Margin: Exploring Modern Magical Realism

t h e   a z o r e s

Photo by Grey Crawford      Cover art: Fado & Other Stories, by Katherine Vaz; Jacket art by Lisl Dennis, Jacket Design by Rick Hendel--copyrighted material   Cover art: Saudade, by Katherine Vaz; Jacket design and illustration by José Conde, Jacket art direction by Charles Rue Woods, Book design by Sara Stemen--copyrighted material


"It is precisely Katherine Vaz's capacity to fill apparently normal surroundings with monsters,
prophets and moonlight; it is her unabashed mysteriousness and mysticism which make
Fado & Other Stories exciting as the best of literature and as exhilerating as a journey
into an unguessed-at and astonishing country." ~ Thomas Keneally

"An intermittently explosive, persistent lyricism buoys up these stories of family, sex, flowers,
money, history, loss and identity that take place in the Portuguese communities of the mainland
United States, Hawaii, Azores, and Madeira."
~ April Bernard, screening judge for the Drue Heinz Literature Prize, 1997

"Saudade is a rich celebration of language, of the senses, of the emotions. Every page
brims with invention and vitality. Clara, the visionary heroine, journeys through a fully realized,
intensely felt, and yet magical world of longing and eros, of solitude and union, of loss and redemption,
of darkness and light. Katherine Vaz has made a memorable debut." ~ Gwyneth Cravens

Fado & Other Stories won the 1997 Drue Heinz Literature Prize and was favorably reviewed by The New York Times, The Washington Post, the Boston Globe, The Times Literary Supplement of London, and many other publications.

Vaz's first novel, Saudade (St. Martin's Press), was a Discover Great New Writers selection for Barnes & Noble when it was first published in 1994. Selections of it are included in the Hispanic Division of the Library of Congress, the first to be done by a Luso-American, and this work resides alongside recordings by Gabriel García Márquez, Pablo Neruda, Gabriela Mistral, Octavio Paz, and others. Saudade received critical acclaim as the first contemporary novel about Portuguese-Americans from a major New York publisher. The Portuguese edition of Saudade (ASA, 1999) made the bestseller's list within weeks of publication. Film rights were optioned by Marlee Matlin and Solo One Productions.

Vaz's second novel, Mariana, has appeared in six languages -- English, Spanish, Portuguese, German, Italian, Greek -- with distribution in over 100 countries. Rizzoli Press (Italy) selected it as one of the three top titles of 1997, and the Portuguese edition continues as a bestseller, in its fourth edition; the German edition is in a second edition. Film rights were optioned by Anne Harrison, former director of development for Martin Scorsese.

Click here to read this short excerpt from SAUDADE (8 pages)

Or, click on any of the following selections from Fado & Other Stories ~
~ (17 pages, in two parts)

Author's note: "Though it is true that the Portuguese brought the braguinha to Hawaii and it became known as the ukulele, and the members of the Hawaiian royal family who are mentioned did exist and the related historical events and legends occurred, the Portuguese characters in 'The Remains of Princess Kaiulani's Garden' are fictional, as is the story itself. Readers may consult any comprehensive book about Hawaiian music for the historical facts concerning the various Portuguese immigrants first linked to playing or constructing the ukulele and regarding the various audiences with King Kalakaua, but any similarities between them and my characters are coincidental."

"THE JOURNEY OF THE EYEBALL" ~ (11 pages, in two parts)

THREE SHORT EXCERPTS: (Click here for all three, titles listed below) ~ (4 pages total)


A B O U T    K A T H E R I N E    V A Z
KATHERINE VAZ has worked as an Associate Professor of English at the University of California-Davis. Her short fiction has appeared in over a dozen literary quarterlies, including Triquarterly, Gettysburg Review, The American Voice, Nimrod, Other Voices and Kalliope. She writes nonfiction pieces occasionally for the Boston Globe, and her chapter on baptism will appear in Signatures of Grace (Dutton, Spring, 2000), a collection which also includes works by Mary Gordon, Andre Dubus, Paul Mariani and Patricia Hampl.

Vaz is a member of Authors Guild, PEN/America, the Luso-American Education Foundation and PALCUS (Portuguese American Leadership Council of the U.S.).

In boiling down a single definition for magical realism, Katherine Vaz likes to start with "Carpentier's notion of marvelous reality -- fiction's search for the extraordinary within the ordinary world to create a vision that elevates everything out of the mundane."

Vaz's stories show much insight into this design. For example, in the story, "The Remains of Princess Kaiulani's Garden," the daughter of a laundress spends much of the story trying to assert her position in the world. What could be more ordinary in the life of any dreaming young girl assigned to tasks of menial labor? Consider her hands. Too large and awkward for playing the beautiful ukulele her father strums for the king, they scrub, starch and iron blessings into the garments she washes. But you'll find this isn't the real secret to the story, or the limit to its magic.

"This literary tradition seems particularly willing to elicit the invisible within the visible world," Vaz says of magical realism, "to view them as a single entity."

We couldn't agree more. The everyday details inside her stories sketch the vibrant outlines of voluptuous, aching miracles at which nobody looks twice.

bar graphic

margin home | contents | links | reading list | marginalia | contributors | staff | guidelines | kudos | subscriptions | contact us

Want to know about UPDATES and NEW ADDITIONS to MARGIN?
Try our - S P A M L E S S - opt-in subscription
It's absolutely free!

Layout, design & revisions ©1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 Tamara Kaye Sellman, Webmaster
Active home URL:
(also: html)


TERMS OF USE: This site contains copyrighted materials, including but not limited to text and graphics. You may not use, copy, publish, upload, download, post to a bulletin board, include in any weblog or otherwise transmit, distribute or modify any elements of this site in any way, except that you may download one copy of such contents on any single computer for your own personal, non-commercial use, provided you do not alter or remove any copyright, author attribution or other proprietary notices.

Rev'd 2003/03/27