Entertainment

In Honor Of Book Lovers Day, Here Are 9 Latino Authored Books To Represent Different Groups Of La Raza

Summer is a great time to read and unwind. There’s nothing like snuggling up on the couch with a light blanket and disappearing into another world full of great twists, turns, sorrows and celebrations. Here are 11 books written by Latinos that we think you should put on your reading list, just in time to celebrate #BookLoversDay.

1. “How the García Girls Lost Their Accents” by Julia Alvarez

CREDIT: Algonquin Books / Amazon

How the García Girls Lost Their Accents” follows a family from the Dominican Republic as they flee after their father’s association with a group trying to overthrow the dictator government is discovered. The family lands in New York City and the four sisters, Carla, Sandra, Yolanda and Sofia, have to figure out how to adjust to living in a different culture while retaining their Dominican heritage. The adjustment proves tricky for the girls who slowly become increasingly Americanized over time. This book emotionally shows the struggle many young immigrants and first-generation children deal with: balancing your family’s culture with your new culture.

2. “The Show House” by Dan Lopez.

CREDIT: The Unnamed Press / Amazon

Dan Lopez paints a vivid picture of central Florida in his novel “The Show House.” In the book, two families are quickly heading to a disastrous ending in this psychological thriller. A Puerto Rican pharmacist, Laila, is trying to figure out her handsome, young, gay half-brother who is in the throes of some serious teenage angst and runs away from home. At the same time, a serial killer targeting gay men in Orlando is on the loose, leading to more panic than worry. As Laila tries to find her half-brother, another family is trying to fix a broken relationship between a father and son, Steven. Though Steven is married to Peter and the two have a child, something seems off. It isn’t long until all the characters in the book have a fateful meeting.

3. “The Alchemist” by Paulo Coelho.

CREDIT: HarperCollins / Amazon

“The Alchemist” is an absolute classic and no Latino reading list is complete without it. Santiago is a young Andalusian shepherd who is following his destiny, as told to him by a gypsy. During his journey, he learns many valuable lessons that all point to the same conclusion – the importance of following your heart and desires.

4. “Waiting for Snow in Havana” by Carlos Eire.

CREDIT: Pocket Books / Amazon

Author Carlos Eire writes an autobiographical account of being a part of Pedro Pan, a mass exodus of Cuban children to the U.S. from December 1960 to October 1962. Pedro Pan is seen as one of the largest migrations of unaccompanied minors in the Western Hemisphere, with 14,000 Cuban children landing in Miami before being united with relatives or placed in homes across the U.S. Parents sent their children to the U.S. to prevent indoctrination by the rising Cuban government. It is a part of Cuban history that is rarely talked about but one that is important to understand. “Waiting for Snow in Havana” is definitely worth a read if you are into history.

5. “The House of the Spirits” by Isabel Allende.

CREDIT: Washington Square Press / Amazon

The House of the Spirits” by Isabel Allende is a story of familial discovery through journals. Clara del Valle was a young girl when her sister was suddenly died of poisoning, leading her to a nine-year period of silence with the outside world. Clara, a clairvoyant, turns to documenting her life in a journal. Fifty years after the book begins, her husband and granddaughter use her journals to try and figure out their families history. There are moments of unease as the secrets of the family are laid bear in the search for identity.

6. “My Beloved World” by Sonia Sotomayor.

CREDIT: Vintage Books / Amazon

Sonia Sotomayor made history as the first Latino ever appointed to the Supreme Court and the third woman to do so. In “My Beloved World,” Sotomayor writes about being the child of Puerto Rican immigrants and how she made her way from a girl in the Bronx that grew up in a housing project with an alcoholic father, to graduating from Yale Law School and becoming a federal district attorney in New York. Basically, this book is a great source of inspiration for anyone who is trying to better their circumstances.

7. “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Diaz.

CREDIT: Riverhead Press / Amazon

Junot Díaz draws the reader into a scary and beautiful story of a young man in New Jersey who is looking for love and acceptance in “The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao.” After two failed suicide attempts, the main character, Oscar, moves to the Dominican Republic to get away from New Jersey, but things don’t go right. Oscar, who was afraid of dying a virgin, falls in love with a sex worker who has a policeman boyfriend. The policeman sends some men to scare Oscar, and they end up beating him into a coma. This is when Oscar gets sent back to New York where his family helps him recover before he moves back to the Dominican Republic in pursuit of the sex worker.

8. “Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa” by Rigoberto González.

CREDIT: The University of Wisconsin / Amazon

Butterfly Boy: Memories of a Chicano Mariposa” is a coming-out story that deals with the complexities and societal shortcomings of the Latino community when it comes to homosexuality. The book is a personal look at the authors’ life, who had to figure out how to come out of the closet as the first-generation child of Mexican farmworkers. The book examines the themes of machismo, being valued within the Latino culture and the struggle first-generation children have when they are in a country whose culture is different from their parents’.

9. “Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina” by Raquel Cepeda.

CREDIT: Atria Books / Amazon

This memoir by Raquel Cepeda is a different glimpse into the complicated world of looking for acceptance from family who doesn’t understand you. “Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina” chronicles Cepeda’s life, starting from when she lived in the Dominican Republic, and touches on how she lost her Latina identity. It was her father and European stepmother who tried to make sure she didn’t express her Dominican heritage.


READ: Get On It: 13 Books By Latino Authors You Should Have Read By Now

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A Photographer Is Capturing New Mexico’s Chicanx Community Through Portraits

Culture

A Photographer Is Capturing New Mexico’s Chicanx Community Through Portraits

Courtesy of Frank Blazquez

Photographer Frank Blazquez is paying a loving homage to Chicanx culture in the Land of Enchantment. The photographer is showing the world what it looks like to be Chicanx in New Mexico to highlight the diversity in a shared experience.

Frank Blazquez wants to show the world what Chicanx culture looks like outside of California.

“I am an Illinois transplant, so I was fascinated, and eventually obsessed, with the differences in my ethnicity’s iconography,” Blazquez says about the inspiration behind his project “Barrios de Nuevo Mexico: Southwest Stories of Vindication.” “For example, in New Mexico, as opposed to the Midwest and East Coast, there is a strong connection to American geography. You’ll see Latinx people with New Mexico state symbols tattooed directly on their faces and skulls. But refreshing similarities such as hairstyle also struck me.”

The other reason Blazquez started to document these lives was because of the devastating and widespread impact of drug addiction.

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Sleepy with his Daughter

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Blazquez admits to once having a drug problem and eventually overcoming those struggles. Some of the people that he photographs are former drug users or others who have sought redemption.

“I started in 2016 just walking around Albuquerque’s Central Avenue in the War Zone earning my street photography badge. When I almost died a couple of times, I started to use my Instagram page more often to set up shoots and contact homies from my former days of opiate abuse,” Blazquez explains. “My friend Emilio created the random handle @and_frank13 and I kept it after he died in 2017 from drug complications; an event that made me work harder to present portraits of New Mexicans demonstrating faces of dignity, hence my project ‘Barrios de Nuevo Mexico: Southwest Stories of Vindication.'”

Photography was a passion for Blazquez that grew into something bigger than him as he learned.

Blazquez’s interest in photography and love of his culture combined to create a photo series celebrating the people in his life. Blazquez turned his lens to the people in his life to capture a beauty he saw in his own community that is often overlooked and ignored.

Blazquez is hoping to show people that Chicanx culture has spread farther than California because of an exodus.

“Homies escaping the three strikes law in California created an exodus in the ’90s that transferred new symbols from organizations, namely 18th Street, Sureños, and Norteños,” Blazquez explains about the Chicanx community in New Mexico. “As New Mexico is an expanse of serene beauty that attracts people to escape from former lives, in turn, symbols were exchanged such as black and gray tattoo and font styles with purist craft structure adhering to Southwest archetypes—fat ass cursive and serif fonts with ornate filigree stems.”

He acknowledges that California is known for its Chicanx and Latinx communities but there is so much more to teach people.

“LA fingers do not represent the millions of brown people outside of California and it certainly does not represent native-born New Mexicans,” Blazquez explains. “I learned the Latinx experience is entirely different in various locations—the California stereotype doesn’t carry itself across America. It’s enlightening to know that brown culture grows and adapts independently.”

The photographer also wants to teach people that the Latino community is vast and diverse.

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Homemade New Mexican Tattoos // #dukecity

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“That the Latin-spectrum in America is not pigeonholed to any sole category,” Blazquez says. “Knowing that the labels Mexican, Mexican-American, Chicanx (a/o), Latinx (a/o), Hispanic, Mexica (not Hispanic nor Latino), Indo-Latino, Afro-Latinx (a/o) are just several of the hundreds of labels available to classify my culture’s diaspora is important.”

“Duke City Diaries” is a mini-series on YouTube that Blazquez has produced to take you deeper into the lives of the people in his photos.

“I knew the profound faces from my 2010’s New Mexico experience would make great art and explain an important POC narrative at the same time,” Blazquez says. “Creating the short YouTube documentary series “Duke City Diaries” was also an offshoot from my portraiture and one that created distinct reception. The hateful and racist comments kept me moving forward to show a larger audience that racism still exists.”

Blazquez is currently working on a new photo series called Mexican Suburbs diving deeper into his themes of Chicanx culture and the opioid crisis.

READ: Photographer Diego Huerta Took An Update Photo Of The Most Beautiful Girl In Mexico

Latino Bookstore In North Carolina Faces Very Uncertain Future Just 6 Months After Opening

Things That Matter

Latino Bookstore In North Carolina Faces Very Uncertain Future Just 6 Months After Opening

epiloguebooksch / Instagram

Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews is a relatively new bookstore in Chapel Hill, North Carolina that is facing a very uncertain future. The Latino-owned bookstore opened its doors to the Chapel Hill community six months ago and now COVID-19 is putting their future at risk.

Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews is a Latino-owned bookstore in North Carolina that is fighting to survive COVID-19.

Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews came from a need that the owners saw in downtown Chapel Hill. A bookshop had recently closed in the area so Jamie and Miranda Sanchez knew that it was time for them to help fill that sudden loss.

“We felt like there was a big hole in downtown,” Jaime told The Daily Tar Heel. “A bookshop creates this whole sense of community for the town so we decided to go forward and try to open our own bookstore.”

The bookstore was serving a community that needed a place to gather and discuss ideas after a former bookstore closed its doors.

“The core of our idea began years ago as the union of Jaime’s heritage and Miranda’s passion for writing and the transportive nature of reading. Wanderers and wonderers, our idea continued to grow in the plazuelas of Mexico and the chocolaterías of Spain, in the plazas of every country where such spaces form quasi-families for both the briefest of moments and the longest stretches of time,” reads the bookstore’s website. “In these spaces, people share everything from decadent chocolate to fried street food, to myth-like tales, to the memories of our own childhood selves chasing pigeons and sucking the sticky droplets from paletas off our hands.”

While the bookstore was well received by the community, the COVID-19 pandemic had other plans.

COVID-19 has swept through the U.S. and the number of cases continues to climb. While New York might be seeing fewer cases, the rest of the U.S. is in an uptick. The virus has forced businesses across the country to close or retool to be online only. That is what Epilogue Books Chocolate Brews did to make sure they can weather the storm.

The owners of the bookstore realized they needed to retool their business strategy when students stopped coming back from Spring Break.

“We started adjusting our plans in early March to accommodate for the new lack of traffic,” Jaime told NBC News. “Students weren’t coming back from spring break, so we had originally thought the locals would come out like they did during winter break to take advantage of the lack of downtown traffic, but that obviously didn’t happen because of coronavirus, so we started getting ready to adjust and pivot online for when we’d no longer be able to sustain brick and mortar operations.”

The Sanchezes are keeping their literary dream alive through the pandemic.

“Jaime’s always wanted to open a business and bring a piece of home to it,” Miranda, who is originally from Tijuana, told NBC News. “We felt that continuing that tradition of having a bookstore in the area would be a good mesh, not just of who we are as people but how we want to engage with our community. A community that works to sustain an independent bookshop has certain values.”

Independent bookstores are one of the hardest-hit businesses since readings and events in the spaces have been canceled.

Bookshop started to help struggling independent bookstores weather the storm. COVID-19 has left millions of people without jobs and businesses are having to close permanently because of the virus. Bookshop is giving independent bookstores a chance to survive the closures and social distancing.

Bookstores serve a vital role in communities. They give people a place to gather and share ideas. The easy access to literature can change the lives of children in underprivileged communities but allowing them to see themselves reflected in new lights. They also serve as a place to explore the world around you by flipping open a book cover.

If you have time on your hands and enjoy reading, check out Bookshop and build up that 2020 reading list.

READ: Celebrities Are Reading Children’s Books To Help Parents And Children Cope With COVID-19