12 Books on Immigration, Youth, & Latinx Identity That Will Enrich Your Life

Lead Photo: Courtesy of the Hernandez Bros.
Courtesy of the Hernandez Bros.
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Books by Latinx writers reflect varied identities of class, education, and social mobility, including aesthetic and philosophical concerns. The intersection of geography, cultural experience, and style makes Latinx storytelling a phenomenon. It is important to note cultural contexts; the stories found in Latinx literature are new for many readers. Yet, these stories are only becoming more common. Author Valerie Martinez, in her essay Peopleness—Ethnicity and the Latino/a Poem, remarks on the proliferation of Latinx writing.

Latinx stories add to our ongoing understanding of the human experience. Latinx culture embodies a connection to and from the Caribbean islands, Mexico, Central and South America. We live in a world that would be poorer without these complex identities.

In honor of poetry and literature, here’s a comprehensive list of books (poetry and prose) written by Latinx. The selected books encompass a five-year span beginning with 2013 and including books due for release in 2017 and through 2018. These are collections of poetry and prose, some hybrid and translations.

Hopefully, this reading list will offer you an introduction to understanding the complex and varied writing of the Latinx community.

This story originally appeared on Queen Mob’s Teahouse. Remezcla has lightly edited the piece, and republished it with permission. Check out the rest of the nearly 150 books here. Ruben Quesada will update the list throughout the year. If you’re a writer and want your work featured, reach out to Ruben Quesada here


Yesenia Montilla's 'The Pink Box'

Book Description: “Yesenia Montilla’s poems cross fertilize space and time; linking the wilderness, the city, and an otherworld like a subway ride from uptown to downtown, cross town and back. Along the way, we don’t just switch trains, we switch stations of desire: the Dominican Republic is the blues, Ayiti/Haiti is jazz, hip hop is abuelita. New York City begins on Hispaniola. Is it longing we hear? Or is it the crash of one island against another?  Yes, there is yearning in these poems; for touch, for visibility, for a tongue not forgotten though not spoken, for bachata and merengue. And there is spirit; something unseen, called forth, like Dominican Gaga rooted in the bateyes, the sugar cane fields, of memory. Not only does Yesenia Montilla make a weaving of magic in these remarkable and tender poems, magic is its own holiness here.”  -Alexis De Veaux, author Warrior Poet: A Biography of Audre Lorde & Yabo

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Angela Morales's 'The Girls in My Town'

Book Description: “The autobiographical essays in The Girls in My Town create an unforgettable portrait of a family in Los Angeles. Reaching back to her grandmother’s childhood and navigating through her own girlhood and on to the present, Angela Morales contemplates moments of loss and longing, truth and beauty, motherhood and daughterhood. She writes about her parents’ appliance store and how she escaped from it, the bowling alley that provided refuge, and the strange and beautiful things she sees while riding her bike in the early mornings. She remembers fighting for equal rights for girls as a sixth grader, calling the cops when her parents fought, and listening with her mother to Helen Reddy’s ‘I Am Woman,’ the soundtrack of her parents’ divorce. Poignant, serious, and funny, Morales’s book is both a coming-of-age story and an exploration of how a writer discovers her voice.”

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Frederick Luis Aldama's 'Latinx Comic Book Storytelling'

Book Description: “Prolific prof Frederick Luis Aldama’s latest full-color opus (with over 100 color comic illustrations) captures the next wave in the history of sequential art, with Latinx cartoonist superheroes remaking the space of comics, comix, & graphic narrative, and, simultaneously, changing the pace/face (faster, browner) of art history in the process!”

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Vickie Vértiz's 'Palm Frond with Its Throat Cut'

Book description: “Palm Frond with Its Throat Cut uses both humor and sincerity to capture moments in time with a sense of compassion for the hard choices we must make to survive. Vértiz’s poetry shows how history, oppression, and resistance don’t just refer to big events or movements; they play out in our everyday lives, in the intimate spaces of family, sex, and neighborhood. Vértiz’s poems ask us to see Los Angeles—and all cities like it—as they have always been: an America of code-switching and reinvention, of lyric and fight.”

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Javier Zamora's 'Unaccompanied'

Book Description: “Javier Zamora was nine years old when he traveled unaccompanied 4,000 miles, across multiple borders, from El Salvador to the United States to be reunited with his parents. This dramatic and hope-filled poetry debut humanizes the highly charged and polarizing rhetoric of border-crossing; assesses borderland politics, race, and immigration on a profoundly personal level; and simultaneously remembers and imagines a birth country that’s been left behind.

“Through an unflinching gaze, plainspoken diction, and a combination of Spanish and English, Unaccompanied crosses rugged terrain where families are lost and reunited, coyotes lead migrants astray, and ‘the thin white man let us drink from a hose / while pointing his shotgun.'”

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Verónica Reyes's 'Chopper! Chopper! Poetry from Bordered Lives'

Book Description: “Chopper! Chopper! reflects the lives of Mexican Americans, immigrants, and la jotería–malfloras, jotos, and other rainbow communities–across many generations. As vividly as Mexican Technicolor, these poems capture life in the barrio: vendors hauling carts with elote, raspados, botes y más. Vatos fighting to exist. Summer evenings, children playing in the calles of East L.A., El Paso, Toronto, of bordered tierras everywhere. Reyes’s work exudes the pride, strength, turmoil and struggle of neighborhoods brimming with tradition and invention. These homegrown verses reveal the barrio in all its intricate layers. Reveling in difference, they fight to make room for something new: marimacha poetry.”

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Christopher Soto's 'Sad Girl Poems'

Book Description: “Christopher Soto (aka Loma) is a queer latin@ punk poet & prison abolitionist. Their first chapbook Sad Girl Poems delves into their relationship with domestic violence, queer youth homelessness, & the suicide of a close friend.”

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Sean Frederick Forbes' 'Providencia'

Book Description:Providencia, Sean Frederick Forbes’s debut poetry collection, offers deeply personal poetry that digs beneath the surface of family history and myth. This coming of age narrative traces the experience of a gay, mixed-race narrator who confronts the traditions of his parents’ and grandparents’ birthplace: the seemingly idyllic island of Providencia, Colombia against the backdrop of his rough and lonely life in Southside Jamaica, Queens. These lyric poems open doors onto a third space for the speaker, one that does not isolate or hinder his sexual, racial, and artistic identities. Written in both free verse and traditional poetic forms, Providencia conjures numerous voices, images, and characters to explore the struggles of self-discovery.”

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Anel I. Flores' 'Empanada'

Book Description:The voices in Empanada’s kitchen will definitely not be shy!  Each probadita is told from the bustling space of the kitchen and heavily spiced with hurt and yearning, lust, desire, passion and bliss.  Each bite of Empanada will take you on a journey through the heart of Paloma, a young lesbiana learning to maneuver her loving heart through a culture of judgment.  This collection of vignettes is divided into three macroscopic sections: Food, Religion and Sex where personal, cultural and gender identity are in constant flux, but finally birth a new geographic space in Latina, Chicana, Mexican and Lesbian literature and lesbianidad.” 

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David Tomas Martinez's 'Hustle'

Book Description: “The speaker of David Tomas Martinez’s poems steals cars, sits in understudy at the bar, fathers a child before seventeen, and works welding frigates, all with no reverence for literature with clean streets. “If I ever met a kid like Holden Caulfield, I would punch him in his nose,” Martinez says, and it is with Dantean confidence that he constructs San Diego as an inferno of El Caminos and Fords, silent sex, and murdered high school valedictorians. Martinez’s youth as a Latino in the city is documented in Hustle as it moves from gang activity through his discovery of pornography to a failed suicide attempt on a crooked path toward self-understanding. He doesn’t intend to make the journey alone: ‘This is mine. / Where is the window to break / in your life?’ This brave and honest collection works as an apt guide through the circles of a modern urban existence.”


Willie Perdomo's 'The Essential Hits of Shorty Bon Bon'

Book Description: “Through dream song and elegy, alternate takes and tempos, prizewinning poet Willie Perdomo’s third collection crackles with vitality and dynamism as it imagines the life of a percussionist, rebuilding the landscape of his apprenticeship, love, diaspora, and death. At the beginning of his infernal journey, Shorty Bon Bon recalls his live studio recording with a classic 1970s descarga band, sharing his recollection with an unidentified poet. This opening section is followed by a call-and-response with his greatest love, a singer named Rose, and a visit to Puerto Rico that inhabits a surreal nationalistic dreamscape, before a final jam session where Shorty recognizes his end and a trio of voices seek to converge on his elegy.”

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Reyna Grande's 'The Distance Between Us'

Book Description: Funny, heartbreaking, and lyrical, The Distance Between Us poignantly captures the confusion and contradictions of childhood, reminding us that the joys and sorrows we experience are imprinted on the heart forever, calling out to us of those places we first called home.

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