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'Luz at Midnight': Marisol Cortez's Debut Novel Is A San Antonio Story About Love In The Time Of Global Climate Issues

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Marisol Cortez

In Marisol Cortez’s novel “Luz at Midnight,” the setting is San Antonio in the near future where slow, stuttering strides are being made in going carbon neutral. But the displacement of the poor and vulnerable comes to the fore in these negotiations while extreme weather events devastate lives further, and the rich get richer in the race to move away from fossil fuels.

The author has said she wanted to write a novel that was both speculative and plausible. Steeped, too, in the history of San Antonio, including its long story of social movements, the novel offers a world of insights on environmental justice that remains a story about love, too.

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Highlights from the Interview

On the title character of “Luz”
She's the street dog who's generated in a lightning storm related to climate change in this very significant part of the city, which was also the place where people would dump animals, and the city would get rid of stray animals there. But then she's also this element of chaos or randomness, or just sort of the animating principle of the universe. It's a book about what makes things happen the way they happen. Like, why do we cross paths with people? What makes power work the same way that it does and produce the same outcomes again and again? What is the element that can disrupt those orders, which can disrupt power, which can disrupt our lives, for better or worse, on a personal level?

On becoming aware of environmental issues at a young age
I was politicized probably early on as a young person, as a teenager, most profoundly around environmental issues. I was just out of my teens, with the PGA actually, the Professional Golf Association village that was proposed over the Edwards Aquifer, 20-something years ago. I had already sort of been an environmentalist in a more traditional sense of doing stuff around recycling or thinking about over-consumption of resources, that kind of environmentalist. I had been away from San Antonio. I grew up here as a kid, and then we moved to a rural part of Texas in Comal County. But then I came back to San Antonio after college and that's where I got very involved in the PGA village campaign that was going on here.

On the ways the novel seems to predict the devastating weather events in Texas in February 2021
I knew that that part of the story was not speculative. I knew it was research-based, specifically based on the events of February 2011, which was a similar polar vortex event that happened here. I don't think it was as, as extensive or destructive as this one (in 2021). I knew that it wasn't speculative. It was based on a lot of reading that I had done. I've read the sociological literature of blackouts. I read histories of blackouts. I read a kind of public health literature on how people in other cities, whenever there have been heat waves, who is impacted and how. I read media accounts of the February 2011 event and kind of analyses of what happened and why and where the blame lay and all that.

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Yvette Benavides can be reached at bookpublic@tpr.org.