Our Lady of the Artichokes and Other Portuguese-American Stories

Overview


The stories in this prize-winning collection evoke a complete world, one so richly imagined and finely realized that the stories themselves are not so much read as experienced. The world of these stories is Portuguese-American, redolent of incense and spices, resonant with ritual and prayer, immersed in the California culture of freeway and commerce. Packed with lyrical prose and vivid detail, acclaimed writer Katherine Vaz conjures a captivating blend of Old World heritage and New World culture to explore the ...
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Overview


The stories in this prize-winning collection evoke a complete world, one so richly imagined and finely realized that the stories themselves are not so much read as experienced. The world of these stories is Portuguese-American, redolent of incense and spices, resonant with ritual and prayer, immersed in the California culture of freeway and commerce. Packed with lyrical prose and vivid detail, acclaimed writer Katherine Vaz conjures a captivating blend of Old World heritage and New World culture to explore the links between families, friends, strangers, and their world.
 
From the threat of a serial killer as the background for a young girl’s first brush with death to the fallout of a modern-day visitation from the Virgin Mary; from an AIDS-stricken squatter refusing to vacate an empty Lisbon home to a mother’s yearlong struggle with the death of her synesthetic daughter, these deft stories make their world ours.
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Editorial Reviews

SFGate.com

"This slim, sophisticated story collection demonstrates Vaz's many enviable skills. Several stories rely on a unifying theme, such as dealing with fear or coping with loss. But instead of being structured on an arc of conflict, climax and resolution, these cerebral pieces demand that readers assemble the pictures for themselves."—SFGate.com
Harvard Review
"One comes away from these stories believing that it is possible to bargain with, sacrifice to, confront, divert, and even overcome adversity. In this wonderful collection, Vaz gives us characters who delight in the marvelous, which lurks, often undetected, just beneath the surface of our ordinary lives."

— Joyce Wilson, Harvard Review

Robert Olen Butler
"In Katherine Vaz's new volume of short fiction, she demonstrates brilliantly that rare quality of truly fine writing-a deeply profound knowingness about the human condition. Our Lady of the Artichokes and Other Portuguese-American Stories will even more widely prove what is already clear to many: Katherine Vaz is a master of the short story."

-Robert Olen Butler, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain

Allegra Goodman
"Katherine Vaz is an old-fashioned storyteller in the best sense. Her work is sensual, rich in detail and layered history. Her stories overflow with incident and feeling. Other writers present fruit plates. Vaz serves cornucopias."

-Allegra Goodman, author of Intuition and Kaaterskill Falls

Julie Glass
"Katherine Vaz captures brilliantly the tragicomedy of people caught between ancient superstitions and modern values, people longing to cross over from one culture to another, from loneliness to love, from folly to grace. Her stories glow with a fairy-tale magic, yet they also feel uniquely and delightfully new."

-Julia Glass, author of Three Junes and The Whole World Over

Pleiades
"Vaz writes with quiet ease and skill-and her explorations of lives absent of grace are subtle and worth reading."

— B. J. Hollars, Pleiades

Harvard Review - Joyce Wilson

"One comes away from these stories believing that it is possible to bargain with, sacrifice to, confront, divert, and even overcome adversity. In this wonderful collection, Vaz gives us characters who delight in the marvelous, which lurks, often undetected, just beneath the surface of our ordinary lives."—Joyce Wilson, Harvard Review
Pleiades - B. J. Hollars

"Vaz writes with quiet ease and skill—and her explorations of lives absent of grace are subtle and worth reading."—B. J. Hollars, Pleiades
Robert Olen Butler

“In Katherine Vaz’s new volume of short fiction, she demonstrates brilliantly that rare quality of truly fine writing—a deeply profound knowingness about the human condition. Our Lady of the Artichokes and Other Portuguese-American Stories will even more widely prove what is already clear to many: Katherine Vaz is a master of the short story.”—Robert Olen Butler, author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning A Good Scent from a Strange Mountain
Allegra Goodman

“Katherine Vaz is an old-fashioned storyteller in the best sense. Her work is sensual, rich in detail and layered history. Her stories overflow with incident and feeling. Other writers present fruit plates. Vaz serves cornucopias.”—Allegra Goodman, author of Intuition and Kaaterskill Falls

SFGate.com
"This slim, sophisticated story collection demonstrates Vaz''s many enviable skills. Several stories rely on a unifying theme, such as dealing with fear or coping with loss. But instead of being structured on an arc of conflict, climax and resolution, these cerebral pieces demand that readers assemble the pictures for themselves."
Publishers Weekly

Vaz's collection of beautifully written short stories are steeped in tragedy and religious mysticism. In the title story, Isabel Serpa and her aunt Connie need a miracle to combat their landlord's rent increase; the solution might be a virgin sighting among the artichokes in the yard, but 17-year-old Isabel is skeptical of her aunt's plan: "all prayers were requests for immediate action, and no one was willing to sit inside any mystery." In another, a mother's 17 years of grief become a compulsive, ever-expanding art exhibit in the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art: "I take up half a wall with space reserved for many years more... it's impossible for me to stop." Another finds a gambler using ill-gotten funds to purchase his daughter a spectacular cape for the Portuguese Holy Ghost Festival, hoping to attract a Hollywood talent scout but also to relieve her of the all-consuming grief she holds for her deceased grandfather. Vaz is a soulful writer who understands her protagonists' complex lives, as well as the way religious beliefs can assert themselves most powerfully after leaving native soil. (Oct.)

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Kirkus Reviews

Offbeat immigrant stories centered around the Portuguese community in the San Francisco area.

This collection from Vaz (Fado & Other Stories, 1997, etc.) revolves largely around generational differences and cultural assimilation. In the title story, a financially strapped woman fabricates a story about seeing the Virgin Mary in her artichoke grove, much to the chagrin of her niece, who is struggling to fit in at her California school. The aunt is correct—people do flock to their house to see the spiritual miracle, but it doesn't provide the windfall that she had hoped for. Meanwhile, in "All Riptides Roar with Sand from Opposing Shores," a schoolgirl begins writing to a Portuguese religious icon seeking advice, and despite the fact that she never receives a response, improbably keeps up the correspondence for more than 40 years, chronicling her life in the United States. The heroine in "Taking a Stitch in a Dead Man's Arm" distracts herself from her father's grave illness by silently helping a star athlete finish his homework every day on the bus. In "The Mandarin Question," a young woman confronts her issues with men after a very unusual childhood—she was raised by her aunt after her father shot her mother on the day she was born. And in "Lisbon Story," a father dispatches his daughter to his hometown of Lisbon as he lies dying of cancer in America, ostensibly to quickly sell off a piece of property, but actually to distract her and keep her pulled into a world that once was his own.

Quirky plot points save this quiet collection from feeling clichéd, though it's neither quite fantastical nor believable enough to fully satisfy.

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Product Details

Meet the Author


Katherine Vaz is a Briggs-Copeland Fellow in fiction at Harvard University. She is the author of Saudade, a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers selection; Mariana, available in six languages and selected by the Library of Congress as one of the Top 30 International Books of 1998; and Fado & Other Stories, winner of the 1997 Drue Heinz Literature Prize.
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Table of Contents

Taking a Stitch in a Dead Man's Arm 1

All Riptides Roar with Sand from Opposing Shores 15

Our Lady of the Artichokes 35

My Bones Here Are Waiting for Yours 53

The Man Who Was Made of Netting 67

The Knife Longs for the Ruby 87

The Mandarin Question 105

Lisbon Story 115

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