Hispanic Heritage Month is September 15-October 15, and while I think it’s important to read and discuss a diverse selection of books year round, celebration months are a great time to spotlight these type of collections, so I wanted to highlight a list of titles that feature Hispanic characters and/or are written by Hispanic authors.
Sometimes, it’s not immediately obvious that Hispanic culture is featured in the book. I was pleasantly surprised when I read Sarah Ockler’s most recent release, The Book of Broken Hearts, and discovered it was a rich, layered story about a family that immigrated from Argentina to the United States. The book is peppered with Spanish language and cultural references, and I guarantee you’ll be craving empanadas while reading it.
There are many fantastic novels about the immigrant experience of people from Hispanic backgrounds living in the United States, but Hispanic Heritage Month is a great time to explore the stories of Latin Americans as well. The Queen of Water by Laura Resau and Maria Virginia Farinango is based on the true story of an indigenous girl who becomes an indentured servant to a wealthy Mestizo family in Ecuador, and is a moving tale of a girl’s journey to self-discovery.
In addition to books about Hispanic culture, Hispanic Heritage Month is a great time to spotlight books that are translated from Spanish. Grimpow: The Invisible Road by Rafael Ãbalos is set in medieval France about a boy set on a journey when he discovers a magical stone and is drawn into a plot that features the Knights Templar.
Several novels by Hispanic authors contain elements of magical realism. The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind by Meg Medina features young love and a strong-willed heroine, and The Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall is an Odyssey-like story of sisters whose adventures force them to face a warlock, a half-human barn owl, and chupacabras.
Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe by Benjamin Alire Saenz, with its many awards, including
2013’s Stonewall Book Award, Printz Honor, Best Fiction for Young Adults Top Ten, and Pura Belpre Author Award, is an obvious choice, but a well-deserved addition to the list. This story of Mexican-American teenagers finding friendship and love is fantastic, but Saenz’s other books are worth checking out as well. Last Night I Sang to the Monster is a moving story of mental illness from a teen’s perspective and included on YALSA’s 2011 Best Fiction for Young Adults Top Ten list.
Additional YA titles worth checking out include:
- Behind the Eyes by Francisco X. Stork
- Muchacho by LouAnne Johnson
- La Linea by Ann Jaramillo
- Crossing the Wire by Will Hobbs
- In the Time of Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
- Gringolandia by Lyn Miller-Lachmann
- Romiette & Julio by Sharon Draper
There is also a great selection of middle grade fiction by Hispanic authors as well as some notable poetry collections, and this is by no means meant to be a comprehensive list, but rather an attempt to highlight some titles or serve as an introduction to the wealth of literature written by Hispanic authors about Hispanic characters. For more reviews and excellent resource on Latin American Literature, check out Vamos a Leer, the blog of the the Latin American and Iberian Institute (LAII) at the University of New Mexico. In addition to reviews, they provide educator guides and excellent programming ideas related to Hispanic literature. YALSA also has a list of recommended titles that reflect the diversity of Hispanic culture, which can be found here. Hannah Gomez also wrote a post on the Mexican-American identity in YA lit earlier this year that also features some great young adult fiction.
Do you have a favorite Hispanic author? What other books feature Hispanic characters? Feel free to share in the comments.
-Molly Wetta, currently listening to Sabriel by Garth Nix, read by Tim Curry