Book note: Valley of Shadows and Dreams

  • Interstate 5, Tulare County, California, 2008

    Ken Light
  • Rope Swing, 6 p.m., 100° F, San Joaquin River, California, 2010

    Ken Light

Valley of Shadows and Dreams
Ken Light and Melanie Light,
Foreword by Thomas Steinbeck
176 pages, hardcover: $40.
Heyday Books, 2012.

'Except for the perimeter, every single living thing had been placed where someone had planned it to be and placed it just so,' writes Melanie Light, describing her first experience flying over California's Central Valley some 30 years ago. That land is the subject and soul of Valley of Shadows and Dreams, the newly published collaborative effort between the writer and her husband, photographer Ken Light. From 2005 to 2010, the pair explored the farms, ranches, trailer parks and sprawling, unfinished housing developments of California's agricultural heartland. The result is sympathetic and often unsettling: black-and-white photographs of the distressed land and the embattled immigrants that work it under the employ of gigantic agribusiness, along with essays calling for a thorough rethinking of the entire development process. It is a California both dark and hauntingly beautiful.

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