Kafka on the Shore

By Haruki Murakami; translated by Philip Gabriel

Place: Publisher & Year: New York: Vintage International, c2005, 2006

Genres: General fiction, magical realism, fantasy

ISBN: 9781400079278

Audience: Adult

Number of pages: 464

Setting: Japan – mostly Takamatsu (Shikoku) & Nakano Ward (Tokyo), but also some unspecified mountains

Time period: Contemporary

Plot summary: Two stories converge into one;  the first centers around a fifteen year old boy, Kafka Tamura, who runs away from home and finds refuge in a library.  The second story centers on an aging mentally challenged man, Nakata, who has the ability to talk to cats, but cannot read.  The two characters are drawn to the same place in Japan for reasons which they do not understand.  While they both seek answers to complex questions about themselves, another character who goes by the name of Johnnie Walker, seeks something not entirely of this world. Continue reading

Who Fears Death

By Nnedi Okorafor

Place: Publisher & Year: New York: Daw Books, Inc., 2010

Genres: Fantasy, dark fantasy, science fiction, magical realism

ISBN: 9780756406172

Audience: Adult

Number of pages: 387

Setting: Jwahir & Seven Rivers Kingdom, Africa

Time period: An unspecified time in the future

Plot summary: In a post-apocalyptic Africa, Onyesonwu is born to an Okeke mother.  As a child of rape with a biological father who is Nuru, Onyesonwu is considered an Ewu.  As such, she is despised and mistreated by most people whom she encounters.  As the Nuru continue their warfare and genocide against the Okeke, Onyesonwu struggles to learn about her own special abilities, while teaching others that she is not evil.  She is, in fact, the one who will lead both Nuru and Okeke to peace and healing. Continue reading

Six Kinds of Sky: A Collection of Short Fiction

By Luis Alberto Urrea

Place: Publisher & Year: El Paso: Cinco Puntos Press, 2002

Genres: Short stories, general fiction, magical realism

ISBN: 9780938317630

Intended audience: Adult

Number of pages: 146 (includes an afterword)

Settings: Range from Rosario to the outskirts of the city dump in Tijuana, Mexico and various locations in the US, including the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Time period: 1970’scontemporary

Description: This collection includes six stories which are followed by an afterword: “Mr. Medoza’s Paintbrush”, “Taped to the Sky”,  “First Light”, “A Day in the Life”, “Father Returns from the Mountain”, “Bid Farewell to Her Many Horses”, and “Amazing Grace: Story And Writer”.  In the author’s words – “the book is some kind of downward spiral.  It starts out all full of jokes and ends in fire and poverty and death.  It reflects an early fascination with escape, then deals with returning, then staying put and dealing with it, whatever it is” (p. 145).  While this is an accurate description of the collection, it’s not a depressing spiral, but rather an uplifting one.  In the non-joking stories, Urrea’s characters find grace and beauty in their situations. Continue reading

The Hummingbird’s Daughter

By Luis Alberto Urrea

Place: Publisher & Year: New York: Little, Brown, and Company, c2005, 2006

Genres: Historical fiction, magical realism

Series: Not a series, but the author is currently working on a sequel to this book.

ISBN: 9780316154529

Intended audience: Adult

Number of pages: 499

Setting: Ocoroni, Sinaloa & Cabora (near Alamos), Sonora, Mexico

Time period: 1873 – 1892

Plot summary: When Teresita Urrea was born, Huila – the curandera of The People – knew that Teresita would become a powerful person one day.  Born into extreme poverty as the daughter of a Mayo native and rich Mexican landowner, Teresita endures many hardships until Huila becomes responsible for her and begins teaching her the practice of healing.  Teresita grows up on her father’s ranch as a wild child – riding horses and hanging out with the vaqueros – until she becomes an acknowledged member of the family as a teenager.  After dying and returning to life, her healing practices and her life takes a radical shift as she becomes known as the “Saint of Cabora”. Continue reading