Magical/Realism: Essays on Music, Memory, Fantasy, and Borders (Hardcover)

Magical/Realism: Essays on Music, Memory, Fantasy, and Borders By Vanessa Angélica Villarreal Cover Image
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A brilliant, singular collection of essays that looks to music, fantasy, and pop culture—from Beyoncé to Game of Thrones—to excavate and reimagine what has been disappeared by migration and colonialism.

Upon becoming a new mother, Vanessa Angélica Villarreal was called to Mexico to reconnect with her ancestors and recover her grandmother’s story, only to return to the sudden loss of her marriage, home, and reality.

In Magical/Realism, Villarreal crosses into the erasure of memory and self, fragmented by migration, borders, and colonial and intimate violence, reconstructing her story with pieces of American pop culture, and the music, video games, and fantasy that have helped her make sense of it all.

The border between the real and imagined is a speculative space where we can remember, or re-world, what has been lost—and each chapter engages in this essential project of world-building. In one essay, Villarreal examines her own gender performativity through Nirvana and Selena; in another, she offers a radical but crucial racial reading of Jon Snow in Game of Thrones; and throughout the collection, she explores how fantasy can help us interpret and heal when grief feels insurmountable. She reflects on the moments of her life that are too painful to remember—her difficult adolescence, her role as the eldest daughter of Mexican immigrants, her divorce—and finds a way to archive her history and map her future(s) with the hope and joy of fantasy and magical thinking.

Magical/Realism is a wise, tender, and essential collection that carves a path toward a new way of remembering and telling our stories—broadening our understanding of what memoir and cultural criticism can be.

About the Author

Vanessa Angélica Villarreal was born in the Rio Grande Valley to Mexican immigrants. She is the author of Beast Meridian, which received a Whiting Award, a Kate Tufts Discovery Award nomination, and the Texas Institute of Letters John A. Robertson Award. She was a 2021 National Endowment for the Arts fellow, and her work has appeared in The New York Times, Harper’s Bazaar, The Paris Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Los Angeles with her son.

Praise For…

A Best Book of 2024 (so far) by Book Riot

Most Anticipated by Book Riot, Hip Latina, Electric Lit, Screen Rant, and Write or Die

"A revelation… to be studied, savored, re-read and discussed”
Melissa Castillo Planas, Latinx Pop Magazine

"Magical/Realism is the perfect non-fiction work for fiction lovers. Vanessa Angélica Villarreal's essays explore her journey of reconnection with her heritage and ancestors in Mexico while using current popular media, like Game of Thrones, to explore cultural erasure and the damages of migration and colonialism."
Screen Rant

“The fresh perspective and distinctive voice of poet Villarreal drive this smart collection… the meditations on fantasy narratives incisively probe how fictional worlds reflect and intersect with the real one. Readers will be spellbound.”
Publishers Weekly (starred)

“With brilliant insight and masterful writing, Villarreal examines fantasy at close range…the magic of this collection is the elasticity and brilliance with which Villarreal is able to take critical analysis and connect it to her own experiences. A wondrous book that will change the way you think about fantasy and magic.”
—Kirkus (starred)

"Not only is this intimate essay collection a healing listen, but it repositions cultural criticism on the map as a meaningful and resonant form of catharsis."

Magical/Realism is staggeringly good; it’s been ages since I’ve been this moved, challenged, and devastated by an essay collection. An energetic, paradigm-shifting book.”
Carmen Maria Machado, author of In the Dream House

"A stunning, provocative, and essential book that lights up the mind. Villarreal’s ferocious imagination is matched only by a roving intellect and so much heart that these essays will stay with you for a long time after reading. One of my favorite nonfiction collections of the past decade."
Jeff VanderMeer, New York Times bestselling author

“Villarreal possesses endless talent. As she connects the dots between the various extraordinary and mundane realisms that haunt our daily lives, she displays a poet’s command of form, making this work sing with resonance. A banger.”
—Camonghne Felix, author of Dyscalculia: A Love Story of Epic Miscalculation

“Vanessa Angelica Villarreal’s Magical/Realism is the impossible book that does so much so well and still retains a distinct and propulsive voice. Villarreal’s formal variousness illuminates and usefully complicates her subjects, but the bedrock upon which she engages her intellectual might is a big beating heart—there are lines here that made me, a non-crier, actually well-up. About her father who taught himself to play guitar while his migrant laborer parents worked, Villarreal writes: ‘He was not a rare mind dreaming in a place that suppresses dreams with debt and labor. What is rare is that he almost made it.’ Often, for Villarreal, tenderness presents itself as a kind of rage, a rage that emerges from an ability to perceive the interiority of the harmed. Our loss, how rare this rage—without any accompanying smug back-patting—feels in the contemporary critical discourse. Our luck, to find in such abundance here.”
—Kaveh Akbar, New York Times bestselling author of Martyr!

Product Details
ISBN: 9780593187142
ISBN-10: 0593187148
Publisher: Tiny Reparations Books
Publication Date: May 14th, 2024
Pages: 384
Language: English