Selected as a 2021 Best Fiction of the Year title by Bookshop staff:
A violin teacher who has sold her soul to the devil, a transgender girl on the run from her abusive family, and an alien refugee of an intergalactic war who has recently purchased a donut shop––Light from Uncommon Stars begins with distant threads and weaves them delightfully together into a tale of found family and the power of music to heal and bring us together. This book left me feeling that the world was a slightly stranger and brighter place than I thought, and really craving a donut.
“This book has it all: a music teacher who sold her soul, a family of alien refugees who run a donut shop, and a trans violinist who changes everything. It cracks open the heart of what it means to exist in the universe.”
— Katherine Nazzaro, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA
Good Omens meets The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet in Ryka Aoki's Light From Uncommon Stars, a defiantly joyful adventure set in California's San Gabriel Valley, with cursed violins, Faustian bargains, and queer alien courtship over fresh-made donuts.
Shizuka Satomi made a deal with the devil: to escape damnation, she must entice seven other violin prodigies to trade their souls for success. She has already delivered six.
When Katrina Nguyen, a young transgender runaway, catches Shizuka's ear with her wild talent, Shizuka can almost feel the curse lifting. She's found her final candidate.
But in a donut shop off a bustling highway in the San Gabriel Valley, Shizuka meets Lan Tran, retired starship captain, interstellar refugee, and mother of four. Shizuka doesn't have time for crushes or coffee dates, what with her very soul on the line, but Lan's kind smile and eyes like stars might just redefine a soul's worth. And maybe something as small as a warm donut is powerful enough to break a curse as vast as the California coastline.
As the lives of these three women become entangled by chance and fate, a story of magic, identity, curses, and hope begins, and a family worth crossing the universe for is found.
RYKA AOKI (she/her) is a poet, composer, teacher, and novelist. Her latest novel, Light From Uncommon Stars, was an Alex, SCKA, and Otherwise Award winner, and was also a finalist for the Hugo, Locus, and Ignyte Awards.
Ryka is a two-time Lambda Literary Award finalist for her collections Seasonal Velocities, and Why Dust Shall Never Settle Upon This Soul, and her first novel, He Mele a Hilo, was callled one of the "10 Best Books Set in Hawaii" by Bookriot. She has been recognized by the California State Senate for “extraordinary commitment to the visibility and well-being of Transgender people,” and her work has appeared or been recognized in publications including Vogue, Elle, Bustle, Autostraddle, PopSugar, and Buzzfeed, as well as the Smithsonian Asian Pacific American Center. She was also honored to work with the American Association of Hiroshima Nagasaki A-Bomb Survivors, where two of her compositions were adopted as the organization’s “songs of peace.”
She has an MFA in creative writing from Cornell University, and is currently a professor of English at Santa Monica College.
“The book brought me to tears . . . and bursts with love and insights on food, music, inheritance and transformation.”—The New York Times
“Filled with mouthwatering descriptions of food and heart-swelling meditations on music, this novel is an unexpected gift.”—Kirkus, starred review
“Aoki's novel is an exciting, wild web of an adventure, an unputdownable book about music, found family, and identity. Diving into the tough subjects, Aoki's book emerges with a joyful, queer, radical ballad of a story. . .”—Booklist, starred review
“A dark but ultimately hopeful sci-fi exploration of the threats faced by queer people of color [and] a love letter to immigrant culture and the power people have to save each other . . . a beautiful, satisfying story of redemption and families of choice.”—Publishers Weekly
“A transformative marvel. I have never read a book quite like this before. I laughed. I wept. I believed in the power of souls. This is a novel that will be talked about for years to come, and deservedly so. I. Loved. This. Book.”—T. J. Klune, New York Times bestselling author
“Delightful and heartbreaking. An unexpected mashup of science fiction and fantasy that will make you love music, crave donuts, and wish to read it all again.”—John Scalzi, New York Times bestselling author
“This book broke my heart and glued it back together stronger than before. Skillful, stunning, absolutely gorgeous.”—Becky Chambers, USA Today bestselling author
“A beautiful story of friendship and love . . . incredibly soothing and kind and sweet and delightful. I fell in love with these characters and did not even realize how desperately I needed this story right now.”—Charlie Jane Anders, author of All the Birds in the Sky
“A story that sparkles with magic and music and joy; this book just sings.”—Everina Maxwell, author of Winter's Orbit
“A kaleidoscopic and riveting symphony . . . Aoki has conjured the most spellbinding venues to unpack race, sexuality, and class with both ingenuity and heart. A new classic.”—Sequoia Nagamatsu, author of Where We Go When All We Were Is Gone
“Ryka Aoki's prose is sublime, the emotional connections she makes are like sparkling jewels . . . Light From Uncommon Stars is fantastic, beautiful, and deeply, profoundly moving.”—Jenn Lyons, author of Ruin of Kings
“A singing, full-hearted, fearless—and fearlessly goofy—vision that dances across the border between real and surreal, heartrending and sweet, with the nonstop energy of Douglas Adams, and a deep, merciless compassion.”—Max Gladstone, author of Empress of Forever