Anna-Marie McLemore Talks Magical Realism and Intersecting Identities
Anna-Marie McLemore says she grew up “with magical realism in my blood.”
She’s a Mexican-American writer who was raised as part of a big family in Southern California, and her childhood has deeply affected the things she writes, manifesting in her works as a deep love for landscape and the importance of family.
This is definitely seen in her latest novel WILD BEAUTY, releasing October 3, a lyrical, atmospheric tale that is rich with descriptions of flowers and nature and held together by a thread of familial love. It’s a moving, entrancing tale about love, history and righting wrongs, and an addition to the tradition of magical realism. Magical realism is an art form expressed through literature by a realistic view of the world with an addition of magical elements, which originated in Latin America.
“I grew up with magical realism in my blood,” McLemore said. “I may not have known the term until my early twenties, but that sense of the extraordinary, and how it interacts with communities, has always been with me.”
Notable authors of magical realism include Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabel Allende, among many others who have added their voice to a rich tradition of a literary form that, according to Britannica.com, is a natural outcome of much of Latin America’s postcolonial necessity of reconciling two experiences, that of the conqueror and that of the conquered. The form reconciles the two experiences of the natural and the supernatural world, and is as captivating through its writing as through its stories.
McLemore said that “the tradition of magical realism…has been a light to so many readers, including me.”
She added that stories, in general, are “in our blood as human beings,” saying that even if she knew the world were to end next year, she would continue to write and tell them. “I think we all would,” she said.
The specific stories McLemore writes are ones she describes as “queer, Latinx, fairy tales.” They’re important to her because they encapsulate several of her identities: as a queer Latina woman who sees the world through an extraordinary, faith-filled lens.
Faith, in fact, is something that is very important to her. Her Twitter bio states that she’s a Christian, and she touched on the struggle she’s had to hold on to her faith.
“Holding onto my faith as a queer Latina woman has been one of the hardest things I’ve ever done,” McLemore said. “But it’s also one of the most important to me. Faith is so deeply part of my identity as a Mexican-American woman, but sometimes faith communities, including Latinx ones, aren’t welcoming to queer identity. So holding onto my faith without feeling like I was pulling myself apart has taken years. It’s something I’m still working on, but finding faith communities that are inclusive and welcoming has been a big part of it.”
The stories she tells include all facets of her identity: faith, queerness, and Latin-American culture. She explained that she doesn’t write to communicate a specific message; more so, she writes to translate and show reality.
“That reality definitely includes faith, and the intersection of faith and queer community.”
She credited other queer friends of various faiths with helping to remind her that they all belong in their communities.
“Often the world will give you the message that Christians shouldn’t be queer, or queers shouldn’t be Christians,” she said. “But finding queer writer friends of all faiths has been a tremendous blessing. We remind each other that we have a place in our faith communities.”
Finally, McLemore expressed hope that the world was becoming more welcoming of stories by and about marginalized people.
“As a queer Latina, sometimes I worry that there's no place for stories that include both these identities,” she said. “But I think that’s changing. Progress toward inclusive bookshelves may be gradual, but it’s happening.”