A young woman crosses a cultural divide in search of her past.
In her debut memoir, Fajardo (The Dish on Food and Farming in Colonial America, 2017, etc.) recounts her emotional journey, at age 21, to find the father she had not seen since she was a young child. Born in Colombia, the author grew up in Minnesota; her American mother told her that her father, Renzo, loved his native country so much that he did not want to leave. The truth, Fajardo learned, was much more complicated, as were her feelings for the stranger with gray-flecked black hair and mustache, smelling of cigarette smoke and soap, who greeted her, accompanied by his young wife, when she landed in Colombia. Their reunion was awkward despite each being able to speak the other’s language. Fajardo wanted not only to know Renzo, but to understand why her mother could not live with him—in short, “the complicated truth of these two people who brought me into the world, the events that had aligned to create the life I was living.” She discovered more than her parents’ apparent incompatibility. Her father was “overly emotional and fiercely closed off,” she writes, “and my mother reacts to everyone’s mood, switching back and forth between bliss and despair.” Her mother felt alienated and isolated in Colombia, and Renzo felt the same when they returned to Minneapolis. Those differences proved unbridgeable, but there were other problems, as well, including her father’s infidelity and, for the author, a shocking revelation. Fajardo strains to make connections between the events of her life and Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude. When it was published in the 1960s, she writes, “magical realism was part of the landscape, not a literary genre.” However, this story, marked by disillusion, yearning, sadness, and one happy coincidence, does not draw upon or evoke magical realism; nor does Fajardo need García Márquez to justify or bolster her memoir.
A forthright and sensitive tale of a daughter’s quest.