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White Light

A Novel by Vanessa Garcia

ISBN 978-0-9913555-4-9, paperback, 284 pp., $28.00, September 23, 2015

Just before her father’s sudden death, Cuban-American artist Veronica Gonzalez is offered her first gallery exhibit, a real chance to break into the art world. Torn between the need to mourn and the pressure to create new artwork, Veronica is propelled into a fever-dream of productivity and grief.

With her love of art as her spiritual compass, Veronica finds solace in her mother and sister and also her protégé Leo, a young Dominican poet whose brother was killed in the 9/11 attacks in New York. At the same time, she finds herself growing more distant from the values of her Argentinian entrepreneur boyfriend.

As she works on new paintings and installations, the creative process itself helps Veronica find the common thread in private grief and national tragedies. She also gains perspective on her relationship with her colorful but infuriating father, a volatile man of outsize appetites and passions who never stopped longing for his Cuban homeland.

Veronica’s art becomes a way to tell stories—those of her father, of Leo, of strangers in old photographs, and her own stories: her loyalties and resentments, her sense of unfulfilled spiritual longing, her capacity to be engulfed by the beauty of the nighttime ocean in Hawaii, stained-glass cathedral windows in Paris, a Zen rock garden in Kyoto.

Praised by Nobel laureate Wole Soyinka for its “lyrical pace and texture,” White Light maps a young woman’s struggle to impose order on chaos, create something beautiful and lasting, and distill her grief, rage, and love onto the canvas.

The cover art is a detail from the author’s painting Mariel.

Born in Miami to Cuban-emigré parents, VANESSA GARCIA is a multidisciplinary writer and artist whose paintings and installations have been exhibited throughout the United States and the Caribbean. Her most recent plays include The Cuban Spring; Grace, Sponsored by Monteverde; and The Crocodile’s Bite. She is at work on a memoir about American-born Cubans entitled Our Cuban Routes.

Reviews, Press Coverage, and Readings

Reviews: Kirkus (starred); National Public Radio; Miami Herald; Cuba Counterpoints; #30Authors

Awards and honors: NPR’s Best Books of 2015; First Prize, 2016 International Latino Book Awards; Flavorwire’s Best Overlooked Titles of 2015; NBC Latino’s Great New Books by Latino Authors; Al Día’s “Not New York Times” summer reading list; Navdeep Singh Dhillon’s Kickass Diverse Novels of 2015; Late Night Library’s Recommended Debut Novels

Book of the Month pick, Latina Book Club, Las Comadres National Latino Book Club

Author profiles: Miami New Times; The New Tropic; Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung; Miami Herald

Readings: Books & Books (Coral Gables), Skylight Books (Los Angeles), La Casa Azul Bookstore (New York), Miami Bookfair International

Praise for White Light

This first novel by Vanessa Garcia, the 2009 runner-up for the Rolex Mentor/Protege Initiative for Literature, has indirectly rewarded that project in its world-wide search for fresh talent in the Arts. A subtly woven network of relationships, it seduces with its lyrical pace and texture, tender and poignant, yet unsentimental. An artiste’s “walk in the woods” that gently takes the reader by the hand. —Wole Soyinka, Nobel Laureate, author of You Must Set Forth at Dawn and Outsiders

A relentless engine, told in rich, smart prose and lucid detail—equal parts elegy and portrait of an artist. A lush, vibrant portrayal of the creative process, a daughter’s love, and the unstoppable maelstrom of grief.—Kirkus, starred review

A beautiful meditation on the creation of art and difficult familial love.—National Public Radio

[An] intense, . . . emotionally charged portrait of [a] troubled Miami artist. —Miami Herald

[A] specific yet universal account of every woman who has ever struggled to fully claim her creativity. —Paula Lee, BookWheel’s #30Authors

White Light is a wonderfully generous creation, including a myriad of worlds while never blurring the firm line with which the author is always in control. The world of visual arts, of a Cuban American daughter and her difficult father, of food—its joys and terrors—of a young woman’s trying to navigate her way in a world that offers her simultaneously too few and too many possibilities. It is a throbbingly original achievement.—Mary Gordon, author of The Love of My Youth and Spending

Vanessa Garcia’s brilliant first novel is a fresh contribution to the American portrait of an artist, following a young Cuban-American woman through a journey of personal disaster juxtaposed against professional success. White Light illuminates the complex assimilation of past into present, of heritage into culture, of life into the sort of art that is lasting, meaningful and necessary. —A. Manette Ansay, author of Vinegar Hill and Blue Water

Many-tongued and of mixed-media, White Light is a novel as much about losing a father as about constructing a self through art—and as vibrant for its intelligence as for its emotions, colors, and pure passion. —Jane Alison, author of The Sisters Antipodes