20 Books by Literary Latinas That Will Make You Feel Like You’re Looking Into A Mirror
Mirror, mirror on the wall, look in this mirror and see us all. Latinas are so much more than the limited roles we see on TV or in the movies. We are more than the broken English speaker, the humble maid, the gangbanger, or the broken English Speaker. We don’t all teeter around on high heels or bow our heads submissively. We have varied backgrounds, sexualities, and interests, and literary Latinas such as Anna Castillo, Michelle Serros, Celia C Peréz, Gabby Rivera, and Vanessa Fuentes help illustrate so many of the different ways we exist, live, think, look, feel, love, and hate.
Violence Girl by Alice Bag (2011)Pinterest.com
Name pronunciation and nicknames are often fraught for Latinx people, especially in school where we often don’t have control over what we might be called.
The Wanderings of Chela Coatilique, Ananda Esteva (2018)
This choose your own adventure novel by Chilean born, US raised Ananda Esteva will be a series, so if you like punk rock travel narratives start reading before you get left behind.
You’re full name is Chavela Coatlicue Alvarez Santis, but people call you Chela for short. Ditching “Chavela” is fine by you. It’s too long and has too many connotations. As it is, you aren’t the most feminine twenty-one-year-old running the streets of Mexico City and rumor has it your gay uncle named you after Chavela Vargas, the Cost Rican lesbian singing corridos about women lost and conquered in a voice that shakes the tightest chests into tender sobbing.
The Mixquihuala Letters, Ana Castillo (1986)
Published in 1986, Ana Castillo’s The Mixquiahuala Letters is an epistolary novel made up of snail mail letters from the narrator, Teresa, a Xicana from Chicago to her friend Alicia, a white woman living in New York. The letters focus on their various trips to Mexico and the ways each woman experiences the same country quite differently due to their different ethnic and class backgrounds. While the two women are like sisters, “Letter Thirteen” reveals the complex nature of interracial friendships.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree, Ingrid Rojas Contreras (2018)Pinterst.com
This novel just came out, which means you might even be able to catch, Colombiana, Ingrid Rojas Contreras read from it live – check your local bookstores!
Simple Dreams, Linda Ronstadt (2013)Pinterest.com
I’ve always loved singer Linda Ronstadt, her voice and her big brown eyes. I sobbed when I read the opening chapter of her book where she, the daughter of a Mexican father and European white mother, recalls growing up on the US/Mexico border and making mud huaraches with her brother and sister for their bare feet so they wouldn’t burn on the hot ground.
The First Rule of Punk, Celia C. Perez (2017)Pinterest.com
It’s no surprise that young people might see themselves in the award-winning, middle-grade novel, The First Rule of Punk (2017) by Celia C. Peréz, but adults will too. I personally never expected to read a book so close to my own experience or that there’d be a market for books about punk Latina girls whose peers either totally don’t get them or call them coconuts.
The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait (2005)Pinterest.com
It wasn’t just Frida Kahlo’s paintings that were ahead of their time. Her ideas about race and ethnicity were too, in particular, as you can see here, her love for diversity and an understanding of the shared subjugation of Mexican folks and black folks under capitalism and Eurocentrism.
Chicana Falsa by Michelle Serros (1993)Pinterest.com
To silence the haters, who criticized for being nerdy, (read white) and not bilingual, Michelle Serros called herself Chicana falsa, or a fake Chicana. She made an art form of beating people to the punch, and making it clear that being Chicana is so much more than corn goddesses, Aztec dances, and rolling our rrrs.
Sun, Stone, and Shadows: 20 Great Mexican Short Stories, edited by Jorge F. Hernandez (2008)Pinterest.com
Rosario Castellanos was way ahead of her time, both her ideas and her writing. This piece reminds me a bit of “Happy Endings” by Margaret Atwood, and I rather like thinking of Margaret Atwood as the Canadian Rosario Castellanos.
Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera (2016)Pinterest.com
The climactic scene (in which the protagonist is betrayed by her writer hero) of Bronx born, queer, Latinx, Gabby Rivera’s novel, Juliet Takes a Breath made me hold my breath. The following scene comes from the denouement.
Woman Hollering Creek, Sandra Cisneros (1992)Pinterest.com
When I was single, I photocopied this passage from Woman Hollering Creek and hung it on my refrigerator for any suitor who came around to see.
We Were Going to Change the World, edited by Stacey Russo (2017)Pinterest.com
Teresa Covarrubias, (singer of the seminal punk band, The Brat,) poet, and educator’s interview reminds us that not all women and not all Latinas want to get married and have children.
Dear Animal, MK Chavez (2016)Pinterest.com
Latinx writer, MK Chavez’s writing is always sensual and provocative.
A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness, Cherríe L. Moraga (2011)Pinterest.com
This book is a collection of poetry and scholarly essays by Cherríe L. Moraga, one of the pre-eminent, queer Latina writers and scholars who gave us all so much already with This Bridge Called My Back.
A Good Time for the Truth: Race in Minnesota, edited by Sun Yung Shin (2016)Pinterest.com
A Good Time for the Truth, a collection of essays about being a person of color in the very white State of Minnesota, came out just a few months before Philando Castile was shot and killed by police in Falcon Heights, Minnesota, so yes, it’s a good time for the truth.
I Asked the Blue Heron, Lisbeth Coiman (2017)Pinterest.com
Venezuelan writer, Lisbeth Coiman’s memoir addresses coping with mental illness all while immigrating from Venezuela to Canada, and Canada to the US.
“Amarisa’s Cooking Pot,” Désirée Zamorano (2017)Pinterest
For immigrants, or children of immigrants, food is an important connection to our Latinidad, and cooking really is magic, just like this short story by Désirée Zamorano
When My Brother Was an Aztec, Natalie Diaz (2012)Pinterest.com
My mom liked to remind me that we were Indian too, that our people were indigenous to North America, and we like writer Diaz, who is Mojave American and Spanish, are a mixed-race people, la raza cosmica, who grew up eating welfare food, in Diaz’s case, “USDA stamped like a fist on the side.”
Listen To Your Mother by Ann ImigPinterest.com
Grandmothers: no list of passages by literary Latinas would be complete without a couple of excerpts about abuelitas, like this tender one by The Moth storyteller, Alexandra Rosas.
The Spitboy Rule: Tales of a Xicana in a Female Punk Band, Michelle Cruz Gonzales (2016)Pinterest.com
Have you ever taken your white friends to visit your abuelita and while there got the feeling they never quite realized you were latinx before, not that kind of latinx? If not, this is how it might go.
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