Since 1987, March has been designated Women’s History Month in the United States. The celebration has roots in the socialist and labor movements, starting with February 28, 1909 – a year after garment workers strikes took place in New York – which marked the first Women’s Day. By the 1970s, feminist activists lobbied for a week-long celebration, in part because history books overlooked the contributions of women. But it wasn’t until 1987 that March became Women’s History Month, thanks to the Women’s National History Project.
As we continue to celebrate the holiday, Latinas – much like other women of color – continue being disregarded. That’s why there’s no better way to celebrate the month than by reading about women who have changed their worlds, created art, and lived intensely. Below are seven memoirs, book of essays, and poetry books that tell the stories of incredible Latinas in their own words.
Sonia Sotomayor's My Beloved World
You may know Sotomayor as the first Latina on the United States Supreme court, but My Beloved World shows you a Sonia growing up Boricua in the Bronx. Sotomayor writes about her tough relationship with her parents, and early health problems: a diabetes diagnosis at a young age that makes her work all the harder. There’s also a delight in seeing her push her way through other challenges: She responds to hard classes by taking harder ones, she gets over heartbreak by learning to salsa, designing her own course of study at Princeton to catch up to more privileged classmates. Sotomayor offers readers a vulnerable self-portrait of a woman she describes as “ordinary,” but is really anything but.
Diane Guerrero's In the Country We Love
When Diane Guerrero’s In the Country We Love was published in early 2016, it predated the threats to the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program, Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) ramping up its activities, and the injustices of deportation being on the news daily. Guerrero’s memoir shows more deeply and personally the scars that deportation leaves on families – the story centers around her parents deportation when she was only 14, and the struggles that ensued. You may also be able to watch this memoir soon; Guerrero, best known for her work in Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin,was recently cast as the lead in a project based on her book.
Gloria Anzaldua's Borderlands
A staple of both women and gender studies and Latino studies departments, Gloria Anzaldúa’s Borderlands illuminates the slippery, multifaceted nature of life amid la frontera. Told in a mix of poetry and memoir, Borderlands covers femininity, language, queerness, religion, and the ways these have all slipped their usual boundaries in both Anzaldúa’s life and the borderlands.
Esmeralda Santiago's Almost A Woman
A followup to Santiago’s When I Was Puerto Rican, this book covers her teen years, from attending the Performing Arts High School (of Fame fame) in Manhattan to navigating around her mother’s prohibitions on dating. Almost a Woman deals with growing pains, and the confusion inherent in defining yourself after changing countries and cultures. Above and through it all, though, it’s a funny, real story of teen girlhood and life between cultures.
Wendy C. Ortiz's Hollywood Notebook
Hollywood Notebook is as much a memoir as it is a love letter to a city. Pieced together from fragments of Wendy Ortiz’s notebooks from her time trying to make it as a writer in Los Angeles, this memoir speaks perfectly to those years when life starts shaping itself. We get to watch partners and lifelong friends come into Ortiz’s life, we see her leave her job for full-time writing, and ultimately go back and forth about whether that writing (her memoir Excavation, about her relationship with one of her high school teachers) should see the light of day. Fragmentary and beautiful, Hollywood Notebook is a lovely journey in a single place.
Rita Moreno's A Memoir
Rita Moreno is an EGOT (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony winner), the unquestionable GOAT, and this book goes a long way to showing why. From her childhood in Puerto Rico to her star-making turns in Singin’ in the Rain and West Side Story, Moreno’s memoir addresses her struggles in a #HollywoodSoWhite it continually typecast her, and her journey to finding her own voice as a performer. The audiobook is especially a treat; Moreno performs the hell out of it, and it sounds like she’s gossiping to you through your headphones.
Valeria Luiselli's Sidewalks
Valeria Luiselli is one of the best writers out of Mexico right now, and Sidewalks is a perfect example of why. Written in her early twenties, it is also an exploration of geography and the self. The book takes us around the world with Luiselli, taking a bike ride through Mexico City with her, navigating Venice while sick, noticing the relingos, the empty spaces in the city grid. While the book doesn’t always stay close to the details of Luiselli’s life, it does give us a different gift: the ability to see the city through her eyes.