Laura Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate  (1993)
 
Debra Castillo, in the Preface to her collection Talking Back, suggests that "recipe sharing has a sinister as well a celebratory side. The recipe serves as an index of female creative power, it also describes a giving of the self to appease another's hunger, leaving the cook weakened, starving. To have access to speech . . . she must feed others, often from her most intimate self" (xiv).  Does this description fit Esquivel's novel?  In what ways?

Like Mama Day, Like Water for Chocolate is a novel where generational gaps is an issue. What are the issues between generations? Are there cultural issues?  This novel is usually discussed in terms of magic realism.  Why would it be applied to this novel?  What effect does the magical element have on the reader?  How is the sense of realism created?  How does the magic realism shown here differ from what we saw in Mama Day? How is it similar? Are the issues confronted through magic realism the same? Is the effect upon the narrative the same?
 
According to Esquivel, "Each of us has a history, either personal or national, locked inside us, and the key to unlocking that history is food. In the same way that someone explains to someone how to make a dish, one could narrate a love story." Do you find the incorporation of recipes an effective narrative devise? How do the recipes relate to the chapters they precede? What is the association between food and memory?
 
 In Magical Realism: Theory, History, Community Lois Parkinson Zamora and Wendy B. Faris put forth the thesis that "realism intends its vision of the world as a singular version, as an objective (hence universal) representation of natural and social realities . . . [while magic realism's] program is not centralizing, but eccentric: it creates space for interactions, for diversity." How might this idea apply to Esquirel's novel? What kind of diversity might Esquirel be including?
 
In a later chapter of Magical Realism it is argued that "magic realism, in contrast to the realism upon which it builds, may encode the strengths communities even more than the struggles of individuals. Societies, rather than personalities, tend to rise and fall in magic realist fiction." Looking at Esquirel's novel, would you agree?

For a working bibliography (a partial list of books and articles about the novel) click here.



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