Meet Vanessa Angélica Villarreal, Author of Magical/Realism

Calling all fans of Game of Thrones, video games and cultural criticism! On Tuesday, August 6, at 6:30 PM, author Vanessa Angélica Villarreal joins us at the Millbrae Library for a discussion of her new essay collection, Magical/Realism: Essays on Music, Memory, Fantasy and Borders

All San Mateo County Libraries locations will have free giveaway copies of Magical/Realism available on a first-come, first-served basis. In addition, the first 30 event attendees will receive a free copy of Magical/Realism for Vanessa to sign in-person!


Processing Personal and Inherited Memories Through Pop Culture

"The last place I expected to confront the pain of the end of my marriage was in video games." — Vanessa Angélica Villarreal for The Cut

Magical/Realism is a wise, tender and incisive essay collection that carves a path toward a new way of remembering and telling our stories.

In one essay, Villarreal examines her own gender performativity through Nirvana and Selena; in another, she offers a radical but crucial racial reading of Jon Snow in Game of Thrones. Throughout the collection, she explores how fantasy can help us interpret and heal when grief feels insurmountable.

She reflects on the moments of her life that are too painful to remember—her difficult adolescence, her role as the eldest daughter of Mexican immigrants, her divorce—and finds a way to archive her history and map her future(s) with the hope and joy of fantasy and magical thinking.

Villarreal brings her poetic writing to every essay and every layer of cultural criticism, making Magical/Realism perfect for readers with an interest in music and its many intersections, as well as readers with an interest in Latine stories, border stories, coming-of-age stories and explorations of pop culture.

Critics and Readers Love Magical/Realism

Magical/Realism is staggeringly good; it’s been ages since I’ve been this moved, challenged, and devastated by an essay collection. An energetic, paradigm-shifting book.” Carmen Maria Machado, author of In the Dream House

“A stunning, provocative, and essential book that lights up the mind. Villarreal’s ferocious imagination is matched only by a roving intellect and so much heart that these essays will stay with you for a long time after reading. One of my favorite nonfiction collections of the past decade.” Jeff VanderMeer, New York Times bestselling author

"Magical/Realism is the perfect non-fiction work for fiction lovers. Vanessa Angélica Villarreal's essays explore her journey of reconnection with her heritage and ancestors in Mexico while using current popular media, like Game of Thrones, to explore cultural erasure and the damages of migration and colonialism." Screen Rant

“The magic of this collection is the elasticity and brilliance with which Villarreal is able to take critical analysis and connect it to her own experiences. A wondrous book that will change the way you think about fantasy and magic.” Kirkus 

Get to Know Vanessa Angélica Villarreal

Vanessa Angélica Villarreal, opens a new window was born in the Rio Grande Valley to Mexican immigrants. She is the author of the essay collection Magical/Realism: Essays on Music, Memory, Fantasy, and Borders (Tiny Reparations Books, an imprint of Dutton Books and Penguin Random House, 2024) and the poetry collection Beast Meridian (Noemi Press, 2017). She is a recipient of a 2019 Whiting Award, a Kate Tufts Discovery Award nomination, and winner of the John A. Robertson Award for Best First Book of Poetry from the Texas Institute of Letters.

Her work has appeared in the The New York Times, New York Magazine’s The Cut, Harper’s Bazaar, opens a new window, Oxford American, opens a new window, Paris Review, Poetry Magazine and elsewhere. She is a recipient of a 2021 National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship, and holds a doctorate in English Literature and Creative Writing from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles, where she lives with her son and a loyal dog. Find her on X @Vanessid.