Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! Yes, it’s the time of year where we celebrate the contributions of Latinos and Hispanics (for some there is a difference). It’s also a time to celebrate the independence day of many Latin American countries. In the next month, several countries will celebrate their independence day including my own fellow Chapines of Guatemala! (El Salvador, Honduras, and Costa Rica are the others who celebrate today. Tomorrow Mexico celebrates.)
So when I came across book tuber My Name is Marines, who created a list of books she’ll be reading in celebration (#hispanicheritagereads), I was down! Love this idea.
I’ll be celebrating as well. My list won’t be as long as hers but I can at least give suggestions of some reads. Ironically, some of the authors listed below are my friends so, you know how it goes when you’re a writer and you’re the LAST person to publish a book.
My shame is real guys. So real.
Also, I wanted to pick books by Latino authors you may not have readily heard of. I wanted this to be an opportunity to give some exposure to some fellow Latino writers who also deserve some light on their amazing work.
Okay, here we go. Let’s start with…
Short stories or short story collections
I am teaching House Made of Sugar to my English composition class. I have been for about a year and each time I teach it my students fall in love with it. I fall deeper in love with it. It’s about superstitions, love, marriage, and lies. That’s the simplified version of this story, which doesn’t do it justice but hopefully, it’s enough to make you want to read this story, which you can read for free at Longreads.
The story is part of Silvina Ocampo’s collection Thus Were Their Faces. I haven’t purchased it yet but I’m excited to add this to my collection.
Another short story collection that I so want to check out is Daniel Jose Older’s Salsa Nocturna: Stories. Here’s what Goodreads has to say about the collection.
A 300 year-old story collector enlists the help of the computer hacker next door to save her dying sister. A half-resurrected cleanup man for Death’s sprawling bureaucracy faces a phantom pachyderm, doll-collecting sorceresses, and his own ghoulish bosses. Gordo, the old Cubano that watches over the graveyards and sleeping children of Brooklyn, stirs and lights another Malaguena. Down the midnight streets of New York, a whole invisible universe churns to life in Daniel Jose Older’s debut collection of ghost noir.”
Ghost, ghouls, and noir? I’m there. I saw on Amazon that this has been re-issued with two new stories and that fits the timeline of his Bone Street Rumba series. So I’m interested to read this, especially since I’m not familiar with the series. However, I am familiar with another novel he’s written that’s turning into a series, which is…
Shadowshaper! I can NOT accurately tell you how much I LOVED this book. I don’t read YA usually so I didn’t know what to expect when I picked it up. Just decided to read it since I’m one of his Twitter followers. And WOW! This book is an adventure that involves a family secret, murals, paintings, and the battle to save the world.
What I LOVE about this book is how Older treats Afro-Latinidad in this book. I saw myself as a young girl and I never see my youth reflected back to me in books ever. This made me love it even more.
Recently, this book won the Best Young Adult Fiction category in the International Latino Book Awards.
Island of Dreams written by my awesome, amazing friend Jasminne Mendez. She won the Best Young Adult Latino Focused Book category in the International Latino Book Awards in 2015. This is her memoir told through poetry and short stories. She’s dealing with some big things here — identity, family, self-discovery, assimilation, as being Dominican in America (which is easier said than done sometimes). One of my favorite poems is about her grandfather and everything she knows and doesn’t know about him. Heartbreaking. Real. It be like that sometimes.
I’m not a poetry person. I’ll read it but it doesn’t hit me like fiction or non-fiction does because I’m a prose person. However, I do enjoy reading outside my comfort zone sometimes.
Leslie Contreras Schwartz’s Fuego is on my list to pick up. Yes, another one of my friends. I’ve heard some of her pieces in this collection and I enjoyed them. When I think of her poetry, what I’ve heard so far, I think of a snapshot of survival and the price of motherhood.
Her collection is on my list and I can’t wait to dive in. And since she’s a friend of mine, I’m sure that I’ll be asking her questions.
From the bed of the hospital, to the classroom of fourth-grade refugees, or the icy waters being swum by a long-distance swimmer, Fuego is a book that explores the extraordinary in the ordinary, the body as a surreal form of existence. At the core of the book is the theme of survival and the awe at being able to survive, and the glory of being ordinary and alive. In this debut poetry collection, Fuego explores the failure and blessing of childhood, the surrealism of birth and motherhood, and the estrangement of the body from itself and others.
Hanging Upside Down is what’s on my nightstand right now. My friend Anthony Otero (who will be on the blog soon) self-published this book and also the follow-up, Book of Isabel. I may be biased (I am) but it probably should have been picked up by one of the major publishers. Otero protagonist, Luis, gets into one bad situation after another and most times without even trying. Women are his downfall and his salvation…sometimes.
I’m in the middle of reading this one and want to get into Book of Isabel, the follow-up, soon.
Well, there you go. That’s just a quick snippet. There are definitely more books to explore and more authors but this should get you started. And yes, I haven’t added non-fiction yet to this list. That list will be coming soon. Perhaps later on in the month. We’ll see.