’s lifetime of work with immigrant communities gives her better perspective and was what prompted me to begin the book in the first place. While I would have preferred to read a Latina’s novel, Debra Thomas does an excellent job at bringing Alma to life, with her hurts and her hopes, the pains of her past and present and potential of her future. She paints a grim picture of a bright young woman, determined to learn the truth of what happened to her father, or possibly even die trying.

Trigger warning: There is a brutal rape in this book. It does advance the plot in some ways, but it’s a difficult scene to read.








Review

2020 Next Generation Indie Book Awards Winner in Multicultural (Fiction)
2020 International Book Awards Finalist in Fiction: Multicultural
Official Pulpwood Queen Book Club Selection for 2021
"This is a novel of great tenderness and great brutality--Debra is right inside of her characters' minds, bodies, spirits, their souls, and doesn't spare the reader either tenderness or brutality."
--Alma Luz Villanueva, author of The Ultraviolet Sky, winner of the American Book Award 
"Debra Thomas has deftly interwoven the horrors and indignities, as well as triumphs, of the harrowing journey of Mexicans and Central Americans to the United States, 'bringing to light' the commonalities of what by appearances are insurmountable differences. With love there are no borders."
--Luis J. Rodriguez, author of Always RunningLa Vida LocaGang Days in L.A., and It Calls You Back: An Odyssey of Love, Addiction, Revolutions & Healing
"Luz is a deeply generous novel, steeped with compassion, [and] written with an open, observant heart. Our narrator, Alma, is enamored with math, and this book becomes a beautiful equation in itself--pain and hope and love adding up to a timely, magnificent story."
--Gayle Brandeis, author of The Book of Dead Birds, winner of Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether Prize for Fiction of Social Engagement 
"Debra Thomas has written a novel of beauty and the nobility of the human spirit in the face of brutality and overwhelming odds. It's an adventure as well, full of vivid characters, most notably Alma Cruz, as wise and courageous a heroine as you'll find anywhere in literature. Luz is a story we need to read now more than ever."
--Elizabeth McKenzie, author of The Portable Veblen
"An earnest novel about the journey of a young Mexican immigrant. . . . A sensitive but unsparing coming-of-age drama."
--Kirkus Reviews
"This reader was mesmerized by the depth of pain and love that guides this story along the trail of Alma's fearful journey to her hopes for her daughter."
--Charlotte Robin Cook, Next Generation Indie Book Awards Judge 
"Your novel is our platform to have a voice that has the power to soften hearts, to understand the suffering of migrants and the current evil system that must be reformed." 
--Father Richard Estrada, Immigrant Rights Activist, Founder of Jovenes, Inc.

Review

2020 Next Generation Indie Book Awards Winner in Multicultural (Fiction)
2020 International Book Awards Finalist in Fiction: Multicultural
Official Pulpwood Queen Book Club Selection for 2021
“This is a novel of great tenderness and great brutality―Debra is right inside of her characters’ minds, bodies, spirits, their souls, and doesn’t spare the reader either tenderness or brutality.”
―Alma Luz Villanueva, author of The Ultraviolet Sky, winner of the American Book Award

“Debra Thomas has deftly interwoven the horrors and indignities, as well as triumphs, of the harrowing journey of Mexicans and Central Americans to the United States, ‘bringing to light’ the commonalities of what by appearances are insurmountable differences. With love there are no borders.”
―Luis J. Rodriguez, author of Always RunningLa Vida LocaGang Days in L.A., and It Calls You Back: An Odyssey of Love, Addiction, Revolutions & Healing

Luz is a deeply generous novel, steeped with compassion, [and] written with an open, observant heart. Our narrator, Alma, is enamored with math, and this book becomes a beautiful equation in itself―pain and hope and love adding up to a timely, magnificent story.”
―Gayle Brandeis, author of The Book of Dead Birds, winner of Barbara Kingsolver's Bellwether Prize for Fiction of Social Engagement

“Debra Thomas has written a novel of beauty and the nobility of the human spirit in the face of brutality and overwhelming odds. It’s an adventure as well, full of vivid characters, most notably Alma Cruz, as wise and courageous a heroine as you’ll find anywhere in literature. Luz is a story we need to read now more than ever.”
―Elizabeth McKenzie, author of The Portable Veblen

“An earnest novel about the journey of a young Mexican immigrant. . . . A sensitive but unsparing coming-of-age drama.”
Kirkus Reviews

“This reader was mesmerized by the depth of pain and love that guides this story along the trail of Alma's fearful journey to her hopes for her daughter.”
―Charlotte Robin Cook, Next Generation Indie Book Awards Judge

“Your novel is our platform to have a voice that has the power to soften hearts, to understand the suffering of migrants and the current evil system that must be reformed.” 
―Father Richard Estrada, Immigrant Rights Activist, Founder of Jovenes, Inc.

About the Author

Originally from upstate New York, Debra Thomas has lived in Southern California for most of her adult life. She holds both a bachelor’s and a master’s in English from California State University, Northridge, and attended the UCLA Extension Writers’ Program. She has taught literature and writing at a Los Angeles public high school and English as a Second Language to adults from all over the world. Her experience as an advocate for immigrant and refugee rights led her to write Luz. She is currently at work on her second novel.









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