11 Latino books to read for Hispanic Heritage Month
National Hispanic Heritage Month, a celebration that runs from September 15 to October 15, captures a period spanning seven different days of independence across Latin America. In recent years, however, the celebration has inspired Latinos in the United States to turn inward, grappling with issues of representation, colorism, and sexuality. To better understand those perspectives, here are 11 recent books that provide insight into distinct corners of contemporary Latin life in the United States:
The recent debate over the term “Latinx”, which has captured the attention of countless opinion pages and Twitter threads, is just the latest iteration of a long calculation on this unique and shared identity. This is argued by Morales, a lecturer at Columbia and CUNY, whose book on political and social history explains how our current understanding of Latin American identity is rooted in the Latin American concept of mestizo, or “hybridity,” and how that troubled history shapes American politics today.
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“Undocumented Americans”, by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio (One World, 2020)
This collection sits somewhere between reportage, fiction and memoir in its narration, rendering an intimate portrait of the condition of undocumented migrants in the United States. Villavicencio chronicles the lives of Ground Zero cleaning workers, a Haitian priestess in Miami and a former housemaid battling breast cancer in Flint, Michigan, richly describing a population that, as Caitlin Dickerson notes in her review, remains “Largely absent from modern journalism and literature.”
Read our review | Read our interview with Cornejo Villavicencio
“Poet X”, by Elizabeth Acevedo (Quill Tree, 2018)
In this National Book Award-winning verse novel, the life of 15-year-old Xiomara Batista in Harlem apparently changed overnight: her body, now taller and more bent, is newly subject to screams and insults; her Dominican mother has become a severe disciplinarian; and her church no longer looks like the haven it once was. As Xiomara grapples with these changes, she turns to slam poetry, where she finds freedom and discovers a distinctive voice.
Read our interview with Acevedo
Lovato discovers family secrets his father kept to tell a story of trauma and violence from El Salvador to the Mission District of San Francisco. While reckoning with this multigenerational story, Lovato mixes this memoir with an exhaustive report that highlights a cycle of bloodshed that spans El Salvador’s civil war, the birth of MS-13 in California and gang export to Central America.
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