15 Books to Read this Latinx Heritage Month and Beyond
Latinx Heritage Month looks a little different this year. With the COVID-19 pandemic, most celebrations honoring the diverse cultures and histories of Latin America and the Spanish Caribbean have been canceled or repurposed for a virtual audience. But there is one activity everyone can still enjoy: delving into a powerful book written by Latinx authors.
From glamorously solving mysteries with Silvia Moreno-Garcia, to falling in love amid upheaval with Gabriel García Márquez, to coming of age while grieving in a bicultural world with Erika L. Sánchez, these timeless reads and new releases will inspire you with every flip of a page and make you feel seen in the world of literature.
This Latinx Heritage Month, celebrate your cultura by entering the colorful literary world of Latine writers. Here are some of our fave fiction and nonfiction works to check out:
1. Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
Mexican Gothic is the glamorous mid-twentieth century Mexican mystery you never knew you needed to read. After receiving a frantic letter from her newly married cousin, the dazzling debutante Noemí Taboada becomes an unlikely rescuer in this gripping thriller that explores the legacy of British mining in 1950s Mexico.
2. The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
With stories of undocumented individuals in the U.S. often reduced to nameless laborers or DREAMers, Karla Cornejo Villavicencio journeyed across the country exploring the lives of people who migrated to the U.S. and live undocumented. At the time a DACA recipient, Villavicencio, who was one of the first non-citizen students to graduate from Harvard University, shares the love, heartbreak and magic that exists in the day-to-day lives of undocumented people of various ages, cultures, races and regions throughout the country. This is definitely a read that will pull at the heartstrings.
3. Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin
In our increasingly connected world, Argentine author Samanta Schweblin presents Little Eyes, a harrowing tale of Kentukis, the scarily realistic “little eyes” of webcams, robots and ghosts that peer into the living rooms and lives of people living an ocean away. The brilliant novel uncovers both the beauty and terrifyingly ugly side of a linked world. This is a perfect read as we transition into spooky season.
4. We Are Not from Here by Jenny Torres Sanchez
In We Are Not from Here, Jenny Torres Sanchez vividly tells the story and plight of young migrants headed toward the U.S. southern border. In her novel, Guatemalan teen friends Pulga, Chico and Pequeña escape a threatening environment, as well as their loving families and homes, to trek to Mexico and follow the dangerous route of La Bestia to the U.S. The poignant text follows the boys on an aching journey, filled with hazards, resilience, heartbreak and hope, that is soul-searing and particularly pertinent.
5. Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
The National Book Award finalist Sabrina & Corina shares the diverse stories of Latinas of Indigenous descent living in Denver, Colorado, through a collection of powerful stories. Kali Fajardo-Anstine highlights the beautiful relationships — with friends, between mothers and daughters, and with lands — that help the magnetic characters navigate their lives while also delving into pressing topics of gender violence, incarceration, gentrification and more.
6. Finding Latinx by Paola Ramos
In Finding Latinx, journalist and author Paola Ramos embarks on a cross-country journey to uncover how young Latinos are redefining their identities and pushing boundaries. According to Ramos, the first step toward change is recognizing who we are, and through her dynamic reporting, she examines the way Latinos — a diverse group of people of various races, origins, languages, statuses, genders, religions, classes, abilities and sexual orientations — are creating solidarity through the controversial term “Latinx.”
7. A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende
World-renowned writer Isabel Allende is back with A Long Petal of the Sea, a novel following two young people in the 1930s that flee the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War. An epic story of love, war, exile and belonging, this beautiful work of historical nonfiction takes readers to another time and place. Anyone familiar with Allende’s work can attest to how she captivates her readers from beginning to end and this book is not the exception.
8. The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante
Alexandra Villasante’s The Grief Keeper is a timely YA novel about a 17-year-old Salvadoran girl, Marisol, who must flee her country in order to save her sister’s life. Confronting the U.S.’ shoddy immigration system, where she’ll likely have her asylum request denied despite the threat on their lives, Marisol takes part in an experimental study as a grief keeper that’ll allow her and her sister to stay in the country. The experiment will force Marisol to take the grief of others into her own body in order to save lives, but when she falls in love, Marisol will have to face her own sorrows. Readers have attested that they could not put this book down and that they shed both sad and happy tears — so get those tissues ready!
9. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
In Erika L. Sánchez’s beloved I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, the author shares the story of a Mexican-American teen’s struggle to live up to the expectations of her parents while grieving the death of her nearly faultless sister, Olga. As Julia attempts to hold her family together amid tragedy, including the idea of putting her own dreams to move away for college on hold, she learns that her sister’s life wasn’t as squeaky-clean as most had believed. It’s a relatable coming-of-age story for first-generation Latinas grappling with living the life they want for themselves or the one their parents imagined for them. Even if you’re not a young adult, this will take you back to your teenage years as you navigated how to tell your mom you had a boyfriend and that you wanted to go away for college.
10. Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
In Gabby Rivera’s captivating YA debut Juliet Takes a Breath, she tells the story of Juliet Milagros Palante, a closest Puerto Rican baby dyke from the Bronx, New York, who spends a summer in Portaland, Oregon, interning with her favorite feminist writer. The beautifully written novel explores race, identity, the limits of white feminism and coming out.
11. Efrain’s Secret by Sofia Quintero
In Efrain’s Secret, Sofia Quintero tells the story of Efrain Rodriguez, a low-income Latino teen in the South Bronx who dreams of going to an Ivy League. Without a savings account to pay for a prestigious university, he takes on a double life as an honor student-slash-drug dealer. The stunning YA, which magnifies the financial barriers that exist for boys of color in the ‘hood with big dreams, explores how a teen’s attempt at a better life could end up creating more ruin for him and his family.
12. Sanctuary by Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher
In the scarily realistic dystopian YA novel Sanctuary, Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher transport readers to the near-future, where, in 2032, all citizens are chipped and tracked, making life nearly impossible for undocumented communities to survive. In a small town in Vermont, however, 16-year-old Vali and her undocumented family have been able to lead a stable life. But when Vali’s mother’s counterfeit chip begins malfunctioning, the family is forced to flee deportation agents.
13. Cantoras by Carolina de Robertis
Winner of a Stonewall Book Award, Cantoras, written by Carolina De Robertis, is a gripping read about a group of women who create a refuge after the brutal military government in Uruguay, which makes homosexuality a dangerous transgression, takes power in the 1970s. The brilliant novel touches on themes of queerness, community and perseverance through characters you’ll undoubtedly fall in love with.
14. Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Inspired by the author Ingrid Rojas Contreras’ own life, Fruit of the Drunken Tree shares the story of an Escobar-era Colombian childhood. A child’s experience of war, a mother’s decision in the face of violence and a thrilling mystery to solve, the novel is powerful, sensitive and gorgeously written.
15. The Shape of the Ruins by Juan Gabriel Vasquez
After a man is arrested for attempting to steal a murdered Colombian politician’s suit from a museum, secrets quickly start to unravel. The reader is taken through twists and turns, conspiracy theories and revelations, that all lead to an understanding of how a country’s violent history shapes our lives today. The Shape of the Ruins, by Juan Gabriel Vasquez, is truly a captivating tale.
Love these titles? Make sure you check out #LeerNosUne Live: A Virtual Author Panel Celebrating Latinx Heritage Month, taking place on 10/9 at 5pm PDT/8pm EDT. The event will feature authors Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Dan-el Padilla Peralta, Paola Ramos, Vincent Toro, and Gabriella Burnham, and is being hosted in partnership with Latinx-owned bookstore Duende District. Click here to find out more about the event.
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