I've read books with magical realism, but never seen magical realism in memoir. Columbia provides the magic while Anika Farjado searches for family. #amreading #memoir #magicalrealism

Magical realism, for those who wonder, is a literary genre perfected by Columbian novelist Gabriel García Márquez in his novel One Hundred Years of Solitude. A book with magical realism has a fictional world that seems like the modern world in which we live, yet the story contains a magical or other-worldly element that seems impossible to believe.

Anika Fajardo writes the story of finding her family (the Colombian contingent) through magical realism in a memoir.

Magical Realism for Non-Believers: A Memoir of Finding Family

Anika Fajardo goes on a quest to find family and country in this nuanced and beautiful memoir. It starts with Farjardo’s journey to Colombia to visit with the father she can’t remember. She “wanted Colombia to prove to me how beautiful, magical, wonderful she was, to show me why my father had chosen her over me.”

I've read books with magical realism, but never seen magical realism in memoir. Columbia provides the magic while Anika Farjado searches for family. #amreading #memoir #magicalrealism

Throughout the memoir, Farjado weaves together tales of the past, present, and future into a tapestry as colorful as the fabric worn by the Guambiano Indians. She introduces the readers to the magical land of Colombia, where her mother met her father shortly after Gabriel García Márquez published One Hundred Years of Solitude. Back when, “magical realism was part of the landscape, not a literary genre. When healers and lost daughters, secret affairs and illegitimate children were the rule, not the exception. Before literature stole away rainstorms of fireflies and sleeping sicknesses, these things existed in Colombia and were not flights of fancy.”

After a whirlwind romance between her mother and father, they traveled together to Minneapolis and married. Farjado imagines the soundtracks to their lives (who wouldn’t, when the church wedding ceremony includes beads, flowered skirts, and rings made out of spoons—accompanied by a Bob Dylan song about a big brass bed), and the decisions they must have struggled with as a newlywed couple living with relatives and attending universities in opposite directions.

A Poet and a Painter

Farjado can’t decide if their romance consists of the stuff of epic love stories or epic tragedies. All she knows is that at some point, her parents returned to Colombia, and discovered that the magic wasn’t enough to keep them together. She spends the rest of her childhood and teen years surrounded by her loving grandparents and wonderful mother, yet wondering about her father.

Like a skillful artist, Farjado paints layers of luminous understanding into the complicated portrait of family and country. Her father (an artist of renown in Colombia), is not just a man who abandoned his daughter for the love of country. Colombia is not just a corrupt country torn by wars between drug dealers. But each layer she paints comes at a cost.

It requires painting over previous assumptions and changing the tint and color to deepen the image and understanding. As Farjado paints each new revelation in her story, we come to realize the universality of her experience.

We have all suffered from betrayal, misunderstanding, circumstances, and half-truths. And at some point, we must paint our own portrait of family and country that resonates with us.

A nuanced memoir about finding family. Don't miss #magicalrealismfornonbelievers Click To Tweet

I receive free electronic advanced reader copies of these books through an arrangement between the publishers and NetGalley in exchange for my honest opinion on NetGalley’s website. I only review books on my blog that I really love.


  1. Anita, this sounds like a moving story. And haven’t we all felt like that little-girl-lost at some point in our lives? I love your closing words that at some point we each need to paint our story that resonates with us. I would add that at some point, we each need to determine how we will move forward with our stories.

    Beautiful review, friend.
    Jeanne Takenaka recently posted…Normal: Finding Peace After AdventureMy Profile

  2. I love this book but I must point out that you spell Colombia wrong throughout this article.

    Colombia is the country, Columbia is a University in the USA and a sportswear clothing brand.

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Anita Ojeda

Anita Ojeda juggles writing with teaching high school English and history. When she's not lurking in odd places looking for rare birds, you can find her camping with her kids, adventuring with her husband or mountain biking with her students.

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