71 must-read books for Hispanic Heritage Month, recommended by Arizona experts
Looking to celebrate National Hispanic Heritage Month by reading books by Hispanic and Latino authors? We asked a bilingual bookstore owner and an English professor in Arizona to share their literary recommendations.
Rosaura "Chawa" Magaña, the owner of Palabras Bilingual Bookstore in Phoenix, hascurated multiple lists of books by Latinx— a gender-neutral term for Latino people — authors in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, including some that were published in 2021.
Maritza Cardenas, an associate professor in the University of Arizona's English department whose academic work focuses include Central Americans in the U.S. and the formation of transnational communities, also suggested more than 20 memoirs, essays, poetry anthologies, collections and novels.
“All too often I see Latinx reading recommendations limited to Mexican-American and Puerto Rican writers," Cardenas wrote in an email to The Arizona Republic in 2020.
"Given the way Central Americans are depicted in the media, I think it is important for a larger audience to become familiar with narratives by and about U.S. Central Americans/Central Americans.”
When is National Hispanic Heritage Month?
National Hispanic Heritage Month, which spans 31 days between Sept. 15 and Oct. 15, recognizes the cultures and contributions of Hispanic and Latino people living in the U.S.
Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua celebrate their independence from Spain on Sept. 15. Mexico (Sept. 16), Chile (Sept. 18) and Belize also have independence days that fall within the period.
Before Congress authorized the designation of National Hispanic Heritage Month in 1988, the U.S. officially recognized it as a week-long event in 1969.
Here are books Magaña and Cardenas suggested reading in honor of National Hispanic Heritage Month, organized by genre.
Novels and story collections
Magaña's picks touch on experiences such as those of migrant workers in California fields and Chileans before and after Augusto Pinochet's regime.
- "In the Time of the Butterflies," by Julia Alvarez.
- "Lost City Radio," by Daniel Alarcon.
- "My Documents," by Alejandro Zambra.
- "Under the Feet of Jesus," by Helena Maria Viramontes.
- "The Tattooed Soldier," by Héctor Tobar.
- "Her Body and Other Parties," by Carmen Maria Machado.
- "Love in the Time of Cholera," by Gabriel García Márquez.
- "2666: A Novel," by Roberto Bolaño; translated by Natasha Wimmer.
- "The House of the Spirits," by Isabel Allende.
- "Ficciones," by Jorge Luis Borges.
- "Dreaming in Cuban: A Novel," by Cristina García.
- "Pedro Páramo," by Juan Rulfo.
Cardenas' recommendations include "Odyssey to the North" so readers can "understand the political contexts of why many Guatemalans and Salvadorans were seeking asylum in the 1970s and 1980s," she said.
- "The Ordinary Seaman," by Francisco Goldman.
- "Unaccompanied," by Javier Zamora.
- "The Cha Cha Files: A Chapina Poética," by Maya Chinchilla.
- "The Book of Unknown Americans: A Novel," by Cristina Henríquez.
- "Zigzagger: Stories," by Manuel Muñoz.
- "Odyssey to the North," by Mario Bencastro.
- "Daughters of the Stone," by Dahlma Llanos Figueroa.
- "Halsey Street," by Naima Coster.
- "Love War Stories," by Ivelisse Rodriguez.
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Young adult fiction
Some of Magaña's recommendations are suitable for teen and young adult readers. These include:
- "The Poet X," by Elizabeth Acevedo.
- "Juliet Takes a Breath," by Gabby Rivera.
- "I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter," by Erika L. Sánchez.
- "Bless Me, Ultima," by Rudolfo Anaya.
- "The House on Mango Street," by Sandra Cisneros.
Nonfiction, poetry, memoirs, anthologies
Magaña chose nonfiction books whose styles span prose, poetry, essays and story collections. Some give historical insights, such as "The Open Veins of Latin America" and "War Against All Puerto Ricans," which encourage readers to reflect on colonialism.
- "Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions," by Valeria Luiselli.
- "In the Country We Love," by Diane Guerrero with Michelle Burford.
- "The Distance Between Us," by Reyna Grande.
- "This Bridge Called My Back," edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria Anzaldúa.
- "Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza," by Gloria E. Anzaldúa.
- "Mean," by Myriam Gurba.
- "Corazón," by Yesika Salgado.
- "The Open Veins of Latin America: Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent," by Eduardo Galeano.
- "War Against All Puerto Ricans," by Nelson A Denis.
- "The Devil's Highway," by Luis Alberto Urrea.
- "Woman of the River," by Claribel Alegría, Darwin Flakoll.
- "The Broken Spears 2007 Revised Edition: The Aztec Account of the Conquest of Mexico,” by Miguel León-Portilla
- "When I Was Puerto Rican," by Esmeralda Santiago.
- "Down These Mean Streets," by Piri Thomas.
Cardenas seconded the recommendation to read Salgado's "Corazón." She also called Óscar Martínez's "The Beast" a "must-read."
"(It's) one of the most powerful narratives I have read about Central American migration in years. It also has chapters that take place in southern Arizona," Cardenas said.
- "Mama's Girl," by Veronica Chambers.
- "I, Rigoberta Menchú: An Indian Woman in Guatemala," by Rigoberta Menchú.
- "The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail," by Óscar Martínez.
- "Enrique's Journey: The Story of a Boy's Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite With His Mother," by Sonia Nazario.
- "The Wandering Song: Central American Writing in the United States," by Héctor Tobar, Juan José Dalton; edited by Leticia Hernández Linares, Rubén Martinez and Héctor Tobar.
Her recommended poetry includes:
- "The Art of Exile," by William Archila.
- "Peluda," by Melissa Lozada-Oliva.
- "Catrachos: Poems," by Roy G. Guzmán.
- "¡Manteca! An Anthology of Afro-Latin@ Poets," edited by Melissa Castillo-Garsow.
- "The Crazy Bunch," by Willie Perdomo.
- "Women Warriors of the Afro-Latina Diaspora," edited by Marta Moreno Vega, Marinieves Alba and Yvette Modestin.
- "The Real Horse: Poems," by Farid Matuk.
- "Sana Sana," by Ariana Brown.
New books from Latino authors in 2021
Palabras bookstore has shared a list of 16 "best hits" that have been — or will soon be — released this year from Latinx authors.
- "Wild Tongues Can't Be Tamed: 15 Voices from the Latinx Diaspora," edited by Saraciea J. Fennell.
- "Hola Papi: How to Come Out in a Walmart Parking Lot and Other Life Lessons," by John Paul Brammer.
- "Funeral for Flaca," by Emily Prado.
- "My Broken Language: A Memoir," by Quiara Alegría Hudes.
- "Songs for the Flames: Stories," by Juan Gabriel Vásquez.
- "Living Beyond Borders: Growing Up Mexican in America," edited by Margarita Longoria.
- "When We Make It," by Elisabet Velasquez.
- "Infinite Country: A Novel," by Patricia Engel.
- "Of Women and Salt: A Novel," by Gabriela Garcia.
- "The Five Wounds: A Novel," by Kirstin Valdez Quade.
- "Gordo," by Jaime Cortez.
- "The Soul of a Woman," by Isabel Allende.
- "The President and the Frog: A Novel," by Carolina De Robertis.
- "The Dangers of Smoking in Bed: Stories," by Mariana Enriquez.
- "The Sea-Ringed World: Sacred Stories of the Americas," by María Garcia Esperón.
- "Horizontal Vertigo: A City Called Mexico," by Juan Villoro.
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