Fierce

Seven Revolutionary Books By Latinas To Make You Feel More Powerful AF This Women’s History Month

Books have the power to transport us anywhere in the world and words have the strength to inspire us when we’re feeling not so uplifted. Some books even fill us with so much empowerment that we receive a surge of reassurance that remind us just how poderosas we really are. We’re referencing those works of art written by revolutionary Latina authors, like the ones listed below. These seven books will encourage you, touch you, help heal you, and even transform you:

1. This Bridge Called My Back: Writings By Radical Women of Color by edited by Cherri Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua

Photo Credit: Good Reads / Published by Suny Press 2015

Cherrie Moraga and Gloria Anzaldua are both Chicana scholars, poets, writers, and activists, but this book compiles writings from Asian, Indigenous, Black, and more women of color. It includes chapters like “Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to Third World Women Writers,” to “Brownness,” to “Revolution: It’s Not Neat or Pretty, or Quick,” and “Refugees of a World on Fire,” and many more. As Professor Chela Sandoval reviews “This book is a manifesto―the 1981 declaration of a new politics ‘US Third World Feminism,” it truly is. This Bridge includes stories, essays, speeches, and poetry relatable to the experiences of all women of color. This book provides empowerment and healing through multicultural storytelling in order to bring new theories and frameworks for radical social and political transformation specific to women of color.

2. Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel

Photo Credit: Penguin Random House / Published by Vintage Español 1989

This story is not your average romance novel. This is a romantic novela with a delicious twist. Like Water for Chocolate (or Como Agua Para Chocolate if you choose to read it in Spanish), is a novel that utilizes a literary style called “magical realism.” Magical realism takes the ordinary, everyday life things like cooking, love, relationships, and expresses them through magical elements. In Like Water for Chocolate, Laura Esquivel tells Tita and Pedro’s love story through the magic of Tita’s cooking all taking place during Mexico’s Revolution. The book even includes all the recipes that Tita makes. You’ll get a romance and cookbook mixed into one. This book is a fan-favorite among the FIERCE audience.

3. Massacre of the Dreamers: Essays on Xicanisma by Ana Castillo

Photo credit: Good Reads / Published by Plume 1995

This work holds a bold collection of essays by award-winning poet, playwright, scholar, and writer Ana Castillo. She specializes her work in Chicana theoretical framework and how to apply that in revolutionary ways for Latina and Indigenous women. Castillo spells Xicana with an “X” to pay homage to our indigenous ancestors. In Massacre of the Dreamers, she writes, “Xicanisma is an ever-present consciousness of our interdependence specifically rooted in our culture and history. Although Xicanisma is a way to understand ourselves in the world, it may also help others who are not necessarily of Mexican background and/or women. It is yielding; never resistant to change, one based on wholeness, not dualisms.” This book seeks to “end women’s oppressions by unleashing their power of self-knowledge and self-worth.” I feel more powerful already.

4. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

Photo Credit: Barnes and Noble / Published by Plaza y Janés, Barcelona 1982

This book was the novel that catapulted Isabel Allende (a journalist and writer) to stardom after being published in 1982. Since then, it has been translated to over 35 languages. Allende started this book when she discovered her 100-year-old grandfather was dying. This book, which started out as a letter to thank him for everything he ever taught her, 500 pages later turned into a novel which was also heavily influenced by Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s 100 Years of Solitude. The House of Spirits tells the Trueba family’s story in the aftermath of social upheaval in Chile including literary styles of magical realism, reflection, and ancestral healing. The story is said to mirror some of Allende’s personal story and experiences after fleeing Chile.

5. Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldua

Photo Credit: Women Museum of California / Published by Aunt Lute Books 1987, 4th ed. 2007

Chicana scholar, poet, and writer Gloria Anzaldua is one of the leading Chicana revolutionaries. Borderlands/La Frontera is a collection of essays and stories which help the reader cope, heal, and understand the complexities of the “ni de aquí ni de allá” mindset. In the introduction, Anzaldua writes that it is dedicated to those “on both sides of the border” as she explores the cultural lives we live. It is so revolutionary that it was actually banned in January 2012 in Arizona’s Tuscon Unified School System in order to ban Mexican-American and other Latinx studies in public schools (Introduction, pg. 3). Books like these hold our stories, our past, our present, and our future.

Photo Credit: Good Reads / Published by Vintage 1992

We all may know Sandra Cisneros’s beautiful and legendary The House on Mango Street, but this work was also quite popular and even won the 2018 PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature. Cisneros focuses these short stories on growing up in an Americanized environment while still being tied to her immigrant Mexican family. Through her stories, she addresses tales of machismo, self-discovery for daughters of immigrants, social healing, and the cliched stereotypes of women.

7. In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alzarez

Photo Credit: Thrift Books / Published by Plume 1995

Julia Alvarez left the Dominican Republic in the 1960s. This novel reflects much of her story, was selected for National Endowment for the Arts for its national Big Read program, while she was also awarded the National Medal of Arts by President Obama. In the Time of the Butterflies is told through the perspective of four sisters “las mariposas” under the dictatorship of Leónidas Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. This book will take you through stories of love, heartbreak, survival, horrors of war, healing, and a very revolutionary transformation.

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