Welcome to the magical month of May! Is May actually magical? Probably not, though seeing the sun for the first time in 9 months in Washington State might qualify as magic.
This month, I’ve decided to go around the world with one of my favorite genres, magical realism. Magical realism provides a beautiful balance between fantasy and realism. Elements of magic and mysticism are interwoven into realistic storylines without comment so that readers question what is real and what is imagined.
My love for magical realism started early, and I continue to gravitate towards this genre with new releases. Like many, the first work of magical realism I read was One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez. It’s lush and haunting; a book that has stayed with me most of my life. Marquez is immensely popular, but many other authors from Latin America write beautifully in the genre. So, to start our tour of magical realism, we’re heading to the birthplace of magical realism: Latin America.
The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende: Full of emotion and intriguing political commentary, The House of Spirits is a sweeping family drama following three generations of strong women.
Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel: A witty novel centered around one woman’s ability to pour her emotions into food. Esquivel brilliantly captures the frustration, lust, and heartache of unrequited love in this poignant and engaging story.
Claire of the Sea Light by Edwidge Danticat: Leisurely paced and driven by a cast of compelling characters, this novel follows the haunting mystery of a missing child and the events that led to her disappearance.
Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges: A collection of inventive, ironic, and beautiful short stories, all of which inspire further thought and introspection.
The Hummingbird’s Daughter by Luis Alberto Urrea: An epic historical fiction novel of a woman who rises from death with the power to heal. Urrea spent years researching his great aunt, Teresa Urrea, to write this passionate and powerful story.
Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands by Jorge Amado: “Was it not by loving that I learned to love? Was it not by living that I learned to live?” asks Dona Flor at the start of this irreverent, comical, and raunchy tale of a woman torn between her two selves
The Salt Roads by Nalo Hopkinson: The Salt Roads is a brilliant and moving novel that stretches across centuries to explore the role of women in their relationships and community.
Everyone Knows You Go Home by Natalia Sylvester: An engaging, atmospheric, and timely novel detailing the immigrant experience across generations and grappling with the effects of immigration on individuals, families, and whole communities.
Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina García: In Dreaming in Cuban, Garcia intertwines the stories of three generations of women in the context of the Cuban revolution with delightful tenderness and emotion.
Hopscotch by Julio Cotázar: A collection of Cortazar’s signature works. Most notable is Hopscotch, a “Choose Your Own Adventure-esque” story which allows the reader to choose the character’s progression. Truly a dazzling adventure.
Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall: The five Garcia sisters embark on a journey to return a dead man to his family in Mexico in this compelling, plot-driven story rooted in Mexican mysticism.
The Murmur of Bees by Sofía Segovia: Found covered in bees, a magical child maintains a mystical connection to the creatures that come to his aid and to that of his adopted family in this lush, lyrical tale.
The Head of the Saint by Socorro Acioli: A young boy takes up residence inside a broken statue of Saint Anthony and finds that he can hear the prayers of the townspeople in this atmospheric story.
Eartheater by Dolores Reyes: In this disturbing, haunting tale, a woman develops uncontrollable pica that triggers visions of murdered and missing people, including her own mother.
The Immortal Boy by Francisco Montaña Ibáñez: This bleak, compelling novel interweaves two stories: that of five unparented siblings fighting for survival and that of a girl in an orphanage who will do anything to befriend the mysterious Immortal Boy.
Things We Lost in the Fire by Mariana Enriquez: A haunting, gritty collection of short stories exploring the macabre aspects of life in contemporary Argentina.
The Blue Line by Ingrid Betancourt: Set against the backdrop of Argentina’s Dirty War, this is a violent, unflinching story about a girl who can see future disasters through the eyes of others.
The Storm by Tomás González: Over the course of a single day at sea, a father and his sons are confronted with the unspoken secrets and resentments that are destroying them in this lyrical, character-driven tale.
Dona Barbara by Rómulo Gallegos: Dona Barbara, a beautiful and mysterious woman, faces off against her cousin in an epic battle for land in this suspenseful, richly detailed story.
Hadriana in All My Dreams by René Depestre: In this moving, racy novel, tragedy strikes during the Haitian carnival season when the beautiful and beloved Hadriana drops dead at her wedding alter.
The Storyteller by Mario Vargas Llosa: Blending memoir and folklore, this leisurely paced, complex novel follows a Peruvian writer who convinces himself that he’s seen an old friend in a photo of an Amazon tribal storyteller.
Esperanza’s Box of Sanits by María Amparo Escandón: A charming, surprising following Esperanza Diaz, a beautiful young widow, as she leaves her Mexican village in search of her missing twelve-year-old daughter.
That’s a long list but it’s certainly not exhaustive of all Latin American magical realism. If your favorite isn’t on here, be sure to tell me in the comments! And, check back every Monday in May to explore magical realism all over the world. Where do you think we should go next?