Nine YA Books Surrounding Latino Characters That Will Send You Straight Back To Your Childhood

If you were a bookworm like me growing up, your childhood and middle school days, along with your bookshelf, was packed full of reads with fantastical characters you fell in love with. No doubt you fanned through the pages of “The Baby-Sitters Club” series, Judy Blume books and, of course, Harry Potter. But for those rainy days, where all you wanted was to read stories of characters whose lives more intimately reflected your own, various standout Latino writers made this possible.

Here are nine Latino YA books whose stories about familia, love and coming of age still stick with you.

The House On Mango Street

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This novella by Sandra Cisneros tells the story of Esperanza Cordero, a Latina teen growing up in a Chicago barrio. In a series of vignettes, Cisneros poetically spins Esperanza’s beautiful story of resisting oppression while coming of age. Like so many of the books on this list, Esperanza’s story resonated with Latinas because of the shared experiences of familia and facing obstacles. Even now, readers can vividly recall the sadness of reading about female characters like Esperanza’s abuela, who were so trapped within their lives.

Esperanza Rising


Speaking of Esperanzas, the main character in “Esperanza Rising” is the privileged daughter of a wealthy landowner living with her parents in Mexico when misfortune forces her and her mother to flee to a California farm workers colony. Set in the era of the Great Depression, Pam Muñoz Ryan’s story spurred our thoughts as young readers on topics surrounding prejudice, choice, economics and labor unions. The plot of this novel took us on a journey riddled with characters who managed to maintain optimism despite living amidst so much sadness and suffering.

Quinceañera Means Sweet 15

As readers of Veronica Chambers’ novel, connecting to Afro-Latina best friend’s Marisol and Magdalena was easy because of their friendship, crushes and familial pressures to maintain their Latino culture. The two friends navigate the cultural divide of being American, Black and Latina while also trying to remain true to themselves and their own interests. No doubt this book inspired young readers to stay educated about ourselves and explore our own roots.

Becoming Naomi León

At the very beginning of this novel, Naomi León’s strong bond with her abuela and brother appear unshakeable. That is until her alcoholic mom inserts herself into their lives and turns everything upside down when she decides to take Naomi away. After a chain of luckless events, Naomi is sent on a flight to Mexico with her brother and grandmother where she discovers her Mexican heritage. Pam Muñoz Ryan’s book helped us to better understand our anxieties as children.

Bless Me, Ultima

For many readers, Rudolfo Anaya’s novel acted as an introduction to the world of magic realism, and a unique grandson/abuela bond that was easy to relate to. At the heart of “Bless Me, Ultima” is the story of a boy undergoing a series of rites of passages which put him face to face with themes surrounding identity, free will and fear— subjects Latinas and really all women can relate to.

How Tía Lola Came to (Visit) Stay

How Tia Lola Came To (Visit) Stay /

Who didn’t want a tía like Tía Lola after this read? That is, if they didn’t have one like her already. Julia Alvarez tells the story of a boy named Miguel whose move to Vermont after his parents divorce is chaperoned by his colorful Tía Lola. Between this book’s pages is a story of acceptance, cultural diversity and holding onto family, even when it hurts.

Cuba 15

Cuba 15 /

Nancy Osa’s novel is about Violet Paz, a girl who’s part Cuban, part Polish family. Cultures collide when she hits 15. For many Latinas coming from families who immigrated to the U.S., Violet’s narrative was a relatable read that taught them to embrace their multiple cultures.

The Guardians

Author Ana Castillo bestowed Latinas a fiercely independent female character in Tía Regina. As a young reader of this book, the amorous relationship between Regina and Miguel was a pleasing introduction to sensuous literature that (dare I say) rivaled the likes of Judy Blume.


In this book, Sandra Cisneros writes of the lies, trauma and history that affects a multigenerational family. It all comes out as they take a summer road trip to Mexico City, making us reminisce about long car rides and the pains of learning difficult parts of your heritage.

Read: Poetry’s Been Called An Outdated Pastime, But These Latinas Are Breathing New Life Into The Art

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


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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Latina Reads: Puerto Rican Author Lilliam Rivera Discusses Upcoming YA Latinx Feminist Novel


Latina Reads: Puerto Rican Author Lilliam Rivera Discusses Upcoming YA Latinx Feminist Novel

Lilliam Rivera has written two novels featuring strong Latinx female characters including her latest Dealing in Dreams. The Puerto Rican YA author released The Education of Margot Sanchez in 2017, a romantic coming of age story set in South Bronx that explored family dysfunction and the importance of being true to yourself. Born in Manhattan and raised in the Bronx, Rivera penned the ode to her hometown after relocating to Los Angeles. The book was nominated for the 2017 Best Fiction for Young Adult Fiction by the Young Adult Library Services Association and Rivera has also been awarded fellowships from PEN Center USA, A Room Of Her Own Foundation, and received a grant from the Elizabeth George Foundation and the Speculative Literature Foundation.

In Dealing in Dreams, Rivera takes readers on the kind of fantasy adventure she imagines her teenage self would’ve wanted to read. The feminist dystopic novel is clearly influenced by Latinx culture following the adventures of sixteen-year-old Nalah and her all-girl crew Las Mal Criadas and her dreams of escaping Mega City to the exclusive Mega Towers. Read on to learn about the strong Latinx women in the book, why she chose to portray toxic femininity, and how immigration came into play. The book will be out March 5 and she’ll be talking at bookstores throughout the U.S.

The story focuses on an all-girl crew, can you tell me more about Las Mal Criadas and how you developed these characters?

Nalah is the sixteen-year-old leader of Las Mal Criadas, an all-girl crew who patrol the streets of Mega City. They are notoriously fierce but Nalah is wary of the violent life. She believes the way off the streets is securing a home in the exclusive Mega Towers where her leader Déesse lives. She’ll do anything to reach that goal. I wrote a draft of Dealing In Dreams six years ago and Nalah came to me first. I had just given birth to my second daughter and there were people, mostly women, who remarked how my dream of being a published author would have to be placed on hold. Rage can be a great incentive for generating art. I refuse to be pigeonholed. I wrote this draft while taking care of a newborn and I put it away for six years, workshopping a chapter here and there, until a year ago when I returned to the manuscript and still felt its relevance.

Can you describe Mega City and the Mega Towers and their significance in the story?

@lilliamr / Instagram

I based the concept of the Mega Towers on the housing projects I grew up in the South Bronx. The Twin Park West Housing Projects is a U-shaped structure connected by three buildings. With the Bronx slowly being gentrified I could just imagine how these buildings will soon be so desirable for those in power. In Dealing In Dreams, the towers are the only structure that survived the Big Shake, a man-made disaster caused by drilling. The Mega Towers is where the elite live and it’s where Nalah believes she can secure a home for her crew if she plays by this society’s rules. There are a couple of hints that Mega City is the Bronx but only a person from there would discover those Easter eggs.

The book is being described as a feminist Latinx dystopia and The Outsiders meets Mad Max so suffice it to say it’s a fierce book, how would you describe it to someone who is unfamiliar with the genre? 

I would describe Dealing In Dreams as a young adult book about a girl who grew up in a violent world and must decide if that path is truly her only salvation to a better life.

There is a very clear Latinx influence in the city and characters, why was that important to you?

@lilliamr / Instagram

I grew up reading so many science fiction and fantasy novels (Ray Bradbury, George Orwell…) and didn’t see any of my people in them. Where were the Puerto Rican girls from the Bronx crushing monsters? The same holds true of current films. I love Star Wars and have watched it hundreds of times but how amazing is it that my kids get to see Oscar Isaac being a part of the Star Wars canon? The future I envision in my novels is very brown and very black, just like my upbringing. I want to write Latinx characters that are flawed and heroic, who fall in love and discover their voice.

This is your second time writing a teenage Latinx protagonist, why is it important to you to tell these stories through the lens of a Latina?

These are the type of stories I craved for when I was young, desperately trying to connect with protagonists in novels. I think there’s more than enough room in bookstores and libraries for different Latina stories.

You take toxic masculinity and flip it to women instead, what was your intent in doing this?

There’s this great image of activist Angela Peoples taken during the Women’s March. Angela holds up a sign that reads “Don’t Forget: White Women Voted for Trump.” I thought of that image when I was rewriting the novel. I also kept thinking of how our own people will gladly throw us under the bus in order to secure a place beside someone in power. Sometimes our own family are quick to lead us to destruction. I wanted to explore those two realities in Dealing In Dreams.

What are some of the main concepts you wanted to tackle when you wrote this book and why?

I was thinking of books I’ve read that inspired me as a young person such as Anthony Burgess A Clockwork Orange and S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. I was drawn to their violence and also to the idea of formed families. I wanted to explore this idea of blood family versus the family you create but I wanted to come from the point of view of a Latina.

The idea of finding a better home is a concept that’s all too real for many Latinx in the US, was it a conscious decision to have Nalah’s journey mirror the immigrant experience in a sense?

@lilliamr / Instagram

The quest for home is so rooted in my family’s history. My parents left Puerto Rico to find a better home in New York. Each decision they made, however hard, was made with the intention of providing us with the tools to succeed. Almost everyone who wants to enter the United States come with that hope. There’s an amazing painting by the artist Judithe Hernández titled “La Muerte De Los Inocentes” and it is of a child who clutches a ribbon that states: “We come but to dream.” I feel that painting really captures Nalah’s journey and the journey of so many who come to the U.S. searching for a better life.

There’s a lot of action in this book, what was it like writing those scenes featuring all women?

I had the best time writing those scenes! I think it’s so rare to see young women owning their strength on the page and not being afraid to use it. I love that my characters are unapologetic about it. I also didn’t want to give the reader a chance to rest, to think of putting the book down, so I tried to inject as much action as I could.

What do you want readers to take away from Dealing in Dreams?

I want readers to be transported to a place that looks at times familiar and completely new. I want Nalah, Truck, Nena and the rest of Las Mal Criadas to leave an imprint on the readers long after they read the last page.

Read: YA Writer Tehlor Kay Mejia’s Debut Fantasy Book is a Feminist Story of Forbidden Love and Oppression

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