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No. of Recommendations: 2
In short, Shizuka Satomi has sold her soul to the devil in order to regain her ability to play the violin. Although she becomes an accomplished violinist, all recordings of hers are vanquished and her life becomes that of a violin teacher in order for her to reap souls. Because, in order to escape damnation, she must provide seven worthy souls, within a 49-year time window, to take her place. She has harvested six and Katrina Nguyen, a young transgender runaway, looks like a good candidate to free her from her hellish contract. But then things get complicated.

First, Shizuka is in a relationship with Lan Tran, a woman who owns a donut shop in San Gabriel Valley. Oh, and Lan is an alien who has escaped the Endplague in her own galaxy, a former starship captain and mother of four -- and one is a computer program. Lan is in love with Shizuka but Shizuka is a little too busy trying to escape eternal damnation to commit to a relationship.

Yeah, too weird to be of any interest, right?

In fact, this is one of my favorite books of the year. As the novel unfolds, the three women's lives become entangled in their efforts to help and heal one another... along with those around them.

Several light motifs run through the novel: music, obviously, Asian food, historical misogyny. And donuts.

Obviously, this is an 'outsider' story -- Katrina is emotionally abused by her father (and to a lesser extent by her mother), ridiculed and bullied by classmates, and draws snickers and sneers from total strangers. When she begins to generate some fame through online performance videos, the majority of comments are transgender attacks rather than comments on her musical skills. Shizuka and Lan are outsiders as well, of course.

Light From Uncommon Stars, by Ryka Aoki, is a speculative novel about families and friendships, immigration, parenting, identity, queerness, hopefulness and fate -- a story that artfully weaves together elements of contemporary life, magic, and science fiction -- starring trans and queer women of color. And there are some obvious triggers here... though I don't much care for trigger warnings.


On a side note I've been thinking about the best/myfavorite books of the year and have these working but not final lists (books in no particular order):


BEST

Hamnet
The Sentence
The Night Watchman
The Bluest Eye
Bewilderment
Cloud Cuckoo Land
The Murderbot Diaries
Firekeeper’s Daughter
Bury Your Dead
Light from Uncommon Stars

FAVORITES

Firekeeper’s Daughter
The Murderbot Diaries
Wildland
Light from Uncommon Stars
The Sentence
The Night Watchman
The Girl Who Drank the Moon
The Nightingale
Too Bright to See
The Echo Wife

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
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