The Light Room (Hardcover)

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I'm captivated by Zembreno's meditations on art, mothering, and memory.  She weaves the natural world and art into her interior life and experience of motherhood.  She is unflinching about the difficulties of mothering small children, particularly during a pandemic, but also always questioning her own assumptions. She is a unique and serious writer.  

— Amy


“Kate Zambreno has invented a new form. It is a kind of absolute present, real life captured in closeup.“  —Annie Ernaux, winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature 

From “one of our most formally ambitious writers” (Esquire), a moving account of caretaking in a time of uncertainty and loss

In The Light Room, Zambreno offers her most profound and affecting work yet: a candid chronicle of life as a mother of two young daughters in a moment of profound uncertainty about public health, climate change, and the future we can expect for our children. Moving through the seasons, returning often to parks and green spaces, Zambreno captures the isolation and exhaustion of being home with a baby and a small child, but also small and transcendent moments of beauty and joy. Inspired by writers and artists ranging from Natalia Ginzburg to Joseph Cornell, Yūko Tsushima to Bernadette Mayer, Etel Adnan to David Wojnarowicz, The Light Room represents an impassioned appreciation of community and the commons, and an ecstatic engagement with the living world.

How will our memories, and our children’s, be affected by this time of profound disconnection? What does it mean to bring new life, and new work, into this moment of precarity and crisis? In The Light Room, Kate Zambreno offers a vision of how to live in ways that move away from disenchantment, and toward light and possibility.

About the Author

Kate Zambreno is the author of many acclaimed books including Drifts, To Write As If Already Dead, and Heroines. Her writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Granta, The Paris Review, The White Review, and elsewhere. The recipient of a 2021 Guggenheim Fellowship in nonfiction, she teaches in the graduate nonfiction program at Columbia University and is the Strachan Donnelley Chair in Environmental Writing at Sarah Lawrence College.

Praise For…

Advance praise for The Light Room:

"Elegant. . . . This is a book about the aloneness of motherhood — the limits of maternal attention, the dissolution of self, the mind-numbing tedium of raising small children — [and] a book about a “life inside” — not just inside the home, but inside the mind. . . . It may be among the most lasting literature of Covid, a lightbox for the future: the story of a mother looking for brightness in a diary of dark days.” —New York Times Book Review

“With The Light Room, Zambreno — one of our most prolific and curious minds — chronicles what it’s like to be a mother amidst the various crises of this chaotic moment in history.” —

“Zambreno’s work reminds us that there is grace in going for a walk and feeling the energy of the seasons. There’s value in play and stillness and making art even when it feels like the world is on fire. . . . Zambreno’s project, from book to book, seems in part to be recording and celebrating those quiet moments, like the blossoms on a cherry tree, beautiful but ephemeral, or a child sounding out her first word. Those moments are fleeting, but their impact remains long after they have elapsed. . . . In the pages of The Light Room, she pays this miracle forward to us.” —Brian Gresko, Poets & Writers

“Despite the unfathomable distractions we're all facing, Zambreno writes with a sense of hope that will especially resonate with anyone who's soldiered through pandemic-era parenting.” —Harper's Bazaar

“[Zambreno’s] latest mode-warping work of memoir chronicles many of the writer’s own aching attempts at maternal insulation. . . . Its blessing lies not so much in any sunlight refuge as in the clarity and breadth of the view it provides: that being is at once shorter and longer and smaller and larger than we can ever hope to know.” —Ellie Eberlee, Chicago Review of Books

“Incandescent . . .The tension between crisis and joy resonated with me on a deep level as a parent, a writer, and a reader, as did the attention to the fine art of caretaking.” —Emily Raboteau, Orion

“Luminous. . . . This book is a meditation on the practice of art and observation in the mundane. It’s about the beauty in maintenance, and it reached me at the right time. . . . Zambreno has a facility with descriptions of the mundane, finding in them something marvelous and often funny.” —Niina Pollari, Romper

“Zambreno . . . layers her contemplations of beauty and joy—in nature, in those she loves, in art—and grief, personal and collective. In The Light Room, [she] offers a catalogue of these kernels, these moments of beauty and flashes of joy. There are things here, she suggests, worth grieving. There are things here worth saving.” —Meghan Racklin, Brooklyn Rail

“Through the presentness required of parenthood and the natural world, Zambreno attends to the granular details of her daughter’s tangled hair or tulips in spring with unadorned prose, ardor, and care. . . . Zambreno’s radical acts of acute attention (to a painting, to her daughter’s latch at her nipple, to the winter leaves mulching over) are an antidote to the Sisyphean struggles of a capitalist, patriarchal world.” —Hannah Bonner, Cleveland Review of Books
“A lyrical treatment of what it's like to be a new parent during a global pandemic [and] a case for why it's crucial to go on living and making art in the face of so much death, and how we can find meaning in the [work of] caring for others.” —Katie O’Reilly, Sierra

“I did not parent through a pandemic (I do not parent at all), but that didn’t prevent me from appreciating Zambreno’s wise, multifaceted musings about isolation and nature, making art and making humans.”  —Eliza Smith, LitHub

“A book that dwells with children in a way that is almost always compassionate and never condescending, The Light Room returns readers to a kindergarten of the senses—to the basic contours of time, the colors of home and public space—and unravels the relationship between labor and the obscurely fascinating objects it produces.”  —Jenny Wu, The Millions

“Kate Zambreno’s work blends memoir, art criticism and literary history/gossip to brilliant effect, and in recent years, her books have become even deeper and richer as they have been suffused with the experience of early motherhood. . . . The Light Room offers readers who are new to Zambreno a perfect entry point into the patterns of thinking and writing that her work is known for.” —BookPage (starred review)

“Emotionally resonant . . . In a passage on [David] Wojnarowicz's work after the death from AIDS of his lover, Peter Hujar, Zambreno asks: ‘How do we go on living and making art, in the face of so much death?’ This intellectually rewarding book is an attempt to find an answer.” —Shelf Awareness (starred review)

“Kate Zambreno has performed a miracle, capturing real, lived time from within the exhaustion of pandemic-era parenthood. The Light Room reminded me of that fundamental magic of writing—that the details of another person's life, so precisely and honestly rendered, can instantly loosen the edges of your own life and make you feel less alone.”  —Jenny Odell, New York Times bestselling author of How to Do Nothing
The Light Room is a marvelous and marvel-filled book. Zambreno’s mind is like a magic filter discovering secrets when turned on any sort of item—a tiny toy, a loom, an artist, a mortality. A wonderful book, a companion for all the varieties of days.” —Rivka Galchen, author of Little Labors

“When Kate Zambreno writes she must use a special microscope, with which she studies the dust in the sunlight, and the clutter of motherhood, and the thinnest fibers of exhaustion and hope. The Light Room is a miracle, a wooden box with a golden clasp filled with the specimens of all our most precious, disappearing days.” —Sabrina Orah Mark, author of Happily and Wild Milk

“A gorgeous document of the tender and precise place where art and mothering necessarily meet. Natural and urban spaces float and glow under Kate Zambreno’s observant eye. Each leaf, each book, is a love letter activated by bohemian saints: the artists and writers who pass through her small rooms and far-reaching mind.” —Samantha Hunt, author of The Dark Dark and The Seas

The Light Room is both a gift and a beacon."  —Sinéad Gleeson, author of Constellations
Product Details
ISBN: 9780593421062
ISBN-10: 059342106X
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publication Date: July 4th, 2023
Pages: 256
Language: English