By Light We Knew Our Names

By Light We Knew Our Names | Anne Valente

Dzanc Books

Winner of the Dzanc Short Story Prize

September 30, 2014

ISBN: 978-1936873623

Purchase: Dzanc Books : IndieBound : Amazon : Barnes&Noble : Powell’s


From ghosts to pink dolphins to a fight club of young women who practice beneath the Alaskan aurora borealis, By Light We Knew Our Names examines the beauty and heartbreak of the world we live in. Across thirteen stories, this collection explores the thin border between magic and grief.


“In these wonderful stories, Anne Valente shows again and again her talent for extracting the obsessions and anxieties and wonder of childhood, then extrapolating them across the whole of a life: Here feelings manifest as objects, relationships exist as gifts physically given, and every page contains a thrilling combination of sadness and joy, humor and loss, science and mystery and magic. By Light We Knew Our Names is a striking debut, reminiscent of Aimee Bender and Lorrie Moore, but with a bright promise all its own.” —Matt Bell, author of In the House upon the Dirt between the Lake and the Woods

“Family looms large in the 13 stories in Valente’s debut…the warmth and fluidity of Valente’s prose and her eye for the detail have genuine resonance.” – Publishers Weekly

By Light We Knew Our Names is full of weird, wild, and finely observed stories that explore questions of identity and longing…Valente slides between realism and fabulism, and her imaginative leaps alone are noteworthy – but even more so is the heart that beats throughout these stories.” – The Paris Review

“Anne Valente’s stories possess an intimate magic…All of the stories in this luminous debut straddle the line between the known and the unknowable. By Light We Knew Our Names illustrates the fact that, whether it’s the discovery of your own identity or the inexplicability of others, the world is full of secrets, and we feel most alive when we are (futilely) trying to uncover them. It’s this sense of mystery that torments and sustains us.” – The Rumpus

“Some describe this story collection as fabulist, but it feels more accurate to say that Valente’s fiction just describes layers of reality left unplumbed by less imaginative writers.” – St. Louis Magazine

“From the married couple haunted by a mysterious, siren-like sound to the baby obsessed with a bizarre flower to a group of girls turning into bears, the thirteen stories in By Light We Knew Our Names startle readers at every turn. They demonstrate an impressive range, imagination, and beauty from an author who is surely only at the beginning of a fruitfully literary career.” – Mid-American Review

“Anne Valente brings wonder and reverence to stories of family and coming-of-age in her debut collection…Just as similar empathetic moments bloom from magic or fabulist tangibles, likewise, all of the stories begin in grounded realism and expand outward in transcendence, whether to redeem the characters, inspire them, or strengthen their familial relationships, often all of the above. The result resonates with hope and awe.” – The Chattahoochee Review

Anne Valente’s first collection, By Light We Knew Our Names, offers up thirteen unique stories dealing with the difficult transitions from childhood to adulthood, the mystery of connection, the hardships of loss, and the crystallized moments when wonder is either abandoned or embraced…these stories are filled in their own way with hope—of recovery, of maturity, of knowing oneself—and line-by-line, are a pleasure to read.” – Heavy Feather Review 

“The thirteen stories of this collection are wonderful and wonder-filled…They call to mind the myriad emotions and occurrences that go unexplained in our own lives. They are as unforgettable as a night sky stained with color and bursting with light.” – Full Stop

By Light We Knew Our Names is built on a series of stealthy and beautifully curated pieces of magical realism, bildungsromans, and research-focused set pieces for Valente’s characters.” – Memorious

“This is what Valente does with her characters, and to her readers: she shows us the pain, but also the transcendence we are all capable of. She reminds us that beyond the pain, there is always light.” – Quarterly West

“And that’s what these stories do: they make us realize that the unbelievable is sometimes in our own backyard, under our very noses. Valente’s stories grab you by the ears and force you to look at some scary truths about our world, and that is important—but in equal measure, and sometimes in the same moment, they tilt your chin down and have you consider the beauty that is there, lighting up the dark.” – Origami Zoo Press

“A whimsical jaunt, a coming of age, a self-identification through smooth and surprising prose, By Light We Knew Our Names…is a well thought-out and inspiring read that would enhance any reader’s bookshelf.” – Moon City Review

“Anne Valente’s magnificent debut collection, By Light We Knew Our Names, is filled with lyrical stories of family and coming of age.” – Largehearted Boy

Largehearted Boy’s Book Notes

Necessary Fiction’s Research Notes