Last Saturday I did a Hispanic Heritage presentation at Richmond’s Fountain Bookstore. Here is the list a couple of you have asked for. These are some of my favorite Latino reads, oldies and new releases, from picture books to adults. I could list dozens more, but here is a start. Feel free to add recommendations in the comments section. (P.S. Fountain had most of these titles on their shelves, so give them a call.)
A poetic spanglish romp on Halloween night. Gorgeous illustrations. Fantastic bilingual vocabulary
La Cazuela That the Farm Maiden Stirred by Samantha Vamos
A farm maiden decides to make arroz con leche – rice pudding. Energetic, bilingual vocabulary, gorgeous illustrations.
Martina the Beautiful Cockroach, by Carmen Agra Deedy
Carmen is a storyteller of Cuban origins. Also the author of Growing Up Cuban in Decatur Georgia. This is a classic folktale about how to find the right mate in life. The illustrations are gorgeous and the text gets at kids funny bone.
My Name is Gabriela by Monica Brown
Brown presents a beautiful bilingual biography of Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral. In 1945, Mistral became the first Latin American woman to receive the Nobel Prize for literature.
The Dreamer by Pam Muñoz Ryan and Peter Sis
This middle grade novel is about the early life of poet Pablo Neruda. It is written in a style that parallels Neruda’s THE BOOK OF QUESTIONS. Here Muñoz weaves Neruda’s love of the natural world, his struggle against his father, and the sounds of poetry in the every day and ordinary.
Before We Were Free by Julia Alvarez
A look at the savage presidency of Trujillo (Dominican Republic) through the eyes of 12-year-old Anita. Excellent historical fiction.
Margarita Engle’s work captures historical fiction through verse. In the Firefly Letters, she retells the life of Fredrika Bremer, a Swedish suffragette who traveled to Cuba in 1851. It’s a slim book that touches on women’s rights and slavery tucked inside often forgotten history.
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Published in 1984, this is the classic coming-of-age YA story told through interwoven short stories. Fierce and gritty. Often taught in schools.
The Surrender Tree by Margarita Engle
The Cuban War for Independence as told through the eyes of Rosa, who knows how to heal sickness with medicines made from wild plants. (Herbera). In verse. Creates amazing tension and characters in this look at war.
Miguel finds himself in juvie and eventually on the run from the law on his way to Mexico. Gritty characters, funny and tragic. Matt creates full characters and shows their humanity as they try to find forgiveness and redemption.
Dark Dude by Oscar Hijuelos
(author of The Mambo Kings…) Racism. The narrator is a Cuban in NYC during the 1970s, where being light-skinned has its problems. Runs away to Wisconsin, only to find a new kind of racism.
The Red Umbrella by Cristina Gonzalez
Cuba 1961 – The Peter Pan flights – during which parents sent their children to live with American families in order to give them a chance to escape Cuba.
An annual family trip from Chicago to Mexico City descends into generational family storytelling that really tries to find out why Awful Grandmother got to be awful. Funny and powerful.
The Sum of Our Days by Isabel Allende
Non-fiction about her life. Picks up where Paula left off. Unflinching look at herself – endearing, appalling, fabulous in every way.
Women with Large Eyes by Angeles Mastretta (in translation)
Mexican writer. Amazing group of stories that feature strong women.
The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz
Stunning, sexy, and funny. Through the most creative use of footnotes I’ve ever seen, Junot gives us a history of the Dominican Republic against a sad-sap story set in Washington Heights today.
In Her Absence by Antonio Muñoz Molina
Molina is a highly decorated writer from Spain, but he is only now gaining a reputation here in the states. In this short novel, Mario López is working as a draftsman in the small city of Jaén. The novel chronicles his passionate and painful relationship with Blanca, his artistic and wandering wife of six years.
Before Night Falls by Reynaldo Arenas
Memoir that describes life inside Castro’s Cuba for gay writers. Set in the 1970s and early 80s. Powerful and tragic – and a testament to the artistic spirit.