Books often depict the infinite stories of an entire culture, and condense them into a few characters and anecdotes. These tales help and allow us to be seen, to be understood, and to be celebrated. Within their pages, such books contain people who look like us, have had similar life experiences as we have, and endure the same concerns, struggles, and joys. Because of this, these narratives are so necessary. The following 12 books encompass some of the dynamic mosaic of what it means to be Latino.
The House on Mango Street
Sandra Cisneros’ classic, The House on Mango Street, is often required reading in many high schools and colleges. It tells the story of young Esperanza Cordero, as she grows up in Chicago.
The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in the United States
A lot of Afro-Latino history has been omitted from what we learn about Latino history in general. Because of this, it is so important for these facts and narratives to find their way back into our consciousness. Books like the Afro-Latin@ Reader, a compilation of scholarly essays, poetry, articles, interviews, and more, accomplish this task.
A Puerto Rican in New York and Other Sketches
Made up of a collection of essays, A Puerto Rican in New York gives a view into author Jesus Colon’s life on the East Coast. The Father of the Nuyorican Movement arrived in New York in 1918.
My (Underground) American Dream
When Julissa Arce arrived in the United States from Mexico, she was an undocumented immigrant. Her path to Wall Street (at Goldman Sachs and Merrill Lynch), in the face of an immigration system that placed roadblocks in her way, is told in the pages of My (Underground) American Dream.
Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina
In Bird of Paradise, Raquel Cepeda takes us on her journey to discover her identity. The daughter of Dominican parents took an ancestry DNA test to put together the pieces of her family’s puzzle.
In the Country We Love: My Family Divided
— Diane Guerrero (@dianeguerrero__) July 22, 2018
Actress Diane Guerrero decided to pen a book to share her family’s immigration story — the result was In the Country We Love. U.S.-born Guerrero was just 14-years old when her parents and brother were deported to Colombia, leaving her to experience America on her own, with the help of family friends.
In the Time of Butterflies
In the Time of the Butterflies takes us to the Dominican Republic, during the Trujillo dictatorship. The historic fiction novel tells the story of the courageous Mirabal Sisters, who fought against Trujillo’s oppressive regime.
The Poet X
The Poet X tells the story of teenager Xiomara Batista, a Dominicana in Harlem. She uses poetry to both understand her mother’s religion, and herself.
Bless Me, Ultima
Bless Me, Ultima is another classic book that is required reading for several schools. It chronicles the life of Antonio Marez y Luna and his curandera mentor Ultima, in 1940s Guadalupe, New Mexico.
The Book of Unknown Americans
The Book of Unknown Americans takes us on a trip from Patzcuaro, Mexico to Delaware. It is here that teenaged Mexicana Mirabal Rivera meets Panamanian Mayor Toro, and they fall in love. Their story speaks to the American immigrant experience.
I’m Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
Erika L. Sanchez’s book, I’m Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter tells the story of Julia, who loses her sister Olga. Olga had made her family believe she was the perfect hija. Feeling even more oppressed now by her strict Mexican parents, Julia sets out to learn the truth.
American Like Me: Reflections of Life Between Two Cultures
Featuring essays by a variety of contributors, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, Laurie Hernandez, Uzo Aduba, Anjelah Johnson-Reyes, Kal Penn, and Issa Rae, America Ferrera’s American Like Me shares what it means to belong to two cultures (one of them being American). In addition to Ferrera’s story, there are 31 more, each representing a different facet that exists under the umbrella of American identity.