Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Review: Let it Shine by Alyssa Cole

Let it Shine by Alyssa Cole
Series: Standalone
Published: March 14th, 2016
Publisher: Seditious Sisters
134 pages (ebook)
Genre: Historical Romance
Acquired this book: Bought
Warning: May contain spoilers
{GoodReads || Buy this book: Amazon || Chapters/Indigo

Sofronia Wallis knows that proper Black women don’t court trouble by upending the status quo, but it’s 1961 and the Civil Rights movement is in full swing. Sofie’s spent half her life being prim, proper, and reserved—as if that could bring her mother back—but the nonviolent protests happening across the South bring out her inner agitator.

Ivan Friedman has devoted his life to boxing, loving the finesse of a well-delivered punch and the penance of receiving one. His family escaped from Europe before the horrors of WWII, and Ivan decides to help fight injustice in their new country, even if it goes against all his instincts as a fighter.

When Ivan and Sofie meet, they realize that their pasts are intertwined and—with the sparks that fly between them—perhaps their futures will be too. With everything in their society lined up against them, will Sofie and Ivan be able to beat the odds? Or will their chance at love be destroyed by the tumultuous times they live in?


Let it Shine is the first fictional story I’ve read set during the Civil Rights Movement. It was emotional and moving, while also being a painful and eye-opening read. The horrors people of colour (and allies), had to endure during that time were absolutely heartbreaking, not to mention rage-inducing. And despite being set over fifty years ago, the story is a sharp reminder that while many things have changed for people of colour, racism is still far too prevalent in our society. Despite its ‘historical’ setting, this story is timeless, and it’s as important now as it ever was.

Sofie and Ivan were great characters. I loved how well fleshed-out they were, especially considering Let it Shine is a novella. We saw glimpses of their individual and shared history, and the events that made them into the people they were. They were both strong and determined, and while they had been through and were going through difficult times, they remained strong. They faced so many obstacles - a painful shared history as children, and then as adults trying to forge a relationship in a world that was against them separately and together. 

One of the things I appreciated about this story was how things weren't sugarcoated. It showed the ugly, scary side of things, the uncomfortable and painful bits, the injustices people fought so hard against, often at the risk of their own safety. I also appreciated that we got to see the prejudices within groups of marginalized people. I think a lot of people are under the impression that those who have been oppressed or face racism or prejudice of any sort must stick together because they understand how it feels, but that’s not always true, and Let it Shine showed that. Sofie’s family was Black and her dad disliked Jews, and Ivan's family was Jewish and his dad disliked Black people. That element was woven into the story in a natural way; not only is it a fact of life for many people, but it also realistically added to the obstacles Sofie and Ivan faced. I admired Cole’s honesty and that she didn’t shy away from difficult, painful subject matter.

In Let it Shine, Alyssa Cole did a fantastic job of balancing the history and politics of the 1960s Civil Rights Movement with coming-of-age aspects and a believable romance. It was easy to connect with and root for both Sofie and Ivan, and satisfying to see them find love and a sense of safety in such a tumultuous time.

Have you read Let it Shine? What did you think? If you haven't read it, do you plan to? Have you read any novels set during the Civil Rights Movement?

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