Let It Shine - Alyssa B. Cole

This novella can be purchased both as a separate book and part of the multi-author anthology Juneteenth. I read this in honor of Loving Day.

 

Sofie Wallis was raised to be a good, docile daughter and future wife by her father after her mother died. When the story opens, Sofie is already battling the demands of her father and church against the stirrings in her heart for the resistance movement (part of the collective Civil Rights Movement). She is angry, but it is a purposeful anger. I really liked her, partly because her impulsiveness is not rooted in some stupid concept of what independent woman do/are, but rooted in her to do more than just sit and read about others' experiences in the movement. I think Cole for the most part really captured a realistic religious character in a secular story - Sofie uses her understanding of Christianity (I am assuming non-denominational variety as the church was not given a particular sect) to motivate her work with the resistance movement.

 

Ivan is her childhood friend that she hadn't seen since the day her mother died. He went from being a scrawny 12 year old to a handsome boxer. Oh and he is Jewish, but not a regular practitioner - although he has commendable use of Yiddish. Nope, the gym is his temple. I thought that it was a bit of a cop-out that Sofie was seen as active member in her faith, but Ivan wasn't. It seemed an easy but cheap way for a Christian/Jew relationship to be accepted if one of the characters didn't have a strong bond to his/her faith.

 

The only quibble I had was that Sofie went from having screaming great sex (in the boxing ring) with Ivan to walking into church for service without cleaning herself up or dousing herself in Chanel No 5. Uhm....people can smell the funky after sex scent dear authors. Especially considering Ivan worked his magic so well that her panties were soaked...and she didn't have a spare set to change into.

 

I read the stand alone novella version, which also came with a short story that was more like the final chapter. The story takes place in 1961 (the summer of the Freedom Riders), the epilogue takes place in 1964 (the year of the Civil Rights legislation but still marriage of interracial couples was illegal), and the short story takes place in 1973, where we find that Ivan and Sofie took their experiences and knowledge about activism and applied them to other movements going on at the time (for Ivan, the anti-war movement; for Sofie, the women's rights movement). The short story felt more like Ivan's story than Sofie and Ivan's story. But I thought it was realistic as they had been together more than a decade and had been through a lot of shit, both relationship wise and the political/social/economic upheaval the country went through.

 

I really like Cole's writing - her humor is spot on and her novellas take place over weeks and months rather than a mere 48 hours. Her research seeps through the story without feeling like a history lecture for the reader. 4 stars. Summer Bingo square "Romance" filled.