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

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

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.

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