Compiling a list of the best works in a year can feel like kind of a wild exercise – it’s impossible for any one person to read everything that comes out in any given year, even when you get to narrow the field a little bit and limit yourself to only Latinx writers. This year’s list represents writers past and present, writing in English and Spanish (and sometimes both), presses big and small, books for children and adults (and maybe kind of both), works categorized as fiction and non-fiction and poetry. What it doesn’t represent is even a tenth of the fantastic books written and published by Latinx writers this year.
We would recommend using this list as a jumping off point to find new favorite writers, to read further, and to write your own story.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Release Date: March 6, 2018
Publisher: Harper Teen
This year’s National Book Award winner in Young People’s Literature, The Poet X, is out here changing people’s lives. The book-in-verse centers on Xiomara, an Afro-Latina growing up in Harlem caught between the strict religion her mother is raising her in and her desire to find her own voice. Acevedo is an award-winning slam-poet, and the poems that she gives Xiomara are stirring and gorgeous.
After The Winter by Guadalupe Nettel, translated by Rosalind Harvey
Release Date: September 4, 2018
Publisher: Coffee House Press
Nettel is maybe one of the most underappreciated writers being translated from Spanish right now – her work is wry, sad, and funny. After The Winter is an intercontinental story of the ways that even fleeting relationships can shift a life, but it is also about the particular strangeness of the lonely and alone. This is a novel that takes as its focus all the peculiarities of the personal, in short, a fantastic character study.
Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir by Jean Guerrero
Release Date: July 17, 2018
Publisher: One World
As anyone who has ever lived along the border knows, it’s far more complicated than a simple dividing line. In Crux, Guerrero, who is trained as a journalist, investigates not only her own family’s relationship with the border across generations, but the life of her father, a Mexican immigrant, and the borders he traverses between mysticism and sanity, illness and health, drugs and medicine. Crux is as deeply reported as it is deeply felt.
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
Release Date: September 4, 2018
Publisher: Neal Porter Books
Yuyi Morales is a rockstar in the children’s book world – she won a Caldecott Medal for her biography of Frida Kahlo in 2015. Her latest, Dreamers, is the story of a mother and child arriving to the United States, and finding a sense of home in their public library. It’s a beautifully illustrated, colorful text that makes wondrous again language that has been somewhat politicized.
The Taiga Syndrome by Cristina Rivera Garza, translated Suzanne Jill Levine and Aviva Kana
Release Date: October 1, 2018
This book, published in English just a year after The Iliac Crest, will hopefully usher in a wave of Rivera Garza-mania in the US. Much like her earlier work, The Taiga Syndrome is dark and strange and layered over with social commentary. With the same kind of dream-like narration as a fairy tale, and the haunted forests of Hansel and Gretel and Snow White, The Taiga Syndrome is a gorgeous winter read.
The Dragon Slayer: Folktales from Latin America by Jaime Hernandez
Release Date: April 3, 2018
Publisher: TOON Graphics
Jaime Hernandez is better known as one of the brothers behind acclaimed comic book series Love and Rockets. Here, he uses his graphic-novelist skills to retell three stories from across Latin America, including an introduction by teacher and folklorist F. Isabel Campoy, which helps to put the whole project into context. If you’re looking for a gift for your Spanish-speaking primito, the book was also simultaneously published in translation.
Museum of the Americas by J. Michael Martinez
Release Date: October 2, 2018
Publisher: Penguin Books
A National Book Award nominee this year in Poetry, Museum of the Americas takes as its subject the body under colonialism – as seen in the early colonial castapaintings popular in Mexico, his own family, General Santa Ana’s wooden leg. Crossing the lines between the personal and the historical, and blending the two, Martinez addresses both the past and the present moment.
Packing My Library: An Elegy and 10 Digressions by Alberto Manguel
Release Date: March 20, 2018
Publisher: Yale University Press
The former head of the national library of Argentina packs up his personal book collection to prepare for a move. That’s it, the whole premise. But it unspools like you’re sitting across from someone who has spent a lifetime thinking about books and libraries and collections, and he’s riffing off everything as its going into boxes – Manguel ranges deeply and widely across his own collection and history, making this a joy to read.
The Carrying by Ada Limón
Release Date: August 14, 2018
Publisher: Milkweed Books
If you follow a lot of poets on Twitter, you’re likely already at least a little familiar with Ada Limón’s work. Poems from her latest book, The Carrying, were photographed and posted for inspiration, benediction, aspiration, admiration, tweeted and retweeted. The Carrying in its totality is a meditation on bodies and aging, ranging between the personal and political. A book to inspire and bless and admire.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Release Date: July 31, 2018
A coming-of-age story set in Bogota during Pablo Escobar’s reign that focuses on the relationship between a little girl and her mostly-silent maid, Petrona. Rojas Contreras’ lovely, spare prose alternates between both girls, and in the process tells a complex story about class, violence, and living in turbulent times.
Comemadre by Roque Larraquy, translated by Heather Cleary
Release Date: July 10, 2018
Publisher: Coffee House Press
An absolutely bananas kind of sci-fi, kind of historical novel that plays with the borders and boundaries between life and death, person and object, bodies and pain and doubling over. Larroquy is an Argentine screenwriter, and the cinematic noticeably bleeds into Comemadre. If the word extra was a novel, this would be it.
Lo Terciario/The Tertiary by Raquel Salas Rivera
Release Date: April 14, 2018
Publisher: Timeless, Infinite Light
Rivera’s book is a poetic response to the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Stability Act that the United States passed two years ago. They place it against and in conversation with Marx, and queerness, and in the process create a politically sharp, stirring poetic declaration. This year was rich in Latinx National Book Award Nominees – this is another!
Sexographies by Gabriela Wiener, translated by Lucy Greaves and Jennifer Adcock
Release Date: May 29, 2018
Publisher: Restless Books
Gabriela Wiener is a Peruvian sex writer, and Sexografias is a book of her collected essays. However, she doesn’t just stay on the carnal, and uses her explorations of egg donation, swingers parties, cruising, and squirting as channels into meditations on motherhood, death, and immigration, all while staying sharp and funny and wild.
The Naked Woman by Armonia Somers, translated by Kit Maude
Release Date: November 6, 2018
Publisher: The Feminist Press
Along with the boom in translations of contemporary Latinx authors, we’re also lucky enough to be in the midst of a revival of older Latinx writers as well. Armonia Somers is an Uruguayan writer from the mid-century, and her work, about the violence women encounter while reaching for personal autonomy was shocking back in the 1950s, but will still resonate with audiences today.
Stripped by Zoey Castile
Release Date: April 28, 2018
Publisher: Kensington Books
Sometimes all you want to do when you’re reading is hunker down with…well, a hunk. Zoey Castile (aka YA author Zoraida Cordova) has got you covered, with this story of a traditional, Catholic Latinx school teacher who meets her hot neighbor who happens to be a male stripper. A very sweet, very sexy, and very fun romp of a read.