National Hispanic Heritage Month is coming up (September 15 â€“ October 15)! What are you doing to get ready for it? About a third of my student patron base is Latino/a, and I want them to be reading this month (well, every month). Here are a few things that are going to be on my Featured shelf starting September 15 (and some of them will double nicely as Banned Books Week features as well).
Down These Mean Streets â€“ I first read this book when I was thirteen, and it was already a classic. When he published it in 1967, Piri Thomas wanted to tell the world what it was like to grow up Boricua Moreno in Spanish Harlem in the 1940s. It’s a gripping tale of street life and redemption while exposing a layer of social issues regarding color, language, and social relationships in New York and America as a whole. It’s a serious memoir, but so elegantly and gracefully narrated that you will have a hard time putting it down. The thirtieth anniversary edition includes a few more insights into the world.
The House on Mango Street â€“ This is a great book to section out for discussion. Since it’s written in a collection of vignettes and stories, it’s easy to break down and look at individual themes. Of course, Sandra Cisneros also has a fun and quirky way of writing that keeps us as readers involved in the narrator’s desire for something better, while still wanting to take care of the family and friends that cannot or will not aim for the same.
In the Time of the Butterflies â€“ While Julia Alvarez proponents seem to prefer How the Garcia Girls Lost their Accents (also an excellent book), I prefer to start my teens off with this one (especially if they’re reading it on their own). The heaviness is something a little different for those not looking for a novel filled with romantic intentions, and there are some who appreciate having that offered alongside the romance and adventure stories.
City of the Beasts â€“ Isabel Allende! That’s all I have to say. Okay, I can say more. In her first YA novel, she takes the magical-realism she is famous for and brings us the adventure of a boy and his grandmother through the amazon in search of a mythical creature. There are more in the series, too!
Bless Me, Ultima â€“ This historical novel involves brujas, vaqueros, and lots of questions about God (which have managed to get this poor little book on a few banned books lists). Rodulfo Anaya has an interesting way with words, which makes this book beyond the imagination and totally accessible, both at the same time.
I’m still working on the list, and will more than likely include a couple books about Cesar Chavez and other important Latinos as well as art and culture books. But these are great reads, whether we’re celebrating the varying cultures of the books’ characters or not.
As you can see, my collection, while awesome, is a little dated. What books are you and your readers going to be talking about this Hispanic Heritage Month?
If you want a starter list, the Florida Department of Education has put together a great collection sorted by age group.
Jessica Pryde, about to start Revolution by Jennifer Donnelly.
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