Tag Archives: magical realism

Brad Roth, South American writer?

The Roth family in Peru

I was intrigued by the wonderful book I reviewed yesterday, Rumi and the Savage Mountain by Bradley Roth. Its protagonist is a boy who lives in a village in the Andes mountains, and it’s very convincingly told. In addition, it has plenty of what looks like magical realism to me, a genre invented by South American writers.  So how did such a book come to be written by a gringo with a name like Bradley Roth? So I asked him some questions:

1. Have you heard of magical realism? If so do you consider this book to be in this genre?

Yes, I have heard of magical realism.  Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende come to mind.  My experience with Marquez or Allende is that their magical realism uses the absurd to pique our moral imagination.  My writing is set in the mythical Andes, drawing from authentic Andean myths and legends, though modified a bit to fit in a few things, like the faith of Tayta Siwar or the story about Junior’s dad.  It’s a different way of looking at the world, but it’s not intentionally absurd as I see magical realism being.

2. Do you envision adults reading your book as well as kids?

Yes, but I’ve tried to gear my story toward the 8-12 set.

3. How were you able to get into the head of someone who lives such a different life from that of the average American?

Great question.  We recently returned from a year of missionary service with Eastern Mennonite Missions in the Cuzco, Peru.  We were based in the city, but as part of our work we travelled out to extremely rural villages.  We got a taste of what life was like in the mountains.  During our time in Cuzco, we also studied Quechua.  A few Quechua words pop up in the story.  And I’m interested in Andean culture, folk beliefs, and history.

If you’re interested, you can read more about our journey in Peru at www.Facebook.com/rothsinperu

I would also add that the voice of the characters is intentionally a bit anachronistic.  Rumi, Kiya, and Junior talk a little like kids in 21st century US.

4. Does Rumi live in Peru?

It could be Peru, or any place in the Andes.  It’s my imagining of life shortly after the Inca Empire was overthrown by the Spaniards–except that creatures out of myth are alive and well and walking about.  And there’s a bit of alternative history woven into the background: the Lamb was born into the Andes, and the faith centered in his life and way is embodied by the Taytas.

5. What literature do you like to read?

I like fantasy and sci-fi that takes questions of faith seriously. There’s scant little of it.  I read Narnia when I was a kid.  Ursula LeGuinn’s Earthsea series and Mary Doria Russell’s Sparrow and Children of God books strike me.  I would like to find compelling fantasy that takes Christian  nonviolence seriously.  I’m working on that.

Not So Grimm by Becky Haigler, a review

Not So Grimm: Gentle Fables and Cautionary Tales by Becky Haigler
Published 2009 by Laughing Cactus Press (Silver Boomer Books), 132 pages
Genre: Magical realism tales

This collection of 12 tales by poet Becky Haigler is unexpected, refreshing, and fun to read. It’s in the style of magical realism, pioneered by 20th century South American writers, in which the story world is our real world, but it becomes apparent that something is weirdly different. That weird difference is totally taken in stride by the characters in the story. So fun! It’s also in the style of the fairy tale, with a lot of “telling” and little dialogue. I think it would make a good read-aloud.

The first story is “Mr. Merrill’s Extraordinary Driving Cap.” Mr. Merrill finds a hat in his store. It’s a nice leather hat, and he likes it, so he takes to wearing it. While wearing it he discovers that he … (I’m not going to tell you what!)

Next is “Chronological Order,” in which Carolina, a mall store manager, leaves her work in a blizzard and feels a soft bump on her bumper while pulling out of a slide. “She didn’t want to think about the dark figure she might have seen as she pulled away from the bank kiosk.”  The time? Elevenish.  She goes home. Her clocks start acting funny…

“Flight of the Wickerplane” is about a man whose neighbor tinkers with a half-size model biplane. To humor the neighbor, the man agrees to go for a ride in the biplane. And …

The characters in these stories are well developed, and the stories are well written. I highly recommend them for all ages!

A controversial book!

The Christian Science Fiction/Fantasy Blog Tour bloggers had enormously varied reactions to Athol Dickson’s 2009 book Lost Mission. Many, like me, loved it. Others couldn’t get into it. Yet others disapproved of it. What a wild tour!

Here’s a little roundup of some of what they said:

Amanda Barr “Lupe was such an inspiring character. Her faith, optimism and thankfulness were convicting.”

Keanan Brand “Faith without works is dead, but works do not make faith. We show our faith by our works. Many of the works done by the characters spring from reliance on themselves rather than faith in God. Sounds like us, doesn’t it?” He also finds this book to be like a mirror.
Keanan Brand again
Use of omniscient narrator works well.
Valerie Comer Found a podcast interview of the author and discussed it.

Timothy Hicks Full of contrasts and parallels
Timothy Hicks again “As I mentioned in yesterday’s blog, many of the characters started out with good intentions. When they took their eyes off God they lost their life’s focus or mission.” Hence the name Lost Mission.

Cris Jesse Objects to a woman, Lupe, as a preacher teaching men. Switching time and location too confusing. Foreign names too confusing. Doesn’t like the book.
Jason Joyner Found “a rich tale to chew on for a while.”

Krystine Kercher “Each of these four characters does things that we as readers may disapprove of. Each of them also does things that are right. But in the end, the real story is not about them; it’s about The Story; HIS story…
Dawn King Couldn’t finish the book–didn’t see any sci fi or fantasy in it, found it dragged.

Rebecca LuElla Miller Themes of obedience, how Christians handle wealth
Becky Miller again
This book produced controversy!
John W. Otte Interested in idea that America needs evangelizing

More from John Otte In each of these cases, each person lost sight of what God really wanted. They trusted in themselves and their own abilities and ultimately, they wound up seeking after their own will.
Donita K. Paul What is “magical realism”? Turns out some Latin American writers made it up. She quotes a definition for us, and tells us she seems to be writing a magical realism novel too.
Chawna Schroeder “Yet there does seem to be an underlying, unifying thought, captured by the title—lost missions. At its core, the novel seems to focus on people who feel called or driven to a specific purpose and somewhere along that way loses sight of that purpose. The reasons are as diverse as the characters themselves, as are the results and their responses to such lost mission, but this only gives more for the reader to ponder.”
James Somers “It wasn’t my cup of tea.”
Steve Trower It “isn’t science fiction. Or fantasy. At least, not in the strictest, where-to-look-in-Waterstones sense.”

Phyllis Wheeler A review
Phyllis Wheeler again An author interview