Our Lady of the Artichokes and Other Portuguese-American Stories

Winner of the 2007 Book Prize in Fiction

About the Book

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.


You can read an excerpt from Our Lady of the Artichokes and Other Portuguese-American Stories on the University of Nebraska Press website here.


“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.”—Publishers Weekly

“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

“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

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

“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

“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

Katherine Vaz

About the Author

Katherine Vaz, a Briggs-Copeland Lecturer in creative writing at Harvard University and a 2006-7 Fellow of the Radcliffe Institute, is the author of the critically acclaimed novel Saudade (St. Martin’s Press, 1994), the first contemporary novel about Portuguese-Americans from a major New York publisher. It was selected for the Barnes & Nobles Discover Great New Writers series. Her second novel, Mariana, has been printed in six languages (English, German, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, and Greek) and is a bestseller in Portugal. The U.S. Library of Congress picked it as one of the Top 30 International Books of 1998. Her collection Fado & Other Stories won the 1997 Drue Heinz Literature Prize. Her short fiction has appeared in numerous literary quarterlies, and she does occasional book reviews for The Boston Globe. Her children’s stories have been included in the anthologies A Wolf at the Door (Simon & Schuster, 2000), The Green Man (Viking, 2002), Swan Sister (Simon & Schuster, 2003), and The Faery Reel (Viking, 2004). Vaz is a recipient of a National Endowment for the Arts Fellowship and is the first Portuguese-American to have her work recorded for the Library of Congress, housed in the Hispanic Division alongside recordings made by Pablo Neruda, Octavio Paz, Gabriela Mistral, and Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The Portuguese-American Women’s Association (PAWA) named her 2002 Woman of the Year. She was appointed to the six-person U.S. Presidential Delegation to open the American Pavilion at the World’s Fair/Expo 98 in Lisbon.