CMC highlights Colorado author in 2023 Common Reader program |

CMC highlights Colorado author in 2023 Common Reader program

College to host group read, art and creative writing contest and author talks for 'Woman of Light'

Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s novel, “Woman of Light,” is CMC’s 2023 Common Reader selection. The book is available now, and the author will give talks at four CMC locations in March, two of which will be livestreamed.
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Colorado Mountain College has selected Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s second book, “Woman of Light” as its 2023 Common Reader. This annual program features a group read, an art and creative writing contest, lesson plans that interweave the book into CMC classes, and live author presentations scheduled for March.  

Kali Fajardo-Anstine is a Denver native and nationally best-selling author whose second book and historical novel was published in 2022.

Fajardo-Anstine has received numerous accolades for her work. These include nominations for the National Book Award and the Joyce Carol Oates Prize. She has also been the recipient of the American Book Award and is the endowed chair in creative writing at Texas State University. Fajardo-Anstine also has written for numerous publications including The New York Times and The Atlantic.  

Yet, achievements and acknowledgments weren’t always part of this acclaimed 36-year-old author’s life. As a teenager, she struggled with depression and during her senior year in high school, a teacher told her that students like her couldn’t be successful. Shortly after hearing that, Fajardo-Anstine quit school.   

Today, in addition to literary recognition and a vibrant writing career, Fajardo-Anstine is a woman who is an inspiration for anyone who has felt defeated — including CMC students. 

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“I’ve known about CMC for a long time,” Fajardo-Anstine said. “I know the value of CMC for students like I was. In high school, I was not a typical GPA star student. School was not for me, but I loved learning and I loved books.” 

Ten years 

Soon after quitting school, Fajardo-Anstine’s love of books, writing and family storytelling propelled her back to academics — only this time, it was on her terms. 

“My father told me to get my GED right away, which I did through Metropolitan State University,” she said. Fajardo-Anstine is the second eldest in a family of seven children.  

From there, Fajardo-Anstine took a methodical path, ultimately toward a writing life. First, she earned a bachelor’s degree, where professors began to acknowledge her writing abilities. Later, she earned her Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Wyoming. 

“Woman of Light” took her 10 years to finish, she said.  

“I wasn’t a full-time writer,” she said. “I didn’t know if I’d be published. I had to work, so I was teaching high school dropouts, I was working at a zip line. I know CMC students understand having to work. All the time, I was writing on weekends and at 4 in the morning.” 

Then, finally, it came: a book publishing contract from Random House. 

Little Light 

“Woman of Light” — available now at bookstores and libraries as well as at CMC campuses and its virtual library — is a fictional, mystical story based on Fajardo-Anstine’s family, tracing her ancestors from their Indigenous past in 1880s southwestern Colorado to 1930s Denver.  

Fajardo-Anstine’s family is as complex and multicultural as the characters in her book. It’s a book about Indigenous Chicano people and celebrates CMC’s recent designation as a Hispanic-Serving Institution.   

“My father is a white man from Nebraska,” Fajardo-Anstine said, adding that her background includes Belgian, Chicano, Jewish, Latino and Filipino.

Still, in “Woman of Light,” the novel pivots around her Latino heritage through Luz “Little Light” Lopez, the main character who collects her family’s stories.

“Every single character — even the bad ones — are within us,” she said.   

Need to know

2023 Common Reader 

What: Colorado Mountain College’s group read, art and creative writing contest and author talks

“Woman of Light” by Kali Fajardo-Anstine 

Books are available at area bookstores, libraries, CMC locations and through CMC’s virtual library, 

Author talks and book signings 

All talks will be held at 7 p.m.  

  • March 27: CMC Breckenridge, 107 Denison Placer Road (livestreamed)  
  • March 2: CMC Leadville, 901 S. Highway 24 
  • March 29: Morgridge Commons, 815 Cooper Ave., 2nd Floor, Glenwood Springs (livestreamed) 
  • March 30: CMC Vail Valley at Edwards, 150 Miller Ranch Road 

Art and creative writing contest 

All entries must be inspired by Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s book, “Woman of Light,” and her visit to CMC sites in March. Entries will focus on the themes ofIndigenous roots, rights and responsibilities. All CMC students, faculty, staff and community members are invited to participate.

Submission deadline: April 9 (go to for entry instructions.)

Visit for more detailed information about the program.  


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