20 best genre fiction writers from other countries to expand your horizons

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18. Laura Esquivel

Magical realism is often conflated with Latin American writers, thanks in large part to Gabriel García Márquez. His works, such as One Hundred Years of Solitude and Love in the Time of Cholera are rightfully considered to be masterpieces of magical realism and Latin American literature both.

However, that is not to say that Márquez’s work is perfect. Oftentimes, it is written from a decidedly male perspective. Female characters sometimes come across as paper-thin, more ghostly than they should rightfully be.

That said, the culture of machismo is not always the rule, both in real life and in the world of books. People are complicated, times change, and a woman can have just as much of an artistic drive and literary integrity as a man.

So, if you are interested in more magical realism, but with a more realistic focus on women, check out Laura Esquivel’s novels. Esquivel is best known for her 1989 debut novel, Like Water for Chocolate, though she’s had a more than active career as a writer and politician in her native Mexico.

Like Water for Chocolate

Still, if you’re going to start anywhere, you can’t go too wrong by starting at the beginning. Como agua para chocolate (as the title was originally published in Spanish) follows Tita de la Garza and her relatively well-off ranching family living near the Mexico-U.S. border. As the novel begins, Tita is the rather swoony, but equally hard-working, youngest daughter of the family.

A local boy asks for Tita’s hand in marriage, but her Mama Elena forbids it. As per Garza family tradition, the youngest daughter must remain unmarried. Her older sisters, Rosaura and Gertrudis, can get hitched all they want, but poor lovelorn Tita is seemingly doomed.

Of course, that is not entirely the cause. The boy, Pedro, eventually marries Rosaura, setting off a series of events that are similar to a modern-day telenovela, though described beautifully in Esquivel’s lyrical, haunting writing.