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“In Zahara and the Lost Books of Light, Joyce Yarrow takes her protagonist Alienor Crespo on a dazzling voyage through time, moving between a fictional past and an autobiographical present in a seamless fashion. Yarrow’s account of personal loss, search for the self, and her remarkable determination to rescue the past (or what Alienor hopes could be a better past) provide a wonderful and insightful journey into Alienor’s own life and into a vividly depicted and long-distant era. It is not only the “lost books” that are recovered in this engaging book, but we come face to face with the many possibilities available to all of us, as we seek to understand the world. These are the possibilities of cooperation between diverse religious and intellectual traditions. These are the possibilities created by mutual understanding, when meaning can be found in both past and present. These are the possibilities that result from the embracing of the intellectual legacies and knowledge of those who came before us. A delightful and thoughtful book.” - Teofilo F Ruiz, Distinguished Research Professor Emeritus of History and of Spanish and Portuguese Awarded the National Humanities Medal by President Barack Obama
“A compelling tale about a woman on a quest about her identity, ancestry, and forbidden past. Ms. Yarrow represents a whole range of historical and contemporary issues in a very engaging style.” - Sweta Vikram, best-selling author of Louisiana Catch
“Zahara and the Lost Books of Light is an extraordinary entry into another world, compelling, mysterious, and magical. The story is located in today’s Spain but the strong echoes of Al-Andalus during the period of the Alpujarras Uprising and the Spanish Civil War bring a reality and a vividness to the narrative that strikes me as very authentic.” - Stephan Roman, former Director of the British Council’s cultural programmes in Europe, North America and South Asia and the author of The Development of Islamic Library Collections in Europe and North America
“Alienor Crespo, the brave protagonist of Zahara and the Lost Books of Light, is an American journalist with roots in Spain who travels there to explore her origins and finds a treasure, hundreds of volumes saved from the fires of the Inquisition. Thanks to her clairvoyant consciousness Allie learns from her female ancestors how they saved these precious books, living proof of a glorious past when Jews, Muslims, and Christians lived in harmony and their best thinkers produced works vital to our developing civilization. It was the time of the Convivencia (Coexistence) and Joyce Yarrow pays homage to it in this fascinating novel. In the twenty-first century, Allie confronts the enemies of Zahara in the same way her predecessors, Muslims and Sephardic Jews, faced extreme fanaticism during the Middle Ages when the Inquisition shattered the Convivencia, and again during Franco's terror. Ms. Yarrow has created a fiction anchored in historical reality with a fascinating appeal, especially in today's political polarization and ideological fanaticism. Zahara and the Lost Books of Light is a page-turner that readers will find hard to put down.” - Rita Sturam Wirkala, author of The Encounter and Tales for the Dreamer
“The best of art is that which brings us into close proximity with our deepest innermost selves, where the Divine One is at its most dear, funny, vulnerable, compassionate, tender, courageous, authentic, sincere. Thank you for taking us there, Joyce Yarrow.” - Sura Charlier, Founder and Director of the Sufi Universalist Kalyan Center
“Joyce Yarrow has solved the conundrum of time travel with a simple, elegant and entirely believable bit of artifice. Alienor is gifted with vijitas, where she is whisked back in time, experiencing key moments in the lives of her female forebears. More often than not, it's a moment of crisis, escaping from the Nazis, inquisitors, or Franco's Guardia. There is also a glimpse of a Golden Age, La Convivencia, "the Co-existence", where prior to 1492, Jews, Muslims and Christians lived in harmony. Ms. Yarrow has clearly done her homework, and the details which color the narrative add to the realism of Alienor’s vijitas. An exciting tale, weaving the past and present on an adventurous journey of discovery.” - Jim Metzner, Author of Sacred Mounds
As a child, Joyce Yarrow often fell asleep to Afro-Cuban rhythms drummed on the mailboxes of her Bronx neighborhood. At seventeen, riding the bus through Manhattan’s Lower East Side, she jotted down poems soon to be published by a literary magazine in Brooklyn. Joyce continued to write, while exploring new places and other ways of life, including a formative year on a farm in West Virginia and singing with the world music ensemble, Abráce. Yarrow set her Jo Epstein mystery series in New York City, Russia, and the Caribbean and co-authored the novel Rivers Run Back with Indian journalist Arindam Roy. Zahara and the Lost Books of Light was inspired by a sixteenth-century Ladino song and is also a tribute to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.