Magical Realism for Non-Believers By Anika Fajardo

Published by University of Minnesota Press

The subtitle for Anika Farajado’s memoir is quite apt: A Memoir of Finding Family, because her journey of familial connections takes the reader on magical trip. Born in Colombia, but raised in Minnesota by her mother, Farajado was given the opportunity to visit her father for the first time since she was a child in 1995. The events of her trip are intercut with histories of her family members and then with her own experiences being a parent. All of which contain a series of twists and turns that can only be described as magical. When she returns to Colombia, she exists as both a tourist and a long lost citizen. Farajado examines this liminal space with an observational writing style that allows the reader to best feel this comforting isolation. Farajado’s writing is tightly aimed at unfolding the narrative, but not without poetic prose that highlights the situations in a way that does not feel distracting. The chapters are short: almost vignette-like. Each chapter is focused, but continually pushes the narrative forward.

When Farajado visits her father in the 90s, she is fully aware of the massive political and societal changes Colombia is undergoing. However, even with moments of tension, like getting stopped by soldiers to search their car, the author treats the reader to a beautiful and vast series of images that show the beauty of this country. Farajado does not shy away from using Spanish words, and she ignores the impulse that can befall some writers to over-explain the word. This can ruin the language and the rhythm of the sentences. An acute reader should be able to translate the word through context clues which are provided. While the shoes of Marquez are quite large to fill, Farajado shows us a different kind of magic, a kind that exists solely in real life, the series of events that can be  so strange, yet are all too real.–Jakob Westpfahl


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