Latinx writers to read this month (and every month!)
From September 15 to October 15, we celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month, which honors the history and cultures of Latinx people (those of Latin American origin or descent). To engage with and learn from the diverse perspectives of Latinx people, we turn to writers and creators.
YW Boston asked our staff to recommend some of their favorite Latinx writers. We compiled their suggestions into a list, including fiction writers, sociologists, poets, journalists, and a graphic novelist. Find an item or two from our list below to read in celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month (and a few more to read any time this year!)
The King Is Always Above the People: Stories by Daniel Alarcón
Migration. Betrayal. Family secrets. Doomed love. Uncertain futures. In Daniel Alarcon’s hands, these are transformed into deeply human stories with high stakes. In -The Thousands, – people are on the move and forging new paths; hope and heartbreak abound. A man deals with the fallout of his blind relatives’ mysterious deaths and his father’s mental breakdown and incarceration in -The Bridge.- A gang member discovers a way to forgiveness and redemption through the haze of violence and trauma in -The Ballad of Rocky Rontal.- And in the tour de force novella, -The Auroras-, a man severs himself from his old life and seeks to make a new one in a new city, only to find himself seduced and controlled by a powerful woman. Richly drawn, full of unforgettable characters, The King is Always Above the People reveals experiences both unsettling and unknown, and yet eerily familiar in this new world.
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
“A classic. . . . This little book has made a great space for itself on the shelf of American literature.” – Julia Alvarez. This classic, coming-of-age novel was first published in 1984 and has been beloved by readers of all ages. Told in a series of vignettes – sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous – it is the story of a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become. Sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous, this novel depicts a new American landscape through its multiple characters.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Seven-year-old Chula and her older sister Cassandra enjoy carefree lives thanks to their gated community in Bogotá, but the threat of kidnappings, car bombs, and assassinations hover just outside the neighborhood walls, where the godlike drug lord Pablo Escobar continues to elude authorities and capture the attention of the nation. When their mother hires Petrona, a live-in-maid from the city’s guerrilla-occupied slum, Chula makes it her mission to understand Petrona’s mysterious ways. But Petrona’s unusual behavior belies more than shyness. She is a young woman crumbling under the burden of providing for her family as the rip tide of first love pulls her in the opposite direction. As both girls’ families scramble to maintain stability amidst the rapidly escalating conflict, Petrona and Chula find themselves entangled in a web of secrecy that will force them both to choose between sacrifice and betrayal. In lush prose, Rojas Contreras has written a powerful testament to the impossible choices women are often forced to make in the face of violence and the unexpected connections that can blossom out of desperation.
American Like Me: Reflections on Life Between Cultures by America Ferrera
America Ferrera has always felt wholly American, and yet, her identity is inextricably linked to her parents’ homeland and Honduran culture. Speaking Spanish at home, having Saturday-morning-salsa-dance-parties in the kitchen, and eating tamales alongside apple pie at Christmas never seemed at odds with her American identity. Still, she yearned to see that identity reflected in the larger American narrative. In American Like Me, America invites thirty-one of her friends, peers, and heroes to share their stories about life between cultures. Each of them struggled to establish a sense of self, find belonging, and feel seen. And they call themselves American enthusiastically, reluctantly, or not at all. Ranging from the heartfelt to the hilarious, their stories shine a light on a quintessentially American experience and will appeal to anyone with a complicated relationship to family, culture, and growing up.
Lives in Limbo: Undocumented and Coming of Age in America by Roberto G. Gonzales
Over two million of the nation’s eleven million undocumented immigrants have lived in the United States since childhood. Due to a broken immigration system, they grow up to uncertain futures. In Lives in Limbo, Roberto G. Gonzales introduces us to two groups: the college-goers, like Ricardo, who had good grades and a strong network of community support that propelled him to college and DREAM Act organizing but still landed in a factory job a few short years after graduation, and the early-exiters, like Gabriel, who failed to make meaningful connections in high school and started navigating dead-end jobs, immigration checkpoints, and a world narrowly circumscribed by legal limitations. This vivid ethnography explores why highly educated undocumented youth share similar work and life outcomes with their less-educated peers, despite the fact that higher education is touted as the path to integration and success in America.
Diary of a Reluctant Dreamer: Undocumented Vignettes from a Pre-American Life by Alberto Ledesma
Diary of a Reluctant Dreamer is a graphic memoir made up of cartoons and essays which all consider the same question — at what point can someone who has been a long-time undocumented immigrant living in the United States be considered an American in the making? Exploring Ledesma’s experiences from immigrant to student to academic, it presents a humorous, gritty, and multilayered portrait of undocumented immigrant life in urban America. Delving into the key moments of cultural transition throughout his childhood and adulthood — police at the back door waiting to deport his family, the ex-girlfriend who threatens to call INS and report him, and the interactions with law enforcement even after he is no longer undocumented—Ledesma, through his art and his words, provides a glimpse into the psychological and philosophical concerns of undocumented immigrant youth who struggle to pinpoint their identity and community.
peluda by Melissa Lozada-Oliva
One of the most original performance poets of her generation, Melissa Lozada-Oliva has captivated crowds across the country and online with her vivid narratives. Humorous and biting, personal and communal, self-deprecating and unapologetically self-loving, peluda (meaning “hairy” or “hairy beast”) is the poet at her best. The book explores the relationship between femininity and body hair as well as the intersections of family, class, the immigrant experience, Latina identity, and much more, all through Lozada-Oliva’s unique lens and striking voice. peluda is a powerful testimony on body image and the triumph over taboo.
Punished by Victor M. Rios
A former gang member and juvenile delinquent, Victor Rios managed to escape the bleak outcome of many of his friends and earned a PhD at Berkeley. He returned to his hometown to study how inner city young Latino and African American boys develop their sense of self in the midst of crime and intense policing. Rios followed a group of forty delinquent Black and Latino boys for three years. These boys found themselves in a vicious cycle, caught in a spiral of punishment and incarceration as they were harassed, profiled, watched, and disciplined at young ages, even before they had committed any crimes. But beyond a fatalistic account of these marginalized young men, Rios finds that the very system that criminalizes them and limits their opportunities, sparks resistance and a raised consciousness that motivates some to transform their lives and become productive citizens. Ultimately, he argues that by understanding the lives of the young men who are criminalized and pipelined through the criminal justice system, we can begin to develop empathetic solutions which support these young men in their development and to eliminate the culture of punishment that has become an overbearing part of their everyday lives.
Juliet Takes A Breath by Gabby Rivera
Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan, sort of, one that’s going to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing. She’s interning with the author of her favorite book: Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff. Will Juliet be able to figure out her life over the course of one magical summer? Is that even possible? Or is she running away from all the problems that seem too big to handle? With more questions than answers, Juliet takes on Portland, Harlowe, and most importantly, herself.
Todas PR‘s motto is “periodismo solidario,” or “solidarity journalism,” which drives them to denounce injustice and create relationships with organizers. Found at www.todaspr.com, it is an online, feminist, millennial publication where writers, collaborators, and journalists cover topics of gender, race, class, colonialism, and inequities in Puerto Rico. They seek to strengthen ties with Latin American feminist journalism, inform people about their rights, question attacks on these rights, and give visibility to projects that seek equity in our society. This Spanish-language publication (which Google easily translates into English) is a community for Latinx feminists and those who support their activism.
Find picks on YW Boston’s other recommended reading lists:
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, from our 2019 Recommended Reading List
Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking. She pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself. So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out. But she still can’t stop thinking about performing her poems. Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.
Her Body and Other Stories by Carmen Maria-Machado, from our 2018 Recommended Reading List
In Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado blithely demolishes the arbitrary borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. While her work has earned her comparisons to Karen Russell and Kelly Link, she has a voice that is all her own. In this electric and provocative debut, Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.
More Happy Than Not by Adam Silvera, from our 2018 Recommended Reading List
Sixteen-year-old Aaron Soto is struggling to find happiness after a family tragedy leaves him reeling. He’s slowly remembering what happiness might feel like this summer with the support of his girlfriend Genevieve, but it’s his new best friend, Thomas, who really gets Aaron to open up about his past and confront his future. As Thomas and Aaron get closer, Aaron discovers things about himself that threaten to shatter his newfound contentment. A revolutionary memory-alteration procedure, courtesy of the Leteo Institute, might be the way to straighten himself out. But what if it means forgetting who he truly is?
My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayer, from our 2018 Recommended Reading List
The first Latinx and third woman appointed to the US Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor has become an instant American icon. Now, with a candor and intimacy never undertaken by a sitting Justice, she recounts her life from a Bronx housing project to the federal bench, a journey that offers an inspiring testament to her own extraordinary determination and the power of believing in oneself. She speaks with warmth and candor about her invaluable mentors, a failed marriage, and the modern version of extended family she has created from cherished friends and their children. Through her still-astonished eyes, America’s infinite possibilities are envisioned anew in this warm and honest book, destined to become a classic of self-invention and self-discovery.
Visit your local library or an independent Boston-area bookstore when looking for these books.
Don’t miss our list “14 Black Women Writers to Read Year-Round”.
About YW Boston
As the first YWCA in the nation, YW Boston has been at the forefront of advancing equity for over 150 years. Through our DE&I services—InclusionBoston and LeadBoston—as well as our advocacy work and youth programming, we help individuals and organizations change policies, practices, attitudes, and behaviors with a goal of creating more inclusive environments where women, people of color, and especially women of color can succeed.