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Tiny Reparations Books

Magical/Realism: Essays on Music, Memory, Fantasy, and Borders Vanessa Angélica Villarreal (Hardcover) (PREORDER)

Magical/Realism: Essays on Music, Memory, Fantasy, and Borders Vanessa Angélica Villarreal (Hardcover) (PREORDER)

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Nonfiction - Social Science - Ethnic Studies - Hispanic American Studies - Biographies & Autobiographies - Memoirs - Pop Culture


Part memoir and part cultural criticism, this brilliant, singular collection of essays explores migration, violence, and colonial erasure through the lens of music and pop culture, and from the perspective of a Mexican American daughter from the Rio Grande Valley.

In MAGICAL/REALISM, poet and essayist Vanessa Angélica Villarreal intimately and fearlessly explores the many complicated girlhoods of being a working-class, first-generation, Mexican American daughter of a cumbia musician. She loved grunge and hated Selena. She found refuge in 80s fantasy movies and in the half-acre of swampy pines behind her Houston home. And she navigated a country that never really saw her—or her family’s—value beyond their labor.
    These essays sharply weave together memoir with explorations of race, class, and gender, using music and pop culture as their axis. In one essay, Vanessa writes about Nirvana’s impact on her life as an outcast; in another she looks critically at the Latina body as a site of trouble and all that gets projected onto it. In “When We All Loved a Show About a Wall,” Vanessa provides a crucial reading of Game of Thrones, showing its radical political commentaries on borders, asylum, migrant rights, and ICE. And in “The Fantasy of Healing,” she connects her own divorce and trauma to the video game The Witcher.
    With MAGICAL/REALISM, Vanessa recovers the truth from the absences and silences of migration, colonialism, and white supremacy. She looks closely at music as a stand-in for the archive of the undocumented and how pop culture leaves objects behind as portals for memory. This is a wise, tender, expansive collection from a dazzling, essential voice.


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 TimesHarper's BazaarThe Paris Review, and elsewhere. She lives in Los Angeles with her son.

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