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These Books by Latina Authors Prove that Latinx Writers and The People Who Publish Them Understand the Real America

Our LGBTQ hating, xenophobic Vice President, Mike Pence will hate the upcoming middle-grade book, The Moon Within by Aida Salazar, and the publishing industry doesn’t care. The Moon Within about Celi Rivera, a young bi-racial Puerto Rican and Mexican girl who dances bomba and has a gender fluid best friend is set to be published by Scholastic later this month. While Latinx folks are still largely ignored on television and in film, publishers of middle-grade and young adult books know there’s a market for books about people of color and LGBTQ folks.

Hailed, by Kirkus Reviews, as a “worthy successor to Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret by Judy Blume, The Moon Within is written in an elegant, swift verse.


It tells the story of the budding Celi, a young accomplished dancer whose mother insists on announcing to the whole family that Celi is developing into a woman and insisting on holding a pre-Colombian style moon ceremony when Celi starts her first period.

At twelve, I read and loved Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret, and as a small-for-my-age, Xicana, I identified with Margaret who felt her body was developing slower than those of her school friends. I also understood that the lavender covered book with the very blonde girl on the cover who wanted to “get her period” was very different kind of book than books like Little House on the Prairie that I had also read and loved, despite their flaws. But as a Xicana raised by a single mom in a run-down small town, the only place we could really afford to live in California, I felt distanced from Margaret’s life in many other ways. Her suburban neighborhood with sidewalks, her tidy house, her busy but attentive mother, and a father who worked and drove her to parties at friends’ houses, all seemed very far away and very white to me.

Judy Blume wrote for all children, but Are You There God, It’s Me Margaret is about a particular social class of girl, while Salazar’s The Moon Within is about family that is rich in other ways, culturally rich, artistically rich, and deeply rooted by their particularly close and caring community of artists and healers.


Celi’s mom, an herbal healer, who grows herbs in the yard is actually, however, similar to Margaret’s mother in that she wishes to help her daughter to grow into womanhood without shame. Interestingly, the particular brand of the shame that both mothers hope to help their daughters avoid is rooted in Christianity. Celi’s mom, Mima, rejects the misogyny of Catholicism that encourages women to fear and despise their bodies, bodies that have the capability to give life  — and that’s all they’d do if Mike Pence had anything to with it.

And it’s this impulse of conservative men to dirty everything that isn’t cis-male centered that The Moon Within is such an important book right now and ever, especially in light of the racist and homophobic attack that severely injured, Empire’s, Jussie Smollet.

In a recent appearance on Late Night with Stephen Colbert, queer actor, Ellen Page, called out Mike Pence, blaming the Trump administration’s outward hate for the LGBTQ community,  “Connect the dots,” she said, “this is what happens if you are in a position of power,” referring to the attack on Smollet. She continued, “and you hate people and you want to cause suffering to them, you go through the trouble, you spend your career wanting to cause suffering, what do you think is going to happen. People are going to be abused and they’re going to kills themselves, and they are going to die in the street.”

Children’s books agents– a surprising number of whom are people of color, like Marieta B. Zacker of Salazar at Gallt & Zacker Literary Agency and  Amara Hoshijo at Soho Press– seem to know that even and even though equity and decency for all has seemed to have reversed in our country, that books like The Moon Within are the antidote to hatred, bigotry, and ignorance amongst the actual people who make up America.

As former pre-school teacher who did much of the book ordering for my pre-school library, and a current English professor, it’s comforting to know that the education of America’s children, is somewhat in the hand of these agents and publishers willing to listen.

It seems that publishing children’s, middle-grade and YA books by and about people of color is no longer considered a risk.

After the publication of Celia C Perez’s The First Rule of Punk, we can officially all stop being surprised by the fact middle-grade and young adult book publishers are the seemingly most willing to publish books about people who exist in the real world that their counterparts in the past would have considered niche: Latinx kids who are into punk, Latinx kids with parents who are artists, or young Latinx feminists, as in the upcoming We Set the Dark on Fire, by Tehlor Kay Mejia and several other books written for middle-graders and young adults set for publication this spring and summer.

Pues, check out this list of exciting books about to be published and remember that pre-ordering these books is not only the best way to support the authors, but it also guarantees that your chamaquitx won’t have to wait to read books about characters who look and/or have lives like theirs.

We Set the Dark on Fire, by Tehlor Kay Mejia


This fiercely feminist YA novel features a young Latina who attends a prestigious school under the pretense that she is not a member of the upper echelons, a fact that she must keep hidden in order to have a chance of success in the real world. Apparently, fans of The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood are bound to love this debut by Mejia. This Xicana dystopian lit nerd eagerly awaits the release and the accolades that will surely follow.

All Of Us With Wings, by Michelle Ruiz Keil


Or if you liked 2017s The First Rule of Punk by Celia C. Perez, you should pre-order the YA, All of Us With Wings, by Michelle Ruiz Keil, a book set in San Francisco and blends Aztec rituals and punk rock.

The Grief Keeper, by Alexandra Villasante


Available in June, The Grief Keeper, by Alexandra Villasante features a young Salvadoran girl who must leave El Salvador and attempt to cross into the US after her brother is murdered in order to save herself and her younger sister’s life.

The Last Eight, by Laura Pohl


Perhaps you know a young reader who likes to read science fiction, due for publication in March, The Last Eight, by Brazilian author, Laura Pohl, is about Clover Martinez, one of the last eight teenagers left on Earth, teenagers who survive an alien attack.


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Latina Reads: ‘Pride’ Is The Afro-Latinx YA Novel You Wish You Read As A Teen


Latina Reads: ‘Pride’ Is The Afro-Latinx YA Novel You Wish You Read As A Teen

It’s no secret that Latinx representation is severely missing in media, especially for Afro-Latinos. Although the numbers are slowly getting better on television, movies and in music, the literary space is still lagging behind. But all of that is slowly changing in particular thanks to critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi, whose first novel, American Street, told the tale of young Haitian immigrant Fabiola Toussaint navigating the dangerous streets of Detroit on her own after her mother is detained by U.S. immigration.

Now, Zoboi brings us a timely update on the classic novel Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austin — but this time told through the perspectives of Zuri Benitez (a.k.a. Elizabeth Bennet) and Darius Darcy (a.k.a. Mr. Darcy).

Zoboi’s latest masterpiece is titled Pride.

In Pride, we first meet Zuri, an Afro-Latina teen who has plenty of pride. She has pride in her roots, pride in her family and, most of all, pride in Brooklyn. But when the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri isn’t sure that her pride is enough to change the gentrification that is quickly happening in her beloved neighborhood. Even worse, her older sister Janae starts to fall for charming Ainsley at the same time as Zuri is thrown together with the arrogant Darius, who she can’t stand and wants nothing to do with.

It’s an unexpected joy to be drawn into the world of Pride, where so many changes are happening all at once. As Bushwick changes and families that used to live there for ages are priced out and Zuri begins to fight to keep her home, we readers are drawn into her battle quickly.

She is just the kind of Latina that we rarely read about before: She is smart, quick-witted and not afraid to stand up for what she believes in. She is passionate, cares deeply about her family and is, in a sense, even a little fearless. But she’s also still a teenager, which is part of what makes this novel so irresistible.

Zuri has all the hope and fears that we all had as kids about to turn into adults.

She sees the world changing and she doesn’t know what she can do about it but she wants to do something. It’s that passion and drive which makes her both a captivating character and someone we can relate to.

And perhaps because Zuri is a teenager or because this is a remix of Pride and Prejudice, there is the predictable romantic chaos. Soon enough, Zuri finds herself being pulled in different directions by her growing attraction to Darius, who she still kind of hates, and the oh-so-cute Warren (a.k.a George Wickham), who Darius kind of hates.

One of the most surprising and enchanting things about the novel, however, is the way the characters speak. Zoboi doesn’t try to dumb down or change their language. She doesn’t try to make them sound high-brow or proper, which some reviewers had a problem with, but she does make them sound like exactly who they are: An Afro-Latino family growing up in today’s Brooklyn. Zuri is unapologetically herself and the way she speaks is beautiful, complicated and not even remotely make-belief.

One of the big wins of Pride is that Zuri and the other characters sound like themselves with no pretense and just the right amount of class and a dash of sass.

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Repost from @owlcrate We were so thrilled to include Pride by @ibizoboi in our October box! It’s a modern day Pride and Prejudice remix set in Brooklyn, NY. It deals with many complex issues but is also totally swoon-worthy. And Ibi’s writing is absolutely stunning! ???? The edition we included featured an exclusive cover, exclusive end papers, exclusive color hardback, and it was SIGNED! The publisher truly put a lot of love into the design of this book! ???? Want to get your hands on a copy? We have some extras available for purchase at shop.owlcrate.com while supplies last. ???? Have you read Pride yet? What did you think?? ???? Photos tagged with the original creators! ???? OwlCrate Photo Challenge: Pride & Hot Pink. #ocbookstore ???? #owlcrate #subscriptionbox #bookstagram #pride #ibizoboi #exclusiveedition #bookmail #happyreading #currentlyreading #epicreads

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Without revealing too much about how the novel ends (you’ll have to actually read all of Pride for that), it’s safe to say that Zoboi deserves all of the praise that she has received for her work. But what really matters in a book like this isn’t how she “skillfully balances cultural identity, class and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant reimagining of this beloved classic” (from the book’s back cover), though these things are all great too, but rather what it represents and means for future generation of Latinx kids picking up this young adult novel at their library, local bookstore or online.

A book like this can mean so much to those of us who grew up without seeing ourselves in the pages of the books we were taught in school or the books we found at the library. It’s why today, even as adults, we still pick up YA novels with the hopes of seeing our younger selves in their pages. A book like Pride reminds us of that. It reminds us of what it’s like to be a teen and it reinforces the importance of seeing yourself in literature.

The Haitian author, who recently took down an “insulting review” of Pride that made us all wish we had her clap-back game, touched on something special in the story of Zuri the Afro-Latina in Brooklyn. Here’s hoping Zoboi continues to write her black and Latinx representative novels for a long, long time.

Read: 13 Latina Fantasy Books For the Sci-Fi Lover in Your Life

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7 Books You’re Definitely Gonna Want To Add To Your 2019 Reading List

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7 Books You’re Definitely Gonna Want To Add To Your 2019 Reading List

2018 brought us some amazing new works by Latinx writers, including Ingrid Rojas Contreras’s debut novel Fruit of the Drunken Tree, Reyna Grande’s memoir A Dream Called Home, and Yesika Salgado’s poetry collections, Corazón and Tesoro. But with everything out there, keeping up with the latest in literature can sometimes feel a little overwhelming, and it’s easy to miss out on worthwhile reads.

Luckily, this guide is here to give you a rundown of some of the Latinx-authored books dropping in 2019 that you’ll want to check out.

Lilliam Rivera, “Dealing in Dreams”

Just before she released her first book, the LA Times called Lilliam Rivera a “Face to Watch,” and boy were they right. The Bronx native began her career as a journalist before writing fiction, and her debut young adult novel The Education of Margot Sanchez—which was described as “Pretty in Pink comes to the South Bronx”—received a ton of praise. Her forthcoming book Dealing in Dreams is also a young adult novel. Set in what Rivera calls a “near-future,” the book introduces us to the leader of the girl gang Las Mal Criadas, Nalah, who must decide what she’s willing to sacrifice in the name of a better life. Likened to The Hunger Games and Mad Max: Fury Road, Dealing in Dreams is available in March. Until then, a sneak peek can be found here.

Kali Fajardo-Anstine, “Sabrina and Corina”

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Slightly updated cover with this gorgeous quote from @officialsandracisneros! Cisneros has been my idol since I first read her work in high school. Years later, I read in ‘A House of My Own’ that the great short story writer, Ann Beattie, gave Cisneros one of her earliest blurbs for her story collection ‘Woman Hollering Creek.’ Ann Beattie gave me my first blurb for S&C, too, and I don’t know what this connection means, but I love it and I deeply respect the tradition of women authors supporting other women writers. I am grateful. . . . . . . #sabrinaandcorina #kalifajardoanstine #annbeattie #sandracisneros #shortstories #fiction #bookstagram #instabook #author #writer #denver #colorado #latinx #chicana #gustavorimada #iwrite #book #womenauthors #womensupportingwomen #bookcover #bibliophile #writerslife #weallgrowlatina #latina #latinas

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Fajardo-Anstine’s much-anticipated debut is a short story collection about women we don’t often hear from in literature: Indigenous Latinas from Denver, Colorado. Fajardo-Anstine herself grew up in Denver and explained that this lack of representation was one impetus for her subject matter. These stories of working-class women—from a sex worker to a woman just home from prison—have been hailed by Sandra Cisneros as “stories that blaze like wildfires.” And, in case you need any more reason to check it out, the gorgeous book cover features the work of Mexican-born artist Gustavo Rimada. Sabrina and Corina is available for pre-order and hits shelves on April 2, 2019.

Cherríe Moraga, “Native Country of the Heart”

Writer, educator, and activist Cherríe Moraga is a preeminent voice of queer Latinx feminism. She is perhaps best known for co-editing with Gloria Anzaldúa the foundational text This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color (which, if new to you, should be at the top of your reading list). In her new memoir, Native Country of the Heart, Moraga traces her mother’s life in California and Mexico and her eventual memory loss from Alzheimer’s. Moraga connects her own coming-of-age as a Lesbian moving between Mexican and American worlds with her mother’s story in what is described as “a piercing love letter from a fearless daughter to the mother she will never lose.” You can find Moraga’s book in April of 2019.

Carmen Maria Machado, “In the Dream House: A Memoir”

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Speaking of memoirs, Carmen Maria Machado, whose 2017 debut short story collection Her Body and Other Parties was a finalist for a number of prestigious awards, will release In The Dream House: A Memoir in the second half of 2019. The publisher’s acquisition announcement describes the book as “An extraordinarily candid and radically inventive memoir about an abusive same-sex relationship in the author’s past, In the Dream House, sees Machado tackle a dark and difficult subject with wit, inventiveness and an inquiring spirit, creating an entirely unique piece of work which is destined to become an instant classic.” Machado’s style is known for its blending of genres, including horror, science fiction, and fantasy, and, given its description, her memoir promises to once again push the boundaries of writing.

Elizabeth Acevedo, With the Fire on High

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This has been an emotional ass week and for the first time I saw a copy of WITH THE FIRE ON HIGH. This is the story of Emoni Santiago, a teen mom who wants to be a chef but isn’t sure if following that dream is best for her family. This character arrived to me fully formed and whispering in my ear and on May 7th she will be in the world. To be honest, THE POET X has done so well that I’m scared anything I make after won’t be good enough…but part of being a storyteller and writer is stretching myself to tell new stories and believing in my talent enough not to give into the fear. So, I’m not going to psych myself out of joy and I’m going to trust the instinct that led me to write this in the first place. I can’t wait for you all to read this. ????

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A few years ago, AfroLatinx writer and award-winning slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo commanded our attention with “Hair,” a spoken-word piece in which she embraced the beauty and history of natural hair while fighting against the internalization of white beauty standards.  Last month, Acevedo won the National Book Award for her debut novel The Poet X, about a teenager named Xiomara growing up in Harlem and finding her voice through slam poetry. The prolific artist now brings us With the Fire on High, the story of Emoni Santiago—gifted cook, high school senior, and mother, and provider. Despite the stress of taking care of her daughter and abuela, Emoni realizes she is happiest while cooking, and that she must make some serious sacrifices to pursue her dreams. Catch this book in May.

Melissa Rivero, The Affairs of the Falcóns

The Affairs of the Falcóns is the debut novel of Peruvian-born Melissa Rivero, who grew up undocumented in Brooklyn. The work of fiction is particularly salient in our current climate, given that it tells us the story of the Ana Falcón and her family, who have left Peru in the midst of political upheaval in search of something better in the U.S. However, now undocumented in America and trying to raise her two children, Ana must decide if it’s better to live their lives in survival mode in New York City or return to the country they worked so hard to escape. The book is described as “a beautiful, deeply urgent novel about the lengths one woman is willing to go to build a new life, and a vivid rendering of the American immigrant experience.” You can find it in April.

Nina Moreno, “Don’t Date Rosa Santos”

Author Nina Moreno describes herself as a “Southern Bruja,” a fitting title given that the protagonist of her first novel, Rosa Santos, is said to be cursed by the sea. If you date Rosa, you’re in trouble. The book takes us along Rosa’s journey as she grapples not only with this supposed curse, but also her family, college, and the two places that are central to her identity: Florida and Cuba. Moreno’s writing style has been called a blend of “Southern fiction and telenovela,” and Don’t Date Rosa Santos sounds like a refreshing dose of drama and romance. The book arrives on shelves in May, making it the perfect beach (or pool) read.

Read: Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Continues to Slay By Promising to Pay Her Congressional Interns

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