Don’t Write Alone | Interviews

Kali Fajardo-Anstine Believes Memory Is an Act of Resistance

In this interview, the writer Jared Jackson talks to the novelist and professor Kali Fajardo-Anstine about her new book ‘Woman of Light.’

Sabrina & Corina

Woman of Light

Woman of Light Woman of Light

Jared Jackson: It took you ten or so years to write How did you research for the novel—the city of Denver and beyond, the land and its people?

Well, I know this. This is what I grew up with.

JJ: Early in the novel, Desiderya, the family’s matriarch, says, “We cannot know the depths of another person’s sacrifice.” The sentence is a fitting motif for the rest of the novel. Can you talk about the role sacrifice plays in the story?


JJ: Describing the men of the era, the narrator explains how they treated “a girl’s voice as if it had slipped from her mouth and fallen directly into a pit.” Within a patriarchal society where even the formidable and independent Maria Josie acknowledges that the mere “image of a man served a purpose,” what characteristics did you want to establish for the women in the novel?

JJ: is a multigenerational historical novel that takes the reader from the late 1860s to the 1930s. Structurally, the novel moves back and forth across time periods. Did you have a narrative strategy when you began the novel, or did it develop over time?

JJ: In many ways, the novel, among other things, is a lesson in remembrance. Near the end, Maria Josie says, “Sometimes we go through things in life that are so hard and ugly we’d rather forget than remember, but now I can’t remember very much at all. I regret that now.” How does the act of remembrance function in the novel? What importance, if any, do you put on the intersection between remembrance and storytelling more broadly?

We’re going to be the bigger people and just try our hardest to make it to the next generation

JJ: There’s a point in the novel when Luz is told to shout, “This is my city.” It’s a powerful moment, as Luz finds her voice, takes up space, and refuses to be made to feel unwelcome and inferior on land her family has resided on for generations. Similar to the novel, present-day Denver, its people and landscape and economy, continues to shift. Do you feel like Denver is still your city?

JJ: You now have two books under your belt. Though they’re notably different, you’ve begun building a body of work with clear connections, among those being a focus on Indigenous and Chicano women, familial relationships, and, of course, the American West. Though recognizable figures such as Bonnie and Clyde appear in , they aren’t central to the novel. With this new book, were there perspectives or beliefs you wanted to challenge? What do you want readers to know about the American West and people you describe in your work?

JJ: In a few months you’ll be headed to Texas to be the 2022–2023 Endowed Chair of Creative Writing at Texas State University. What are you most looking forward to, and do you anticipate that your time there will inspire new material that will expand your illustration of the West and the voices you’ve unearthed so far?