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10 Books to Celebrate Hispanic and LatinX Heritage

Not so long ago, a person seeking books by Latino authors had to mine the bookstore shelves for that rare but rewarding find. Today, the Latino literary field is thriving and has become quite visible, thanks to the growing recognition across various communities that our writers are dynamic, engaging and continually attuned to the politics of the present — something Latino readers have always known.

Where We Go From Here By Lucas Rocha

Set in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, this utterly engrossing debut by Brazilian author Lucas Rocha calls back to Alex Sanchez’s Rainbow Boys series, bringing attention to how far we’ve come with HIV, while shining a harsh light on just how far we have yet to go.

On The Hook by Francisco Stork

Hector has always minded his own business, working hard to make his way to a better life someday. He’s the chess team champion, helps the family with his job at the grocery, and teaches his little sister to shoot hoops overhand.

Until Joey singles him out. Joey, whose older brother, Chavo, is head of the Discípulos gang, tells Hector that he’s going to kill him: maybe not today, or tomorrow, but someday. And Hector, frozen with fear, does nothing. From that day forward, Hector’s death is hanging over his head every time he leaves the house. He tries to fade into the shadows – to drop off Joey’s radar – to become no one.

But when a fight between Chavo and Hector’s brother Fili escalates, Hector is left with no choice but to take a stand.

The violent confrontation will take Hector places he never expected, including a reform school where he has to live side-by-side with his enemy, Joey. It’s up to Hector to choose whether he’s going to lose himself to revenge or get back to the hard work of living.

Becoming Maria By Sonia Manzano

Set in the 1950s in the Bronx, this is the story of a girl with a dream. Emmy award-winning actress and writer Sonia Manzano plunges us into the daily lives of a Latino family that is both loving and troubled. This is Sonia’s own story rendered with an unforgettable narrative power.

When readers meet young Sonia, she is a child living amidst the squalor of a boisterous home that is filled with noisy relatives and nosy neighbors. Each day she is glued to the TV screen that blots out the painful realities of her existence and also illuminates the possibilities that lie ahead. But – click! – when the TV goes off, Sonia is taken back to real life, the cramped, colorful world of her neighborhood and an alcoholic father. But it is Sonia’s dream of becoming an actress that keeps her afloat among the turbulence of her life and times.

Spiced with culture, heartache, and humor, this memoir paints a lasting portrait of a girl’s resilience as she grows up to become an inspiration to millions.

Here The Whole Time By Vitor Martins

Felipe can’t wait for winter break: Finally, he’ll get some time away from the classmates who tease him incessantly about his weight.

But Felipe’s plan turns upside down when he learns that Caio, his neighbor from apartment 57, will be staying with him for fifteen days. Which is a problem because (a) Felipe has had a crush on Caio since, well, forever; and (b) Felipe has a list of body image insecurities and absolutely NO idea how he’s going to handle them while sharing a room with his lifelong crush.

Suddenly, the days that once promised rest and relaxation (not to mention some epic Netflix bingeing) are a gauntlet of every unresolved issue in Felipe’s life. But if he can overcome his insecurities, then maybe — just maybe — this break won’t turn out to be such a disaster after all . . .

‘The Poet X,’ by Elizabeth Acevedo 

In this National Book Award-winning verse novel, 15-year-old Xiomara Batista’s life in Harlem has changed seemingly overnight: Her body, now larger and curvier, is newly subject to catcalls and insults; her Dominican mother has become a stern disciplinarian; and her church no longer feels like the haven it once was. As Xiomara contends with these changes, she turns to slam poetry, where she finds freedom and discovers a distinctive voice.

In Cortez’s California, a young girl delivers the eucharist via doughnut pieces; a Chicano boy fights in a luchador mask to live up to his father’s idea of masculinity; and a hairstylist is asked to work on a wig for his dead middle school bully, who was shot in the head. The hardships and small joys of this migrant worker community are rendered with profound care in this debut collection.

“Undocumented,” by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio 

This collection falls somewhere between reportage, fiction and memoir in its storytelling, rendering an intimate portrait of the undocumented condition in the United States. Villavicencio chronicles the lives of ground zero cleanup workers, a Haitian priestess in Miami and a former housekeeper battling breast cancer in Flint, Mich., richly describing a population that, as Caitlin Dickerson notes in her review, remains “largely absent from modern journalism and literature.”

A Dream Called Home By Reyna Grande

As an immigrant in an unfamiliar country, with an indifferent mother and abusive father, Reyna had few resources at her disposal. Taking refuge in words, Reyna’s love of reading and writing propels her to rise above until she achieves the impossible and is accepted to the University of California, Santa Cruz.

Although her acceptance is a triumph, the actual experience of American college life is intimidating and unfamiliar for someone like Reyna, who is now estranged from her family and support system. Again, she finds solace in words, holding fast to her vision of becoming a writer, only to discover she knows nothing about what it takes to make a career out of a dream.

Through it all, Reyna is determined to make the impossible possible, going from undocumented immigrant of little means to “a fierce, smart, shimmering light of a writer” (Cheryl Strayed, author of Wild); a National Book Critics Circle Award Finalist whose “power is growing with every book” (Luis Alberto Urrea, Pultizer Prize finalist); and a proud mother of two beautiful children who will never have to know the pain of poverty and neglect.

Told in Reyna’s exquisite, heartfelt prose, A Dream Called Home demonstrates how, by daring to pursue her dreams, Reyna was able to build the one thing she had always longed for: a home that would endure.

The Madonnas of Echo Park By Brando Skyhorse

With these words, spoken by an illegal Mexican day laborer, The Madonnas of Echo Park takes us into the unseen world of Los Angeles, following the men and women who cook the meals, clean the homes, and struggle to lose their ethnic identity in the pursuit of the American dream.

A Peculiar Kind of Immigrant’s Son by Sergio Troncoso

These poignant short stories shed a startling light on the middle-class experience of Chicanos in New York. An Ivy League education and job security in a cosmopolitan city far from their youth in the U.S.-Mexico borderlands doesn’t mean the American dream has been realized without further conflict. Some continue to struggle with the feeling of dislocation, some begrudge being seen as foreigners when they visit their beloved border towns and others are struck by the harsh reality that even in a liberal multicultural setting they’re not spared from violence, prejudice and the anti-immigrant noise. Sergio Troncoso dispels the myth of assimilation as a safe haven and reminds readers that distance from a working-class upbringing doesn’t absolve a person from the responsibility to one’s community. The wounds of leaving home never truly heal.

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