It was pretty much inevitable that I would become a Hamilton addict. As both an American history nerd and a musical theatre geek, I found Lin-Manuel Miranda’s brilliant musical exploring the story of Alexander Hamilton and the founding of the United States irresistible from the moment I first listened to the opening number. However, my love of Hamilton comes not only from Miranda’s incredibly well-crafted soundtrack and book but also from his clear interest in highlighting perspectives often left out of the historical record, including the voices and experiences of women.
Obviously, I am not the first to notice this; articles like Michael Schulman’s “The Women of Hamilton“ and Constance Gibbs’ “How the Hero of Hamilton the Musical is a Woman” explore the powerful ways that Miranda’s writing and the performances of Phillipa Soo, Renee Elise Goldsberry, and Jasmine Cephas Jones illuminate the often unacknowledged perspectives, experiences, and contributions of women in our history. Singing along to songs like “The Schuyler Sisters,” “Satisfied,” and “Burn,” I can’t help but feel the urge to read some great historical fiction that places women and their stories in the spotlight.
National Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 to October 15) celebrates the heritage and culture of Hispanic and Latino Americans. September 15th is the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. Mexico, Chile and Belize also celebrate their independence days during this month.The term Hispanic or Latino refers to Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.
To commemorate this month, I am highlighting some of the recent and forthcoming YA books either written by, or about, Hispanic and Latino fictional or real characters.
Megan Miranda’s Soulprint, published this past February, is about Alina, a half-Hispanic 17-year-old, who has been confined on a secluded island for most of her life. She’s not confined for a crime that she committed in her present life, but for the past incursions of her soul. In this novel set in the not too distant world, scientists have discovered a way to create a fingerprint called a “Soulprint” of a particular soul that allows them trace its passage from individual to individual. Alina happens to possess the soul of the late June Calahan, a Soul Database hacker who blackmailed public figures with nefarious past lives. Broken out of prison by three strangers, Alina hopes to finally escape from June’s shadow and begin to live her own life, but her rescuers have ulterior motives.
Matt De La Peña’s The Hunted (published in May) is the sequel to the 2014 Pura Belpre Honor winnerThe Living (2014 YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults). A tsunami has sunk the cruise ship Mexican-American teen Shy Espinoza was working on for the summer. He and teens Marcus and Carmen and their adult guide Shoeshine have survived the sinking ship; escaped an island harboring a deadly secret and survived over a month at sea. They have discovered that some of the passengers were working for an evil biotech company responsible for a deadly contagion ravaging Southern California. In an area of California patrolled by rival gangs, the dead and dying, and those desperate to survive, they struggle to make it to the nearest operating laboratory in Arizona. By bringing the chemical formula and samples of the vaccine there, they hope scientists will be able to duplicate the vaccine samples and save the population.
Shadowshaper (June) by Daniel José Older is an inventive tale that combines contemporary and magical realism in a stunning way. Sierra Santiago, a graffiti artist, is stunned when she notices the murals in her neighborhood begin to weep real tears. Her ill grandfather gives her a strange warning and old men from her Brooklyn community begin mysteriously disappearing. After a zombielike corpse crashes a party one night and chases her, she and a cute guy from her neighborhood try to find out what’s going on and discover her family’s magical abilities. Sierra’s forced to do battle with a crazy anthropologist who wants that magical power for himself. What’s not to love about a kickass Latino heroine?
In Adam Silvera’s More Happy Than Not (June), it’s been very hard for Puerto Rican Aaron Soto, 16, to find happiness since his father’s suicide and Aaron’s attempted coming out and subsequent rejection by the boy he likes and by his friends. The grief and the scar on his wrist prevent him from ever completely forgetting. Maybe the solution is to have The Leteo Institute erase parts of the memory, even if he risks severe amnesia and possibly death.