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Imagine your Stories: Magical Realism

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Magical realism


Week four of the Harris County Summer Reading Program marked the theme of magical realism. When we think of magical realism, we often associate writers of Latin America - most notably, Gabriel Garcia-Marquez’ One Hundred Years of Solitude. Interestingly, the literary movement has its roots in the art world to describe German post-expressionist painting in the 1920s. The term and concept was later adopted by Cuban writer Alejo Carpentier and Miguel Angel Asturias in the 1940s before it came to be known as a literary term to describe the fiction of Latin America popularized by Garcia-Marquez, Isabel Allende and Mario Vargas Llosa, to name a few.

According to Credo Reference:  “The style is characterized by storytelling from a primitivist viewpoint that challenges modern Western norms. The authors draw from the worldview of tribal societies of Indian, African or archaic Christian origin, as well as their fusion known as syncretism. Myth, magic and superstition are presented as normal everyday realities in Latin America, while common aspects of technology, modernity and Western rationality are naively regarded with suspicion and disbelief.” 

Since then, magical realism has become a worldwide literary phenomenon that finds its way into adult fiction, and more recently young adult fiction. Here are a few titles published recently to add some magic into your reality:

  • Latitudes of Longing by Shubhangi Swarup. This debut interweaves three tales - “Islands,” “Faultline,” “Valley,” and “Snow Desert” - set in Southeast Asia zigzagging between time and space integrating magical elements such as talking glaciers and yetis.
  • The World Doesn’t Require You by Rion Amilcar Scott. This collection of short tales is set in the imaginary town of Cross Rivers, Md. that is home to Freedman’s University and the only successful slave uprising to have ever occurred in the U.S. The first story is about Cross River’s most famous resident: God. He doesn’t stick around long, however, and the narrative revolves towards his street musician and jailed son, David Sherman…and the other church pastor son, Christ III. Dark humor involving a prank played upon Cross Rivers’ white neighboring city satirizes racism and academia, while elements of fantasy, sci-fi and horror appear in other stories such as “Mercury in Retrograde,” “Rolling in My Six-Fo…” The collection ends with “Special Topics in Loneliness Studies,” that pokes fun at the absurdity of higher education while remaining wistful and poignant.
  • Things You Would Know if You Grew Up Around Here by Nancy Wayson Dinen: Described in Kirkus as “by turns magical, harshly realistic, poetic, aggravating, and enthralling” the novel takes place in Texas Hill Country whereby coming-of-age, unresolved break-ups, and communication break-downs combine with dangerous flash floods, wild animals, climate change and the science of gold mining.
  • Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry is a haunting tale about three LatinX sisters, two living and Ana, who is dead. Ana communicates with her sisters by writing on the walls and speaking through wild animals. In lush language, the supernatural mixed with realism depict the sisters who are like wild animals caged in their grief.

These novels are available in eBook and by request for pick-up at any Harris County Public Library location. Join us as we celebrate our Summer Reading Program all summer long with virtual programs available here and with curbside service at our library locations. 

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