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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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Latinx writer, MK Chavez’s writing is always sensual and provocative.

A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness, Cherríe L. Moraga (2011)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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)

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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 Imig

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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)

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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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Netflix Is Turning Gabriel García Márquez’s Classic ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ Into A Series

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Netflix Is Turning Gabriel García Márquez’s Classic ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ Into A Series

Fans of magical realism rejoice. On Wednesday, Netflix announced it acquired the rights to Gabriel García Márquez’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude” and will be turning the literary masterpiece into a Spanish-language series.

This is the first time the 1967 novel, considered “one of the most significant works of the 20th Century,” will be adapted for screen. For years, the author, who died in 2014, refused to sell the film rights, believing the story could not be done justice through a two-hour project, according to Deadline.

Rodrigo Garcia and Gonzalo García Barcha, García Márquez’s sons, who are serving as executive producers on the show, believe a series is an appropriate approach to the book.

“For decades, our father was reluctant to sell the film rights to Cien Años de Soledad. He believed that it could not be made under the time constraints of a feature film, or that producing it in a language other than Spanish would not do it justice,” Rodrigo Garcia told BuzzFeed News, adding that the “current golden age of series,” with “the level of talented writing and directing, the cinematic quality of content,” changed the family’s mind.

“The time could not be better to bring an adaptation to the extraordinary global viewership that Netflix provides,” he continued.

The series will be filmed in Colombia.

“One Hundred Years of Solitude” tells the story of the multi-generational Buendia family, whose patriarch Jose Arcadio Buendia founded Macondo, a fictional town in the South American country.

The book has sold more than 50 million copies and has been translated into 46 languages.

In a statement, Francisco Ramos, Netflix’s vice president of Spanish-language content, said, “We know our members around the world love watching Spanish-language films and series and we feel this will be a perfect match of project and our platform.”

He’s right. Since announcing the adaptation, fans of the magical realism novel have been celebrating the news.

There’s no word yet on when the series will debut and who will star in it.

Read: This Film About Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Is At The Center Of The Most Expensive Sundance Documentary Deal Of All Time

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

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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.

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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.

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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

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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

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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

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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

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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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