For a split second I thought he was referring to the coffee in my hand. Then I understood he meant the carrier. I had seen photographs of both him and my mother carrying me on their backs in the same kind of contraption. But those photos were in black and white, and I had never known it was yellow. And it was as if my past—the world—was getting colored in like a child’s drawing, one object at a time.
In 1995, Anika Fajardo took a trip to Colombia to visit a father she did not know. In her new book, Magical Realism for Non-Believers, Ms. Fajardo takes readers on her journey to discover what it means to have a family, no matter the make up.
I enjoyed this book so much because the author is an amazing writer, but also because she used her writing to break down her feelings towards her absent father, finding a balance between being American and Colombian and the relationship she tries to forge with a country she knows nothing about. As I read Ms. Fajardo’s words, I could imagine her younger self arriving in Colombia, being exposed to sights, sounds and smells that are vastly different from what she’s used to in Minnesota. Her first impression when she sees her father in person, older than the photographs she’s seen all of her life, but still real. The author does not sugarcoat her feelings about what she experienced, nor the surprises that spring up as the years go by (I won’t spoil anything).
One of the elements in this memoir that I appreciated was the author mentioning Gabriel García Márquez’s famous novel, One Hundred Years of Solitude. If you’ve never read it (please read it), it is the story of the Buendia family in the fictitious village of Macondo. The patriarch of the family produces numerous sons wherever he goes, all who eventually descend upon their absent father. Like the novel, Renzo, the author’s father, is visited by his daughter in his hometown after a long absence. Like the novel, Renzo has no clue what to do with his daughter. But I can assure you, there is a much better ending in Ms. Fajardo’s memoir.
Magical Realism could not be more timely, as the attacks against people of color and immigrants are at an all-time high. But like those before her, Ms. Fajardo has not only learned to balance what it means to be American and Colombian, we as readers are all the more richer for it.
Magical Realism for Non-Believers will be published on April 16, a much-needed treat after Tax Day. You can pre-order it today or wait until tomorrow and purchase it at your local bookstore. I highly recommend it.
I received an advanced copy of this book from Netgalley. The quote cited above may have been changed in the final version.