Valley of Shadows and Dreams

Melanie Light, photos by Ken Light. Heyday, $40 (176p) ISBN 978-1-59714-172-7
In this stunning monograph, the husband-and-wife duo (Coal Hollow) present a searing indictment of industrial agribusiness and institutional failure in California’s Central Valley, the great swath of farmland that turns out half of U.S.-grown fruit, nuts, and vegetables, as well as the greatest share of the country’s dairy products. There, 1.6 million migrant workers toil to pick crops valued at more than $34.8 billion a year. For five years, the Lights spent time with the people who struggle to survive in this economically troubled and socially stratified flatland, where workers are exploited and the subprime mortgage crisis has brought a wave of poverty. Despite the project’s limited geographical focus, the more than 100 black-and-white images evoke the topical and the transcendent: laborers stoop in a sprawling matrix of fields; a girl clutches her stuffed bear as her family is evicted from their house; couples slow dance in the moody light of a club. Accompanied by informative and urgent essays about the political, environmental, and social challenges facing the region, the book makes a stirring call to change the way we consider the disenfranchised by offering a window into their lives. (May)
Reviewed on: 04/23/2012
Release date: 05/01/2012
Genre: Nonfiction
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