Valley of Shadows and Dreams

Heyday Books

Ken and Melanie Light embarked on a photographic and literary exploration of a region known for its agricultural plenty--and the marginalization of its people. In Valley of Shadows and Dreams they dig deep into the harsh truths of farm workers' daily experience, revealing a deep sense of anger and betrayal toward the destructive legacies of politics, bureaucracy, and control.

The Lights show us once-viable farmland transformed into neighborhoods full of empty tract homes that no workers can afford. We are confonted head-on with the devastating results of foreclosure. We stand in the Community Center food line in Mendota, we slip magically onto a midnight dance floor with migrant workers in Tulare, and we sail out across the San Joaquin River on a rope swing. These photos and stories capture scenes of hardworking people fighting to preserve their livelihoods and traditions. With an introduction by Thomas Steinbeck and impassioned essays by Melanie Light about the importance of recognizing and rectifying the cycle of employers oppressing workers, Valley of Shadows and Dreams uncovers the realities of life in this troubled but vital region that are often hidden and difficult to capture.

Editorial Reviews


Click on any of the photos below to see a larger version.

Food line Westside Community Center
Mendota, California, 2009

New homes and agricultural land
Tulare County, California, 2008

Guadalupe, 26-year-old mother of five
who had her first child at 14

Rope swing, 6 p.m., 100°F
San Joaquin River, California

Carmen, 18 years old, 7 months pregnant
and Guadalupe

“Only God Can Judge Me”
Drive-in Madera County, California,

“Lake Front Homes”
master plan community
Tranquility, California, 2006
Deserted subdivision
Atwater, California, 2009


All photographs ©2012 Ken Light
All rights reserved, may not be reproduced without written permission