Dazzled by Darkness

A Story of Art & Desire

Fiction - Historical - Event/Era
448 Pages
Reviewed on 10/03/2015
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Author Biography

Erica Miles studied writing at the Writer's Voice of the West Side Y, the Mid-Atlantic Creative Non-Fiction Writers Conference, and the Colgate Writers Conference. She received her B.A. in Theatre from Brooklyn College and her M.A. in Teaching ESL from Teachers College, Columbia University. A prolific writer of plays which were staged on the Columbia University campus, she is now a candidate for the 2016 Killer Nashville Silver Falchion Award and the 2016 Readers' Favorite Award. Her poetry and short stories were published in The Greenwich Village Literary Review and VOID Magazine. Her debut novel, Dazzled by Darkness, was nominated as a Big City Book Club selection for The New York Times.

    Book Review

Reviewed by Tracy A. Fischer for Readers' Favorite

In Dazzled by Darkness: A Story of Art & Desire by debut author Erica Miles, the reader is taken on a wonderful ride to the 1960s art scene. Follow the story of Sara, a 25-year-old Jewish woman working at an art museum, who falls for 19-year-old Gavilan, an art student who happens to be black. Not necessarily something that would raise eyebrows today, but in the '60s, a relationship between such a pair was certainly not accepted in many environments. Both Sara and Gavilan have highly creative and inventive minds in their own right, and their relationship develops, even amongst tumultuous, difficult and amazing times. Along with a fabulous cast of supporting characters, Sara and Gavilan make their way. Will their relationship sustain them or end in an ultimate demise?

I loved this book. Loved. It. Author Erica Miles has done an absolutely fabulous job in creating characters that her readers will connect with, relate to, and continue to think about long after they have finished reading the book. If that isn't a hallmark of a fantastic author, I don't know what is. Dazzled by Darkness: A Story of Art & Desire is an absolute page turner. In fact, the only advice I would have for any reader, besides telling them to read this book, would be to have enough time set aside to read it from start to finish once you pick it up. You simply will not want to put it down. I highly recommend this book to any reader who enjoys historical fiction, books with a very artistic bent, or simply a great read in general. I plan on keeping a close eye on author Erica Miles. With talent like hers, it's very unlikely she'll remain undiscovered for long!

Lydia A.

I found Dazzled by Darkness interesting, raw, and a page turner. I identified with both G and Sara. Their behaviors were so uncomfortably familiar and very similar to friends I knew and grew up with in the South Bronx. Some who were very talented, but very troubled, whether from mental illness (that was never talked about), environment, lack of nurture, education. And we had our share of falling in love with or wanting to be friends with someone "other," which caused so much hurt and uncertainty not only of who we are but the cold shoulder society.
I truly feel that the story captured and explored all these ideas very deeply within the characters. Each page brought to life and caught the essence of how these people lived, worked, grew up trying to keep it together internally, externally (switching religion, using drugs), especially in such a turbulent time, to find inner peace, equality and acceptance.


I enjoyed reading this creative and thought provoking novel. The novel takes you on an exciting journey through both romantic love and the love of art. The author pairs the modern day upcoming artist with world renowned and revered artists of the past in dream like sequences throughout the novel. Those sequences transport you through the paintings of artists such as Van Gogh and Picasso, bringing you into their worlds of inspiration. Of intrigue is the passionate and raw romantic relationship that forms between the modern day artist and his muse, Sarah, bringing forth elements of cultural divide and societal barriers and how each character overcomes such adversities.

John Seaman

Erica Miles' remarkable book exemplifies the stark contrast between hard reality and the utterly fantastical, which is faced by writers who have experienced mental illness, including Erica and myself. Erica's protagonists in "Dazzled..." both have their dream worlds, and their struggles to cope with these phenomena make up the most interesting parts of the story. The book will give everyone, including those who have not experienced mental illness, plenty to think about.

Julie Post

Dazzled by Darkness is an educated, insightful, rollicking (and sometimes heart-breaking) romance, seen through the hearts and minds of Sara and Gavilàn, our two protagonists. She comes from a solidly middle class white family, he from Afro-American and Latino roots, and poor. Both of them are either extremely psychic or downright psychotic. And both relate to reality from its fringes, in a Kafkaesque fashion.

The author, Erica Miles, thinks like an artist. Gavilàn, in his mind, periodically visits with the masters of fine art, entering into the parlors and neighborhoods of the likes of Michelangelo, Fra Angelica, Pablo Picasso, and others, all in the quest for inspiration on his own artistic path. Sara works as a secretary to support them but secretly wishes he’d contribute to their expenses financially.

All of this is set into the cultural context of New York City during the 1960’s and early 70’s, when the hippie movement and the black backlash against white society set the tone of the day. Sara and Gavilàn are reaching for each other against all odds.

Dazzled by Darkness is about two people who at least try to bridge their differences, and who in their own minds enter into an ideal world where class, race, and religious beliefs shouldn’t matter. But, in the end, they do. Each of them learns that the hard way, and the reader grieves with them as their ideals are shattered and they go their separate ways. Neither of them really finds themselves until their relationship is over.

This is a book about the experiments of the 1960’s, and the honest emotions of those participating is these cultural experiments. As such, it could be called historical fiction, as it uniquely captures the spirit of the times. A must-read for Baby Boomers, and a wonderful education for younger readers, as well.


Raw and explicit, psychological and perhaps psychotic, inquiring and existential, this graphic and almost surreal account of a relationship between a 25-year-old Jewish college girl and a black high-school dropout skillfully explores the multiple ambiguities of "other"-ness. Both characters make their own journeys, as their paths cross to an "other" place. Sure to transport you, as well.


An exciting read about a young woman’s relationship with herself, her lover, her religion, and her world. Ms. Miles’ language is flavorful and lively; often jumping off the page. Her detailed descriptions of the New York City area could only be written by someone who lives and loves everything New York! Is Dazzled by Darkness a journey to find self and God or just a schizophrenic/psychedelic trip? You’ll have to decide for yourself.

Steven Jay Griffel

Love, like religious fervor, is an act of faith. When one hears love’s call, it is wise to heed it—even if reasonable evidence suggests otherwise. Giving oneself to art is also an act of faith, inasmuch as one’s creativity and imagination are based on ineluctable knots of nature and nurture. Dazzled by Darkness, Erica Miles’ fine debut novel, is an artful exploration into the hearts and minds of two star-crossed lovers, G and Sara. A large and colorful cast of supporting characters (friends, family, psychiatrist, and the time-travelling voices of master artists and thinkers) add to the author's dazzling insights into life, love, and art.

David Perez

This deeply textured first novel by Erica Miles welcomes the reader into a world where fantasy and reality, darkness and humor, race and art, and, ultimately, love and longing intermingle in a dance of opposites that both explore and reveal. An adventurous debut!


As a young woman coming of age during the late '60's and early '70's, Dazzled by Darkness: A Story of Art and Desire, spoke to me, bringing back feelings and memories around those special years. The author captured the sensibilities of the era so well. I felt myself traveling along with the main character, Sara, chapter by chapter--feeling, growing, discovering her womanhood, her independence, the ways of the world.

The dashing and determined young man in Sara's life immerses himself in the art scene, taking fantastic adventures of the mind to glean what he can from the old masters to shape his own work.

Not only does society clash with their unconventional relationship, but internal clashes arise as well. The author tells the story of their need for each other and their separate desires in both tender and harsh detail.

I found the novel to be beautifully crafted, interweaving words and drawings into a rare delight.


If you enjoy quirky adventure, fantasy and redemption stories, Dazzled by Darkness is your next must-read book.

We are introduced to the world of a dramatic, brilliant, lost, yearning-for-love (and acceptance even more) young Jewish woman named Sara, as she shares with or toys with her psychiatrist. At the same time, we are privy to the thoughts of Sara's boyfriend, G, a younger aspiring black Hispanic artist, who is capable of meeting in person artists such as Van Gogh and Picasso, as he relates his innermost feelings to his best friend.

Shifts in points of view, a mix of intriguing characters, the surreal blending of reality and fantasy, and surprising if not shocking reversals in direction, keep you wanting to know what finally happens to Sara and G.

Dazzled by Darkness, while set in the 1960's, brings up universal topics for questioning, such as: What makes art ART? What is the interplay of an artist and his work? Where is the line between reality and fiction? How can you navigate a relationship between individuals who are confused about who they are and have no real professional or social skills? And what are true values and how do we find them?

Miles is a captivating, witty, inventive and articulate new author. I look forward to reading her next book.

Warning: rated X for language and profanity.

Jean Kilczer

Erica Miles takes you inside the head of Sara Got, a lonely, highly imaginative, young Jewish woman living in Brooklyn, and her provocative, talented young Latino lover and budding artist, Gavilán Sanchez, with equal aplomb.

While Sara's outer life remains the quiet existence of a working woman, her inner life is a landscape in which readers will glimpse their own darker side reflected in her needs, fears, and desires, as the human psyche is painted in the mystical tones of a master work.

Gavilán, who comes from a tough Brooklyn neighborhood, is a complex contradiction of close family ties, artistic potential, charming conversationalist, and enough attitude to make for a difficult but exciting relationship with Sara.

With raw-nerve honesty, Miles unveils the deepest thoughts of her two major characters with intuitive and intelligent strokes.

Sara and G, as Gavilán is known, are culturally and emotionally too far apart to find the necessary foundation for a long-lasting love, but their common love of art and their need for a close relationship holds them to an uneasy truce that passes for love. Through the course of their passionate but volatile romance, we watch to see how their differences will play out.

Miles gives us a rich tapestry to explore, from Sara's epiphany in a place she is not supposed to trespass, which costs her precious job at a museum, to G's fanciful, yet realistic conversations with the great artists of the centuries. And if you read closely, you'll find that the author's tongue is often firmly entrenched in her cheek.

Sara and G grow emotionally in the course of their journeys, and if we listen to their experiences, we will grow with them.

Susan Violante

In "Dazzled by Darkness: A Story of Art and Desire" by Erica Miles, Sara, a 25-year-old Jewish girl who works in the Art Museum, falls for Gavilan, a 19-year-old black art museum student. The story, although mostly through Sara's point of view, takes the reader into the minds of two opposites who decide to come together during the 60's. As an immigrant from South America, of Italian origin, I was fascinated to read about an era in the United States when racial, cultural, and sexual differences began blending together through art and love to clash with society. This was very interesting to me.

Miles does a great job presenting the readers with smart, complicated, well-developed characters. On one hand, the reader will experience the troubled mind of Sara who suffers with mental illness. On the other hand, the reader will get a close encounter with a dark and creative mind through Gavilan (G, as known by Sara) and his art. These two characters' futile relationship combined with the times and the setting their story takes place in has all the elements of a great read. But that was not enough as Miles takes the reader for a ride through time travel to meet the minds of art geniuses like Leonardo and Picasso. The only complaint I have about the book is maybe its length, but thanks to the beautiful art displayed throughout, going through the pages was as captivating as going through the story.

"Dazzled by Darkness: A Story of Art and Desire" by Erica Miles is definitely a great read for those who enjoy unique points of view and styles. I invite those readers to take a ride into dark minds, time travel and a troubled romance while enjoying beautiful art in this unique and captivating story placed in one of the most controversial eras in the United States. Definitely one of the most interesting reads I have encountered in a long time.


I chose my rating because it held me in suspense with a catching story line. While I paid attention to the author's turn of phrases, I enjoyed the tour of New York and how the race-sex-art revolution intertwined so uniquely.

John H.

"Dazzled by Darkness" paints an evocative picture of the late 1960's and the social movements of that era. There is also a background discussion of religion that is reminiscent of "Life of Pi". Ultimately though, Ms. Miles describes the arc of a relationship as it progresses. "Dazzled by Darkness" is a timeless love story and it is lovingly told. I strongly recommend this book.


Dazzled by Darkness is a story about growing up in the context of the late 1960s. Erica Miles uses the details of changing neighborhoods, attitudes toward and by African-Americans, LSD, clothing and the influences on a young artist to evoke the period vividly.

G, the budding artist, imagines entering the lives of famous painters of the past and establishes his work as the outrageous next step in the history of art. Sara's relationship with G is an essential part of her own progress as well as giving us a look into the artist's progress from the experimental to the famous.

Ms Miles writes well and the story she tells is an interesting one

Debra P.

I recommend this very enjoyable read especially if you are a native New Yorker, though non-natives will love it as well. It's an unconventional love story with a fair amount of fantasy and a lot of art history woven throughout all set in and around Brooklyn and Manhattan.

David Lee Summers

Dazzled by Darkness transported me across time and space to Brooklyn of the late 1960s and early 1970s where I experienced the year-long relationship between Sara and Gavilán. Sara is a hopeful writer working as a secretary at an art museum where she meets Gavilán, known as G, who is an art student.

Through the course of the romantic relationship, author Erica Miles explores the racial tensions of the period. Sara is a middle-class Jewish woman and G is a poor black Latino just coming to his own as a man. We see both Sara and G’s families and friends through each others' perspectives and find both moments of understanding and the barriers people throw up to retain comfortable familiarity.

One of the most fascinating elements of the novel for me was G’s artistic journey. Over the course of the novel, G “visits” such famous artists as Leonardo da Vinci, Pablo Picasso, and Andy Warhol. His imagined interactions with the artists provided insight both into G’s character and the artists visited.

Both Sara and G are strong-willed and not entirely sympathetic, but they are all the more realistic for it. Both their personal and cultural biases are revealed in stark, honest fashion. The novel is illustrated by a series of beautiful charcoal sketches by Selma Eisenstadt. These helped to enhance both the emotional gravity of the novel and bolstered the sense of an artistic journey.

In looking back at the racial, sexual, and artistic scene of the past, Dazzled by Darkness gave me the opportunity to look around at the present and consider where we might be going in the future.

Ellen Schecter

Dazzled by Darkness, by Erica Miles, is an exciting, multi-faceted novel that feels as authentic and intimate as a memoir. It brings the reader right back into the tumult of the Sixties, when tensions burned high between the races and abortions were available only in dangerous back alleys or expensive, faraway places like Puerto Rico.

Racism inevitably seeps beneath the skins of the two young lovers, Gavilán and Sara, clear-cut and engaging characters that inhabit worlds that are long-gone, yet pulse with life in the author's evocations. Author Miles deftly avoids any racial stereotypes in creating her characters, offering a more intimate view to readers who may have little experience with the black or Latino communities.

Delicate pencil drawings by Selma Eisenstadt and Ms. Miles enrich the book, emphasizing the artistic theme that drives the story. Sara works at the Brooklyn Museum and is blessed with a lyrical imagination. Gavilán is an artist whose imaginary encounters with Leonardo da Vinci, Van Gogh, Picasso, Andy Warhol and others provide him with ideas and inspiration--but it is his soulful conversations with his best friend and spiritual big brother, James, that unveil the deepest secrets of his heart.

Sara, from a middle-class Jewish background, is the more elusive, impulsive character. From the beginning, she takes heart-pounding risks: endangering the children who take classes at the museum, painting her skin dark to ride on the subway with Gavilán, quitting her job over an imagined insult. And despite the inevitable insults from both sides of a racist world, it is basic incompatibility rather than race that finally drives Sara and Gavilán apart. Yet both grow into happiness in surprising ways. I won't spoil it for you--give yourself the pleasure of reading the book to find out.

Tracy Caldwell

Dazzled by Darkness is about two unusual creatives, discovering themselves. Both seemed gently touched by mental illness. We know that Sara actually took meds. Being an interracial couple adds to the dynamic, each challenged by slight racist inclinations, that are probably a result of family and community. However, she needs him and he needs her. Both G and Sara reminded me of friends I had when I attended an art college. The author leaves lots of room for the reader to interpret instead of telling you what to think. I also adore how real historical facts about artists and events are interwoven into the story line. I was definitely Dazzled by Darkness!


Inspired by a true story with added fictional support, Erica Miles gives relevance to what Sara and Gavilan had to go through to sustain a blooming relationship. The situations described in this book are exceptional. Akin to the cover and the sketches contained within the pages of the novel, I was struck by the self-conscious awareness and the well-meaning attempt at transitioning from judging a person by his color toward acceptance of the “other”. At one point Sara “was left alone in the little room,” contemplating her recognition of not wanting to “deliberately. . . hurt a Black person.” True to the historical era of the 1960’s & 70’s, such sensitivity is strongly illustrated in this book.

The unique voice and the way Erica Miles’ narrators look at the world kept me captivated. I highly recommend reading this book.