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Here comes On Lighthouses!

Jazmina Barrera’s On Lighthouses, in Christina MacSweeney’s radiant translation, is out from Two Lines Press on May 12. Barrera’s English-language debut centers on the lighthouse—its history, mythology, and keepers; its representations in art, literature, and film. She covers a lot of ground, exploring the illumination of the Scottish coastline by Robert Louis Stevenson’s grandfather, the light works of James Turrell, the writings of Virginia Woolf, filmmaker Ingmar Berman’s island, and so much more.

But that’s not all that Barrera’s up to here. Throughout the book, she interpolates personal anecdotes, elements of literary memoir, and travelogue, using them to create something totally unique: a quietly powerful meditation on loneliness that asks how we might turn isolation—so often a selfish act—into something selfless. In a sense, On Lighthouses is the perfect guidebook for our strange present, an aide in overtaking that seemingly counterintuitive hurdle: to help by staying away. As Barrera puts it in her Books Are Magic interview with Katharine Smyth, author of All the Lives We Ever Lived

“Lighthouse keepers are contradictory figures: they are solitary, sometimes even misanthropic, but they also have a humanitarian task at hand, which is saving ships from shipwrecks, tempests, and dangerous maritime geography. What we are forced to do today is similar in that sense: in order to take care of each other, right now, we have to isolate ourselves.”

Jazmina Barrera will launch On Lighthouses on Tuesday, May 12, with a virtual event with Eula Biss, author of On Immunity, hosted by Chicago’s Pilsen Community Books. This free event begins at 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time. You can RSVP here. It’s worth noting that Pilsen Community Books is offering 10% off On Lighthouses throughout the month of May! Place your order with them here

If you can’t join us Tuesday, celebrate with us on Saturday, May 23, at 7:00 p.m. Pacific Time, when Point Reyes Books will host a conversation between Barrera and Philip Hoare, author of RISINGTIDEFALLINGSTAR and The Whale. More info here.

If you’ve been watching this space, you already know how excited we are to be publishing Jazmina’s book, and you know how much we adore Christina MacSweeney (who translated Elvira Navarro’s A Working Woman for us). We’ve been talking about On Lighthouses for close to a year now, and we’re thrilled that so many people have joined us in our enthusiasm. Francisco Goldman, author of Say Her Name, has said, “to read Jazmina Barrera’s extraordinary book is to find a little lighthouse inside yourself, one that will go on emitting a roaming, yearning, beckoning, consoling loveliness.” Philip Hoare calls it a “glorious, beckoning story.”

Indie booksellers are excited, too. So excited they banded together to make On Lighthouses a May Indie Next Pick! As expected, their thoughtful readings of the book have given us reason and reason again to revisit our favorite passages and scenes. Community Bookstore’s Helen Zuckerman writes: “The book is as liminal as its subject—separate from others, but in service to them; not urgent, but just possibly the single slight thing needed to keep a reader from the rocks.” And Cristina Rodriguez, bookseller extraordinaire at Deep Vellum Books and the leader of Book Cult (which is discussing On Lighthouses this month), calls it “a beautiful expression of how we grow into a life…a work that reaches a new level of profundity.” Christie Olsen Day, bookseller at Gallery Bookshop, puts it succinctly: “It’s a perfect little book.” You can read even more praise for On Lighthouses here.

We invite you to purchase the book through your local indie bookstore or through (If you do, shoot me an email and we’ll send you a limited edition On Lighthouses tote bag that features a lighthouse illustration by the author. While supplies last.) Told you we were excited!