Stories are a powerful way to connect audiences to various Latinx and Hispanic cultures, histories, and unique perspectives. Check out these 11 books by Latinx authors to read for Hispanic Heritage Month.
Hispanic Heritage Month begins September 15th through October 15th, marking the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Throughout the month, celebrations take place to honor and pay tribute to the cultures and contributions of U.S. Hispanic and Latinx communities — and how they’ve influenced the history, culture, and achievements of the United States. If you’re celebrating by way of food, festivals, attending cultural events, and family gatherings, here’s another activity to add to your list: reading the following books by these standout Latinx authors.
From horror and fiction to memoirs and short stories, each book listed here will be sure to teach you something in relation to Hispanic and Latinx authors and their cultures (or hold a narrative that you may very well relate to), and tug at your heart strings.
1. In the Time of the Butterflies – Julia Alvarez
This is a special (if not bittersweet) treat for historical fiction lovers, in this powerful novel following the Mirabal sisters: Minerva, Patria, María Teresa, and Dedé. Set in 1960, under the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic, the story is based on real-life events surrounding these historical women – known as “las mariposas” or “the butterflies” – and their involvement in the revolution. While the author writes fictionalized accounts from the perspective of each sister leading up to their tragic assassinations (save for the survivor, Dedé), this re-telling of the tragedy brings new life to these heroes, making it a heart-wrenching, if not inspiring read.
2. Finding Latinx: In Search of the Voices Redefining Latino Identity – Paola Ramos
Paola Ramos is a Mexican, Cuban, and American journalist. She’s also the host and correspondent of Vice News, a contributor to Telemundo News and MSNBC — and author of a hit debut book that pushes boundaries, by way of dissecting and celebrating the ways that young Latinos are redefining and reclaiming their identities. Ramos seeks to amplify the voices of the underrepresented and shed light on what it means to be Latinx, all the while highlighting how it’s affecting the U.S. culturally, socially, and politically like never before.
3. Ordinary Girls: A Memoir – Jaquira Díaz
Most girls and women can attest to the challenge of “coming of age,” and Díaz recounts her journey of girlhood and upbringing in Puerto Rican and the U.S. beautifully, though her memoir tackles some tough topics surrounding sexuality, mental health, and sexual assault. Simply put, it’s real, raw, and definitely worth the read.
4. At Night We Walk in Circles – Daniel Alarcón
Now here’s a great read for anyone that loves mess. Readers follow Nelson, a young actor facing hardships at home, in love, and in his acting pursuits. That is, until he lands a role in the controversial play, The Idiot President, alongside his hero Henry Nunez, (who happens to be the leader of the storied guerrilla theater troupe Diciembre, NBD). The plot is rich with suspense, antics, and you guessed it – lots and lots of drama. But it’s not all fun and games, as Nelson writes of a landscape imprinted by the civil war, as he embarks on a tour unlike anything readers have likely ever experienced (or read) before.
5. Mexican Gothic – Silvia Moreno-Garcia
This is a Goodreads Choice Winner for Horror circa 2020, but for thriller lovers and mystery seekers, a book like this will probably be read and re-read for years to come, with all the love, lore, and rich character development that this novel packs. The protagonist, Noemí Taboada, heads to High Palace in the Mexican countryside to check on her newlywed cousin, who seems to be having issues in her new home – which is about as creepy as the company it keeps. We’re talking a super cold husband and equally odd in-laws, and something seriously off about a middle-of-nowhere mansion that doesn’t quite feel so homey. It’s a wild ride with an ending that readers will never see coming.
6. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Díaz
The Pulitzer Prize for Fiction may have been awarded to Díaz in 2008 for this iconic piece of literary fiction, but it’s still a gem decades later, for those that have yet to immerse themselves in the Domincan-American experience (and history) by way of Oscar, a lovesick nerd with a fierce mother and equally fiery sister – whose voices also come to fruition. As this novel and his others show, he’s well adept at writing brutal yet beautiful works of literature — rooted in Dominican culture — and bringing to life truly well-developed characters.
7. The House on Mango Street – Sandra Cisneros
Most people read for pleasure, but did you know reading can improve your health – even help you sleep? If you’re looking for a nice wind-down book before bed, look no further than the critically acclaimed comfort book that tells the story of Esperanza Cordero. Through a series of vignettes, readers all over the world have fallen in love with the Latina girl growing up in Chicago, and as this book is partly biographical, partly fiction – it pays homage to the Cisneros’s own history, yes, but also her influence on generations past and generations to come, whether they’re Hispanic or not.
8. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel García Márquez
Every book has a story outside of the story it tells, and this timeless classic is no exception, as this treasure became an unexpected classic. The story follows the Buendia family, chronicling their journey through marriages, wars, births and deaths, technological advances, invasions by gypsies, and so much more. There’s a lot of names and characters to keep track of, but it’s worth the extra brain power for a story that has stolen many readers’ hearts.
9. We Are Not From Here – Jenny Torres Sanchez
Three teens attempt to cross the Mexican border into the U.S. for safety, and a better future, in this emotional, heartfelt novel by Sanchez. Pequeña, Pulga and Chico may be characters of fiction, but they speak to a very true and heart-wrenching reality that the author lays out on the table for readers to unpack, chapter by chapter, as events unfold for better and worse in this thought-provoking, timely masterpiece.
10. Vida – Patricia Engel
Engel’s “Infinite Country” may be her latest well-received release, but this debut is worth just as many accolades. In this collection of short stories, Engel explores the Colombian diaspora, strong (if not stifling) family ties, and identity through Sabina – a young girl as lost as she is fearless, trying to figure out who she is and her place in the world.
11. Halsey Street – Naima Coster
Coster is a seriously talented Dominican-American writer that has crafted a deeply compelling story, as it explores the relationship between artist Penelope and her mother, Mirella, as well as gentrification, immigration, healing, and then some – all the while successfully weaving together African American and Latin American narratives into one emotionally cohesive work of art.
Christina Colon is a creative writer, storyteller, and strategist based in NJ/NY. She loves a good book, podcast, show, or city spot – preferably paired with iced coffee. She’s deeply passionate about amplifying the voices of Latinx/BIPOC communities, and empowering women to live their best lives, personally and professionally.