Let It Shine by Alyssa Cole 5 Star Review!

5 Stars (5 / 5)

Let It Shine - Alyssa Cole

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?

Review

This is a perfect gem of a novella. The setting is perfectly set in terms of time and place. Then, Cole moves her characters on to this stage asking who are they and what if?

What follows is a perfectly pitched interracial romance between childhood friends: a proper Black woman and a Jewish boxer in during the lunch counter sit ins and other civil rights actions in Jim Crow 1960’s South.

There are tidbits of lesser known history but most wonderfully the tender and fierce love story of these two characters with a shared past and impossible future made possible by bravery of every kind.

I love the imagination of this romance. What would make a white boy get involved in the movement? What was going on the mind of all those pretty gloved women refusing to get up from the lunch counter?

Why so many Jews in the Civil Rights movement? What were the generational tensions?

And with all this intense terrain, don’t think that love story isn’t just flat out hot in places. Just because a woman irons in pleats to her dress, doesn’t mean she doesn’t notices a sexy mouth and strong forearms.

The heroine goes through a wonderful arc in her character from suppressing herself out of grief to fully become herself.

And the hero just loves her. Sees her. And he is steadfast and wonderful and yet there is a realism to his love that doesn’t make him more than human.

The writing is spot on. I teared up and smiled. The epilogue a treasure of its own.

Can’t wait to read more of Alyssa Cole.

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