For the last month, 19-year-old Sabrina Rodriguez has meticulously arranged pink, yellow, and violet flowers in the shape of a crown. But her Frida Kahlo-inspired flower crown isn’t for wearing; instead, it adorns the many books she features online. The Puerto Rican/Cuban/Italian college student from Queens is on a mission to create a database of Latino and Latin American authors on her newly created Instagram account, LatinxReads. With the nearly 20 books she’s already shared, Rodriguez has shown that she’s dedicated to highlighting a wide range of authors spanning different genres. Her goal is to create as comprehensive a list as possible, so that the next time you want to read something from a Latino or Latin American author, all you have to do is turn to her Instagram.

For the Baruch College student, LatinxReads stemmed from her own desire to embrace her Latinidad. “I think after I took my very first Latino studies class that was when I kind of realized how disconnected I felt from my heritage,” she told me in a phone interview. “I was one of those kids that didn’t grow up speaking Spanish. I wasn’t ever really immersed in my Latino culture. Anyone can take a Latino studies class, anyone can take a dancing class, a salsa dancing class or learn how to speak Spanish even. In order to really understand la cultura, you have to put yourself in other people’s shoes. And I’ve always gravitated toward reading and toward books.”

So this year, she challenged herself to read more works from Latin American and Latino authors, but she felt Google didn’t help her get closer to her goal. “I kind of felt stupid Googling ‘books about Latinos,’ ‘books about Puerto Ricans,'” she said. Plus, she found that many of the articles that popped up from her searches had a limited scope – reserved mostly for classics from a small number of Latin American countries. Cien años de soledad and The House on Mango Street are clearly important works, but they may not represent every reader. She wants every Latino to feel the way she did the first time she read Esmeralda Santiago’s When I Was Puerto Rican.

“One of the very first books I read [when I started this] was When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago, and that’s a memoir about her kind of growing up in Puerto Rico… There were so many moments that were verbatim stories that my father has told me, from when he was living in Puerto Rico. She ends up moving to Bushwick, and that’s where [my dad] moved too when he first came here. It was a really a personal book to me. It’s really close to my heart,” she said. “And I think that those stories are super important. But that’s kind of like not all that [there is to] being Latino. There are so many other aspects and facets of being Latino and just kind of seeing little hints of what it means to be Nicaraguan, what it means to be from different countries.”

Even with the name of the Instagram account, she strives to create a welcoming environment. The word Latinx first arose a few years ago from the desire to find a non-binary, gender inclusive word to refer to our community. Today, it’s common to see the term in media headlines (including some of our own), academic texts, and activist literature. But the word hasn’t arrived on the scene without its fair share of controversy and resistance. A quick Google search will show you articles making cases for or against the term – and in the comment section of Remezcla posts, we frequently see the term hotly debated.

But for Sabrina, there was no question about using the word Latinx. “It’s about what that X means,” she said. “It’s just having people look at the word and be like ‘Yes, that’s me. I’m included in that, too.'”

As she enters her second month of posting on LatinxReads, Sabrina has lined up a roster of female authors to celebrate Women’s History Month. Here’s a glimpse at the female authors she’s already featured:

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'Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass' by Meg Medina

"Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass" – Meg Medina Latino Characters in the US ✨ ✨ {One morning before school, some girl tells Piddy Sanchez that Yaqui Delgado hates her and wants to kick her ass. Piddy doesn’t even know who Yaqui is, never mind what she’s done to piss her off. Word is that Yaqui thinks Piddy is stuck-up, shakes her stuff when she walks, and isn’t Latin enough with her white skin, good grades, and no accent. And Yaqui isn’t kidding around, so Piddy better watch her back. At first Piddy is more concerned with trying to find out more about the father she’s never met and how to balance honors courses with her weekend job at the neighborhood hair salon. But as the harassment escalates, avoiding Yaqui and her gang starts to take over Piddy’s life. Is there any way for Piddy to survive without closing herself off or running away? In an all-too-realistic novel, Meg Medina portrays a sympathetic heroine who is forced to decide who she really is.} ✨ ✨ This is a relatively new release that's sparked a lot of great attention! Who's read it?? ✨ ✨ #latinx #latinos #latina #bookstagram #latinxscreate #booklover #tbr #fridakahlo #bibliophile #lit #diverseathon #flor #comolaflor #bookishfeatures #bookstagramfeature #weneeddiversebooks

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'When Reason Breaks' by Cindy L. Rodriguez

"When Reason Breaks" – Cindy L. Rodriguez Latino Characters ✨ ✨ {A Goth girl with an attitude problem, Elizabeth Davis must learn to control her anger before it destroys her. Emily Delgado appears to be a smart, sweet girl, with a normal life, but as depression clutches at her, she struggles to feel normal. Both girls are in Ms. Diaz's English class, where they connect to the words of Emily Dickinson. Both are hovering on the edge of an emotional precipice. One of them will attempt suicide. And with Dickinson's poetry as their guide, both girls must conquer their personal demons to ever be happy.} ✨ ✨ #latinx #latinos #latina #bookstagram #latinxscreate #booklover #tbr #fridakahlo #bibliophile #lit #diverseathon #flor #comolaflor #bookishfeatures #bookstagramfeature #weneeddiversebooks

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'The Education of Margot Sanchez' by Lilliam Rivera

"The Education of Margot Sanchez" – Lilliam Rivera Latino Characters in NYC ✨ ✨ {Things/People Margot Hates: Mami, for destroying her social life Papi, for allowing Junior to become a Neanderthal Junior, for becoming a Neanderthal The supermarket Everyone else After “borrowing” her father’s credit card to finance a more stylish wardrobe, Margot Sanchez suddenly finds herself grounded. And by grounded, she means working as an indentured servant in her family’s struggling grocery store to pay off her debts. With each order of deli meat she slices, Margot can feel her carefully cultivated prep school reputation slipping through her fingers, and she’s willing to do anything to get out of this punishment. Lie, cheat, and maybe even steal… Margot’s invitation to the ultimate beach party is within reach and she has no intention of letting her family’s drama or Moises—the admittedly good looking but outspoken boy from the neighborhood—keep her from her goal.} ✨ ✨ My first read for the month of March! What's on everyone's tbr this month? ✨ ✨ #latinx #latinos #latina #bookstagram #latinxscreate #booklover #tbr #fridakahlo #bibliophile #lit #diverseathon #flor #comolaflor #bookishfeatures #bookstagramfeature #weneeddiversebooks #nyc #thebronx #southbronx

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'The House on Mango Street' by Sandra Cisneros

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'Labyrinth Lost' by Zoraida Cordova

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'The Book of Unknown Americans' by Christina Henriquez

"The Book of Unknown Americans" – Christina Henriquez Panamanian Characters Mexican Characters Variety of Latino Characters ✨ ✨ { A boy and a girl who fall in love. Two families whose hopes collide with destiny. An extraordinary novel that offers a resonant new definition of what it means to be American. Arturo and Alma Rivera have lived their whole lives in Mexico. One day, their beautiful fifteen-year-old daughter, Maribel, sustains a terrible injury, one that casts doubt on whether she’ll ever be the same. And so, leaving all they have behind, the Riveras come to America with a single dream: that in this country of great opportunity and resources, Maribel can get better. When Mayor Toro, whose family is from Panama, sees Maribel in a Dollar Tree store, it is love at first sight. It’s also the beginning of a friendship between the Rivera and Toro families, whose web of guilt and love and responsibility is at this novel’s core. Woven into their stories are the testimonials of men and women who have come to the United States from all over Latin America. Their journeys and their voices will inspire you, surprise you, and break your heart.} ✨ ✨ #latinx #latinos #latina #bookstagram #latinxscreate #booklover #tbr #fridakahlo #bibliophile #lit #diverseathon #flor #comolaflor #bookishfeatures #bookstagramfeature #weneeddiversebooks #panama #mexico

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