Deeply embedded in the landscapes of South Texas, Luz at Midnight tells the story of an ill-timed love that unfolds in the time of climate change. Booksmart but naïve, Citlali Sanchez-O’Connor has just been hired to organize a San Antonio campaign against “gleaning,” a controversial new mining practice that promises a rapid transition away from fossil fuels. In the process, she soon encounters Joel Champlain, a journalist struggling to hide his manic-depression as he uncovers the corrupt politics that surround gleaning. During a chance trip together to Texas’s Gulf Coast, Lali is struck by a love as powerful and sudden as the electrical storm that birthed Luz, the unearthly canine trickster who has thrown them together. But Lali—married with a baby, poised to leave town for an academic job, and trained to think everything is explicable—finds she must decide what their connection means, if anything, for a path already set in motion.
A genre-hopping narrative that layers story with reporting, poetry, scholarship, and teatro, Luz questions the nature of desire and power, asking: What throws us into the path of those we love, and what pulls us apart? What agency powers the universe—and do we have any agency of our own to create a world different from the one powerful others have planned for us? Along the way of considering these questions, Luz is about the humorous (and not-so-humorous) inner workings of the nonprofit industrial complex; about Newtonian and Quantum theory; about birds, and about dogs. It is also about what we call mental illness, and the possibility that love may be pathology, while madness may open some important window into the nature of reality.
Thoughts and Themes: When I started reading this book I was thrilled to find that it was hoping through different genres and that it was touching on climate change, but unfortunately the thrill wore off rather quickly. Halfway through the book, the switching of genres was just confusing me and I wasn’t able to follow the storyline anymore. I thought this was going to be a love story and not just between a man and a woman but also between humans and the earth.
I did get to a point in the book in which I was just skimming my way through it as it couldn’t hold my attention any longer. I thought that the build up of the story took way too much time in the book and I was a bit over halway and the love interest still wasn’t in the picture. It felt a lot like world building which was strange because it was taking place in our world but at the same time it felt like it wasn’t our world.
Characters: One of the things that I really did like about this book was all of the characters that you are introduced to throughout the book. I really did enjoy getting to meet each character at the start of the book as the story is being introduced to us. I liked how they all have their unique traits, connections with each other and the many things that they added to the story.
Writing Style: This book switched between genres a lot and that really was confusing to me. I do believe that people who are a fan of multiple genres in a book, environmental books, magical realism, etc would really enjoy this book. Something else that kept throwing me off was the research notes that were included in the story, I found that those took a way from the story as I couldn’t really build the connection. At first I thought they were outside notes being brought into the story until I realized that these were notes the main character was taking.
From Marisol’s Website:
As a mentally-intense, mixed-blood Xicana weirdo rooted in San Antonio but formally coming of age in rural Central Texas, poetry was the first form of political agency accessible to me and also the first theoretical work I produced. Even after I found communities for political resistance and critical inquiry—for a time I strayed into an academic career, then later worked as a community organizer—I could never really get away from creative writing either in my scholarship or my activism.
These days, I understand myself primarily as a writer and community-based scholar, albeit one who feels most comfortable writing in the spaces between artistic, activist, and academic worlds, as well as across creative genres (poetry, fiction, essay, theory, manifesto). Much of my writing bears out all these tensions: I write hybrid, cross-genre, mixed-blood Xicana texts that can’t quite (and ultimately don’t want to) extricate poetry and storytelling from historical analysis and cultural theory from direct, on-the-ground struggle. As a writer grounded in the collective work of movement building for environmental and social justice, I find myself most often gravitating toward questions of place, power, and the possibilities proliferating at the margins. I write to remember the land and its pluriverse of inhabitants; to make visible colonial logics of displacement; and above all to give voice to those longings that might call forth new relationships of ecosocial interdependence and solidarity. I write for all the other borderwalking weirdos out there.
A mama of two, I currently juggle writing, full-time parenting, and co-editing responsibilities for Deceleration, an online journal of environmental justice thought and praxis. In 2020 I published my debut novel Luz at Midnight (FlowerSong Press 2020), which in 2021 won the Texas Institute of Letter’s Sergio Troncoso Award for First Book of Fiction. I’m also the author of I Call on the Earth (Double Drop Press 2019), a chapbook of documentary poetry, and “Making Displacement Visible: A Case Study Analysis of the ‘Mission Trail of Tears,’” which together bear witness to the forced removal of Mission Trails Mobile Home Community. Other poems and prose have appeared in Mutha Magazine, About Place Journal, Orion, Vice Canada, Caigibi, Metafore Magazine, Outsider Poetry, Voices de la Luna, and La Voz de Esperanza, among other anthologies and journals. For more information on projects and publications, click HERE.