When was the last time you were captivated and completely consumed by a book? If it’s been a while, you’re not alone. According to a recent study, over 50% of Americans haven’t read a full book in the past year. That is a staggering number, but we get it– given the constant allure of social media, endless streaming options, and binge-worthy podcasts, reading for pleasure can seem like a thing of the past. However, we believe it’s essential to reignite the type of wonder and joy that only comes from getting swept up into a great novel that captures the imagination and is impossible to put down. Sometimes, all it takes is finding the right story that connects us to our roots and own experiences, has relatable characters, or an immersive narrative that transports us to another world.
Given only six percent of the publishing industry is composed of Latine authors, the unique stories and perspectives that reflect our communities can often seem hard to come by. The good news is the number of Latine authors who are currently being recognized for their distinct prose is steadily increasing, and there is now more diversity and range of style in Latin-American story-telling than ever before.
By broadening our reading choices, we can enrich our understanding of the world and the people in it while also becoming acquainted with various writing techniques. So, to highlight the widespread talent of Latine writers, we’ve assembled a booklist that spans across poetry, gothic horror, classic magical realism, graphic novels, and more. You might just find your next favorite book that rekindles your love for reading or expands your literary repertoire.
The Poet X
Xiomara is a young Dominican-American girl from Harlem who learns slam poetry to help untangle the complexities of her life. Xiomara’s relationship with her strict and devoutly religious mother is a central theme as she begins to explore love and her sense of identity in the world. The book sensitively portrays this fraught mother-daughter relationship as Xiomara grapples with her mother’s expectations and the pressure to conform. The protagonist ultimately finds her way through a celebration of self-discovery, acceptance, and the power of finding her voice through poetic language. This captivating novel-in-verse by Elizabeth Acevedo eloquently strings together poetry in segments that stand strong alone while also propelling the story forward. The Poet X is sure to engage readers and pull at the heartstrings of anyone who can relate to Xiomara’s yearning to strike a balance between mutual accord and agency with the relationships we hold dear.
A Children’s Guide to Rap… and Possibly Saving the World
This wholesome, fun, and educational graphic novel written by Hip Hop artist Chandler Escobedo and educator Luis Rodriguez introduces children to the history and culture of Hip Hop and Rap while also showing them how to use the art of rhyme to overcome personal doubts, crippling fears, and pesky writer’s block. The larger-than-life superheroes depicted in the comic-style illustrations, such as the luchador mask-wearing Lucha Lupe, serve as excellent guides to foster creative thinking and empowerment in children as they navigate the early stages of life and channel their dreams and emotions via metrical structure. Parents and children will both find A Children’s Guide to Rap… and Possibly Saving the World to be a joyful interactive read and those who become rap pros by the end can continue the series with the upcoming Ms. Frizzle-like field trip adventure book, A Children’s Guide To Chicago releasing this spring.
Sabrina & Corina
The collection of short stories authored by Kali Fajardo-Anstine vividly depicts the lives of indigenous Latinas who are deeply rooted in the landscape, culture, and history of Denver, Colorado. The collection explores family relationships, loss, identity, and survival. The host of characters range from three generations of women struggling with their sense of responsibility towards their family to a college student contending with the native oral history she learned through her upbringing versus that same history told through academia–all while attempting to solve the mysterious circumstances surrounding her missing boyfriend. Although these narratives often excavate tough to confront emotions of grief and sorrow and uncertainty, with evocative prose and a keen eye for detail, Sabrina and Corina offers poignant portraits of indigenous Latinas traversing the hardships of our contemporary American West.
Gordo, by Jaime Cortez, narrates the coming-of-age journey of a queer Mexican-American boy growing up in the working-class Watsonville, California neighborhood during the 1970s. The interconnected vignettes explore Gordo’s experiences, from his struggles with body image and self-acceptance to topics of migration, discrimination, class, family dynamics, and his queer identity in opposition to the cultural ideals of machismo. The humorous observations, charming resilience, and abundance of lively characters that Gordo gets entangled with make this book a moving, funny and heartfelt narrative. Cortez compassionately portrays the experiences of adapting to life in America while being perceived as “different,” and the common search for belonging.
The Things We Lost In The Fire
For fans of gothic horror, Things We Lost in the Fire is characterized by its haunting and macabre themes that investigate the underbelly of Argentina and the psychological turmoil of its inhabitants. The book’s title is a metaphor for the fictional stories’ subjects including innocence, hope, and humanity. Through blurring the lines between reality and the supernatural, author Mariana Enriquez’s prose is darkly poetic and sharply descriptive. She evokes a sense of unease and foreboding throughout the book, highlighting societal inequalities that contribute to her character’s struggles. This thought-provoking and haunting fiction reels the audience in with eerie tales that will linger in a reader’s mind long after the last page is turned.
Sicily, a first-generation Panamanian-American middle school girl in San Diego, is faced with a major crisis when she discovers she will be separated from her friends due to school zoning borders. Reluctant to start a new school without her closest companions, her situation is worsened by the first class project, which requires students to do a presentation on their culture. As an Afro-Panamanian, she finds herself bombarded with questions from her new classmates who lack understanding about the intersection of race, culture, and identity. These questions follow her home, where some of her family members’ ignorance adds to her inner tumult. In response, Sicily picks up a pen and her abuelo’s journal to process her complex thoughts and feelings surrounding identity to become her own best advocate and take control of her narrative. Sincerely Sicily is a powerful novel that offers a unique and inspiring learning opportunity for kids to gain a deeper comprehension of the intricacies of Latin American intersectional identities.
One Hundred Years of Solitude
Time itself is put to the test in this classic fiction that proves itself worthy of resonating with past, current, and future generations. What continuously makes this masterful literature great, is its ability to weave together its famed style of magical realism, intricate storytelling, and introspection of human nature. In One Hundred Years of Solitude, we’re introduced to the fictional Buendía family in their town of Macondo. The town serves as a microcosm of our real world and the multifaceted characters representing both the best and worst of humanity that reflect the turbulent history of Latin America. Colombian author Gabriel Garcia Marquez lyrically expresses the weight of the Buendía family legacy to confront love, loss, power, and the cyclical passage of time. As Latin American descendents contend with the subject matter of generational trauma, this story is a fable to resist collective amnesia that can doom us to repeat draconian histories and inspires us to be the agents of awareness and change in creating a more equitable and hopeful future.
Aesthetics of Excess: The Art and Politics of Black and Latina Embodiment
Cuban and Puerto Rican author Jillian Hernandez’s essay examines Black and Latina women’s use of fashion, beauty, and style to assert their identities and challenge dominant cultural norms. Hernandez argues that these choices are not merely about personal expression, but are deeply rooted in power dynamics and resistance. Aesthetics of excess, such as oversized clothing, bold patterns, and gaudy jewelry are discussed as means to create spaces for self-affirmation and community-building. The author also offers critiques towards mainstream fashion and media industries for their lack of inclusivity while appropriating and exploiting Black and brown women’s creativity and style. Overall, The Aesthetics of Excess: The Art and Politics of Black and Latina Embodiment offers a nuanced and insightful analysis of fashion, style, and beauty as being both a tool of liberation and oppression in marginalized communities.