A new year is here, and with it comes the promise of a fresh crop of fantastic books by Latino authors for you to read. Because of publisher schedules, we mostly know about what’s coming in the first half of the year, and we can say that 2020 is already promising to be a fantastic year for Latino and Latin American writers.
From a magical version of Brooklyn and postcolonial love poems to a horrifying dystopia where eating human flesh is legal and an exhausting 6,000-mile run through colonized lands, these books of 2020 will take you on a journey.
"Shadowshaper: Legacy" by Daniel José Older (JANUARY)
Get your Christmas gift cards ready, because the conclusion to Daniel Jose Older’s fantastic Shadowshaper trilogy hit shelves the first week of January, and if you haven’t already, you’ll want to pick it up. Previous books in the series have dealt with topics like gentrification and police violence against Black communities, all in a gorgeously fantasy-laced Brooklyn, New York. Legacy continues protagonist Sierra’s journey in finding out how to use her powers responsibly and keep her family safe but delves deeper into shadowshaper lore. If you haven’t read the rest of the Shadowshaper books, it’s a great way to spend the early months of 2020.
"Hurricane Season" by Fernanda Melchor, trans. Sophie Hughes (MARCH)
When a group of children from a small town in Mexico discovers the body of the Witch, her death becomes a catalyst for a hurricane of words and perspectives from different villagers. Gossip, speculation and personal narratives, each touching on the Witch’s life, ensue. Hurricane Season is a book about femicide and the small communities left behind by global capitalism that plays with elements of magic as well as the “malas vibras” that reside after the increasingly-tempestuous hurricane seasons of the title. Melchor has been an acclaimed author in Mexico for some time, but Hurricane Season is her first book translated into English.
"Postcolonial Love Poem" by Natalie Diaz (MARCH)
Postcolonial Love Poem does what the title says it does: it is a book of poems about love, desire and longing that begins in the body. But it’s not just any body. Instead, it’s an Indigenous Latina’s body. What does it mean to desire when so much of history has been bent on the destruction of your love? What does it look like when we hold other bodies — bodies of water, bodies of mountains, forests and animals — as dear as our own? Postcolonial Love Poem is an ode to existence and against erasure.
"Spirit Run" by Noé Álvarez (MARCH)
When Noé Álvarez, the son of Mexican immigrants, first heard about Peace and Dignity Journeys, a group of Indigenous activists that embark on treks from Alaska to Guatemala, he found the sense of belonging he had lacked in his time as a first-generation college student. Spirit Run is the story of Álvarez’s 6,000-mile journey through lands that were once Indigenous, and it includes the narratives of others on his journey, all of them confronting legacies of loss and dispossession while exploring the landscape of the Americas.
"Afterlife" by Julia Alvarez (APRIL)
Julia Alvarez is back! After a nearly 15-year break between adult novels, the author of How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents and In the Time of the Butterflies returns this year with a new book. This time, she focuses on a recently-widowed literature professor who meets an undocumented girl and in her grief must answer the question: What do we owe each other? This book promises to be another beautiful addition to the gifts the Dominican-American author has already given us.
"Breakbeat Poets vol. 4: Latinext" ed. By Felicia Chavez, Jose Olivarez and Willie Perdomo
The Breakbeat Poets series comes from Haymarket Books and seeks to highlight poetry with hip-hop aesthetics, including single-author works and wider anthologies like this one. Latinext is the first compiled work to include essays from Latino writers located across the U.S. In these pages, you’re sure to find fresh poetry from both familiar names (Jose Olivarez, Citizen Illegal) and new faves.
"Thresholds" by Laura Mimosa Montes (MAY)
Laura Mimosa Montes is a poet from the Bronx, New York. In Thresholds, she returns to the expansive arts scene of the borough in the ‘70s and ‘80s, looks at the potential vibrant and artistic future of her neighborhood and questions her own role as a bridge between both. The book delves deep into the forces moving through a neighborhood often seen as peripheral and in an artist living in it: gentrification, loss and a wild hope.
"Running" by Natalia Sylvester (MAY)
Although we’re guaranteed to be getting a lot of election coverage in 2020, you won’t regret making room for Running. Author Natalia Sylvester is mostly known for her two adult books, Chasing the Sun and Everybody Knows You Go Home, but Running represents a new foray for her: young adult literature. Mari, the 15-year-old protagonist, is the daughter of a presidential candidate, and dealing with all the press, tabloids and attention to her family is proving challenging. But it’s not nearly as difficult as when Mari realizes that her father’s politics and political career are not what they seem and she is forced to decide what to do and if to use her voice, all while in the national spotlight.
"Clap When You Land" by Elizabeth Acevedo (MAY)
Two sisters, one in the Dominican Republic and the other in New York City, lose their father in a fateful plane crash one summer. In the aftermath, each discovers the existence of the other. Amid their grief, they learn to become friends and sisters. Clap When You Land is Elizabeth Acevedo’s return to the novel-in-verse that was featured in The Poet X and a continuation of her exploration of the lives of Afro-Latina teens that we saw in With the Fire on High. Pro tip: for the full Acevedo experience, check out the audiobook — she reads like no one else.
"Little Eyes" by Samanta Schweblin, trans. Megan McDowell (MAY)
If Black Mirror is your thing, Little Eyes is a book for you. “Kentukis” are the little eyes of the title: somewhere between webcam, robot and ghost, they allow people to peer into the lives of others and travel halfway around the world just to walk down the street. Schweblin is the master of the almost-familiar yet definitely-uncanny, and this book is no different.
"The Book of Rosy" by Rosayra Pablo Cruz and Julie Schwietert Collazo (JUNE)
Rosayra Pablo Cruz is one of the mothers affected by President Donald Trump’s family separation policy, and The Book of Rosy touches on her experiences, including the horrific conditions she and her children endured as they crossed the U.S.-Mexico border, when they were detained, being separated and more. Julie Schwietert Collazo, Rosy’s co-writer, is the founder of the foundation Immigrant Families Together.
"Cemetery Boys" by Aidan Thomas (JUNE)
Yadriel is a trans boy living in a community where brujeria is split among genders: brujas can heal and brujos can release lost souls in the afterlife. After his cousin dies, Yadriel is determined to prove himself a brujo and performs the spell to bring him back, except he doesn’t get his cousin. Instead, he gets his high school’s bad boy, Julian. Rather than returning to the afterlife, Julian is determined to tie up some loose ends, and Yadriel has no choice but to be around for the ride. Cemetery Boys is an extremely fun paranormal YA romance.
"A Silent Fury: El Bordo Mine Fire" by Yuri Herrera, trans. Lisa Dillman (JUNE)
One hundred years after the El Bordo mine fire in Pachuca, Mexico, Yuri Herrera has reconstructed the horrific accident that left 87 people dead and a U.S. mining company off scot-free. With his trio of books set in the narco-war borderlands, Herrera has shown that he’s a master of the short, tense fiction, and with A Silent Fury, he proves it further, this time venturing into a more historical mode.
"Mexican Gothic" by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (JUNE)
An old mansion in 1950s Mexico. Dark family secrets. A panicked letter from a cousin who says she’s afraid her beguiling new husband is trying to kill her. And a plucky debutante with perfect lipstick and a fearless determination to get to the bottom of things. Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican Gothic promises to be a dark, dazzling read that explores the legacy of British mining in Mexico and delivers a delicious mystery.
"Tender is the Flesh" by Agustina Bazterrica, trans. Sarah Moses (AUGUST)
It’s some indeterminate point in the future, and thanks to widespread animal disease, eating human meat is now legal. Marcos runs a slaughterhouse for humans, and when he’s presented with a particularly beautiful woman bred for consumption, he’s haunted by her and tempted to overturn the rules of the society in which he lives. It’s sure to be an unrelentingly dark, thought-provoking narrative that will stay with you.