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The Best Books by Latinx and Hispanic Authors

Collage of Latine book covers

You won’t catch American Dirt on this list of great books by Latinx and Hispanic authors. Instead, this list is comprised of novels actually written by Latin American authors for different audiences: Adult, Young Adult, and Middle Grade. These books offer beautiful (and often complicated) depictions of our communities, explorations of our indigeneity by examining the settings and the balance between individualism and community, and, of course, a bit of magical realism.

No matter what your interest, trust me—there’s a book on this list that will scratch your reading itch.

Adult Novels

Sabrina and Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

Sabrina and Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
(One World)

Sabrina & Corina will probably in my top five favorite short story collections of all time. I stumbled onto this collection while looking for literary events while in Colorado for my cousin’s graduation. I saw an author reading at a local indie bookstore, so I went. Little did I know I’d meet one of my favorite contemporary authors.

Kali Fajardo-Anstine is a master of setting. She captures Denver, Colorado, with such knowledge and intimacy. Her work showcases various facets of her Indigenous and Latina background with care and tenderness, and the way she depicts the slow gentrification of Colorado is perfect.

How Not To Drown in a Glass of Water by Angie Cruz

How Not to Drown in Water by Angie Cruz
(Flatiron Books)

Cara signs up for meetings with a job counselor after losing hers during the Great Recession and learns how to rewrite her resume. To find a good fit, the counselor interviews Cara to see what kind of work she should be looking for. This is where the novel begins. 

How Not To Drown in a Glass of Water is a collection of Cara’s answers to the counselor. The reader does not know the interviewer’s questions, but ascertains them from Cara’s responses. 

There is something so raw and familiar about this book. Cara’s strong personality and love of chisme reminds me of my mother. Set in Washington Heights right as gentrification begins, you see the world through Cara’s eyes.

You Sound Like a White Girl by Julissa Arce

You Sound Like A White Girl by Julissa Arce
(Flatiron Books)

Many hyphenated Americans have, at some point, been told, “you sound like a white person.” That phrase can mean so many things. It can be a symbol of assimilation to be taken as a compliment or weaponized. It can be condescending if said by a white person. It can be said in jest, like when my brother asked me why I was using my “white voice” when talking to the emergency vet. 

You Sound Like a White Girl is a nonfiction book that pushes you to move past the limitations of American assimilation and the judgment of others to be your most authentic self. At its core, the book teaches you to celebrate who you are and abandon the white gaze.

An African American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz

An African American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz
(Beacon Press)

An African American and Latinx History of the United States de-centers whiteness in American history. It’s refreshing, and probably the most honest take in American history. Paul Ortiz “argues that Latin America, the Caribbean, Africa—otherwise known as ‘The Global South’—were crucial to the development of America.” After all, this country was built off the blood of many.

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
(Del Rey Books)

In Gods of Jade and Shadow, it’s the 1930s, and Cassiopeia is not enjoying Jazz music. Instead, she’s cleaning her grandfather’s house in Mexico. Her life is pretty monotonous until one day she opens a weird wooden box in her grandfather’s room and out pops a Mayan god. Chaos ensues.

Her Body and Other Parties: Stories by Carmen Maria Machado

Her Body and Other Parties: Stories by Carmen Maria Machado
(Graywolf Press)

I know what I said earlier about Sabrina & Corina being among my top five favorite books, but Her Body and Other Parties belongs up there, too. Carmen Maria Machado’s short story collection is weird, dark, experimental, and queer. Part literary fiction, fanfiction, science fiction, and psychological thriller, this collection is not for the weak—but if you’re ready to level up from Stephen King, please pick this up.

Tender Is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica

Tender is the Flesh by Agustina Bazterrica
(Scribner Book Company)

Marcos doesn’t have much anymore. He doesn’t have a family, and his father’s dementia is getting worse. Thanks to a virus that poisoned animal meat, people have taken to eating other humans. Yeah, humans. Cannibalism has been a popular trope in media as of late—look at Bones and All.

Tender Is the Flesh is on the shorter side and is translated from Spanish. It features commentary on consumption, the meat industry, and what it means to be human.

Corazón by Yesika Salgado

Corazón by Yesika Salgado
(Not a Cult)

I’ve been a fan of Yesika Salgado since before her first poetry collection came out. She was big in the spoken word community and I first discovered her work on Button Poetry’s YouTube channel.

In Corazón, Salgado’s rhythmic poetry discusses her fat brown body, love, sex, her parents’ home country, and much more.

 The Girls in Queens by Christine Kandic Torres

The Girls In Queens by Christine Kandic Torres

There’s something special about Queens in the ‘90s before white Ohioans arrived to commute to Midtown because they were lucky or well-connected enough to work in tech.

The Girls in Queens follows two young Latinas who do everything together despite being complete opposites. This is the story of how they grew up together, drifted apart, and found each other again. Sometimes the deepest love isn’t romantic, but platonic, and great friendships deserve a love story, too.

L.A. Weather by María Amparo Escandón

L.A. Weather by María Amparo Escandón
(Flatiron Books)

L.A. Weather follows the Alvarado family and their secrets, betrayals, and drama. Set in southern California, we watch the Alvarado family’s story unfold through their trials and tribulations. María Amparo Escandón is a master of making the mundane feel like a soap opera.

For Brown Girls With Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts: A Love Letter to Women of Color by Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodríguez

For Brown Girls with Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts: A Love Letter to Women of Color by Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodríguez
(Seal Books)

For Brown Girls With Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts is, as the title suggests, for women of color who have felt held back by society. Here, we gather collective strength to fight against racism, sexism, and classism. 

Young Adult Novels

Reclaim the Stars, edited by Zoraida Córdova

Reclaim the Stars edited by Zoraida Córdova
(Wednesday Books)

Reclaim the Stars is a collection of 17 stories written by well-known authors like Daniel José Older, Yamile Saied Méndez, Anna-Marie McLemore, Mark Oshiro, Lilliam Rivera, Claribel Ortega, Isabel Ibañez, J.C. Cervantes, Circe Moskowitz, and more.

This science fiction and fantasy young adult collection features mermaids, ghosts, and other realms, and it is perfect if you need an escape. What’s great about the YA genre is that the endings are much more positive (if not hopeful) than conventional adult fiction, so it’s a better pick-me-up and encourages agency—which even adults need sometimes.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
(Quill Tree Books)

In The Poet X, we follow Xiomara in Harlem as she tries to grow into her own person. She has so much to say that it often feels like it is going to explode out of her body. Xiomara spends most of her time trying to appease her parents, but she needs to get all of those intense feelings and thoughts down in her journal. And that’s what we read. 

Elizabeth Acevedo’s novel, written in verse, started my favorite trend in the contemporary YA genre. Verse is much more emotionally evocative, so when dealing with contentious periods, it conveys raw emotion so effectively.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez

In I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, Olga was the perfect Mexican daughter. She did everything that was expected of her without complaint. That is, until she died, leaving Julia with the unexpected weight of taking up her sister’s mantle. After her sister’s passing, Julia learns that maybe Olga’s perfection was all a facade and there’s no such thing as perfect. 

I wouldn’t describe my mom as a reader, but after watching a Good Morning America spot in which Erika L. Sánchez talks about this book and her recently published memoir, she’s been listening to audiobooks nonstop. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter was the first book we bonded over after both of us grew up feeling like we weren’t the “perfect Mexican daughter,” so this one will always have a special place on my bookshelf.

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
(Swoon Reads)

Latines are obsessed with ghosts. There’s a very specific death fixation that occurs in Latine cultures that can’t be explained, only experienced. So any book that can scratch this particular macabre itch is guaranteed a spot on my bookshelf.

In Cemetery Boys, Yadriel accidentally summons a hot ghost named Julian that he can’t get rid of. Now he gets roped into helping Julian with his unfinished business. This book is wonderfully queer and explores subjects like deportation, colonization, and racism. 

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado
(Holiday House)

We need more fat characters. 

That should be all there is to say, but it’s not. Charlie Vega is so many more things than her weight, but that’s all anyone fixates on, especially her mom. The only person who’s on Charlie’s side is her best friend, who is everything Charlie is not. When Charlie finds out that the guy who likes her asked out her best friend first, she’s heartbroken.

Anyone who is or has been fat can relate to Fat Chance, Charlie Vega. Definitely pick it up if you have the capacity to do so. It’s so worth it. 

When We Make It by Elisabet Velasquez

When We Make It by Elisabet Velasquez
(Dial Books)

I moved to New York last year for a job, and before doing so, I made sure that I started reading books by people who grew up here. The poems in When We Make It were some of the first and probably most impactful works that I’ve read about the neighborhood I now call home. Elisabet Velasquez describes Bushwick with such intimacy, love, and honesty that I can see the skeleton of old Bushwick while running errands in the neighborhood. 

Please pick this up, and when you do, make sure you check out the audiobook. Velasquez is an amazing speaker.

Middle Grade Books

Iveliz Explains It All by Andrea Beatriz Arango

Iveliz Explains It All by Andrea Beatriz Arango
(Random House Books for Young Readers)

Middle grade books do not pull punches.

Written in verse, Iveliz Explains It All follows a seventh-grader who still talks to her father who recently died in a tragic accident. She’s on meds and talks to a therapist, using a journal to process everything that’s happened to her. Meanwhile, she’s watching her abuela suffer from Alzheimer’s. 

The family dynamics and complicated friendships are so real in this book. Again, books in verse are always fantastic in the audiobook format. 

The Only Road by Alexandra Diaz

The Only Road by Alexandra Diaz
(Simon & Schuster / Paula Wiseman Books)

Speaking of, this book is also a punch in the gut. Seriously—don’t read The Only Road unless you feel like you have the emotional capacity to do so. 

Alexandra Diaz’s novel is set in Guatemala, where gang violence is making it impossible to live. The family scrapes together enough money for 12-year-old Jaime and his cousin Ángela to travel north by themselves to live with Jaime’s brother in New Mexico. This is the story of their journey and survival.

The Only Road is heartbreaking. I have so many mixed feelings about immigrant stories, especially ones that feature kids, because oftentimes it feels like the only story white editors and readers want from us. This is the story they know about us, and it affirms their stereotypes. Unfortunately, this happens often. These stories should be told, but who tells them and who they’re meant for matters.

Witchlings by Claribel A. Ortega

Witchlings by Claribel A. Ortega
(Scholastic Press)

Witchlings is a fun book about young witches coming into their own and being adopted into a coven. The characters are around 12 and have to deal with an onslaught of new powers and the dynamics of being part of a coven. Claribel A. Ortega’s story is pure fun, which we all deserve sometimes. 

(featured image: One World / Harpervia / Flatiron Books / Beacon Press / Del Rey Books / Graywolf Press / Scribner Book Company / Not a Cult / Seal Books / Wednesday / Quill Tree Books / Ember / Swoon Reads / Holiday House / Dial Books / Random House for Young Readers / Simon & Schuster / Scholastic Press)

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Nava was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. Currently, they edit economic textbooks by day and write geeky articles for the internet in the evenings. They currently exist on unceded Lenape land aka Brooklyn. (Filipine/a Mexican American)