10 Books That Will Teach You About Latin@ Heritage

These fiction and nonfiction books will deepen your understanding of Latin@ culture in the United States.

Looking to learn more about Latin@ culture? These books, a collection of nonfiction and novels, will expand your horizons for Hispanic Heritage Month.

Non-Fiction

“The Afro-Latin@ Reader: History and Culture in The United States” by Miriam Jiménez Román and Juan Flores

This collection of essays, articles, poems, short stories, and interviews provides a rich, kaleidoscopic understanding of [email protected], people of African descent from Latin America and the Caribbean. [email protected] hold an interesting position in American society at the intersection of Latin@ and African-American culture, and this book collapses the distinctions traditionally made between these groups.

“Our America: The Latino Presence in American Art” by Carmen Ramos

Ramos examines more than a hundred pieces of artwork created by Latin@ artists from the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Latin@ art flourished during the Civil Rights movement in the 1960s as American artists of Latin@ descent began expressing their identity and culture in a tangible way. Through the lens of art, this book helps readers develop a better grasp of Latin@ heritage and history in the U.S.

“The Young Lords: A Reader” by Darrel Enck-Wazner

This book brings to light the activism of the Young Lords, a radical group of Puerto Ricans who sought to improve the Latin@ community in the ‘60s and ‘70s. Through a collection of speeches, photographs, pamphlets, and news articles, readers can learn about this inventive grassroots political movement.

“Down These Mean Streets” by Piri Thomas

This autobiographical book recounts the life of Piri Thomas from his upbringing on the tough streets of Spanish Harlem to his time in Sing Sing and culminates with the freedom he gains through self-acceptance. Through Piri, we get a harrowing account of what it means to be an outsider.

“A Cup of Water Under My Bed” by Daisy Hernández

Hernández’s telling of her childhood is a strong symbol of what it is like to grow up as a woman in an immigrant home. Nestled in the intersection of ethnicity, gender, and sexuality, this book is a heartfelt exploration of territory that has been left uncharted for far too long.

“A World Not to Come: A History of Latino Writing and Print Culture” by Raúl Coronado

In what is now the state of Texas, this Southwest region has gone through a series of dramatic transformations from Spanish colony to Mexican republic to Texan republic and finally to inclusion in the United States. Coronado follows the intellectual transformation that took place here after Napoleon deposed the Spanish king when for the first time, Hispanics looked beyond the monarchy for a source of authority. This moment in history, Coronado posits, is the birthplace of Latin@ culture and literature.

Fiction

“The Book of Unknown Americans: A Novel” by Cristina Henríquez

The Rivera’s leave their homeland of Mexico when their daughter, Maribel, sustains a traumatic brain injury. They find their new home in a building in Delaware surrounded by other immigrant families from all over Latin America. In chapters with alternating narrators, this book sheds light on the lives of the “Unknown Americans” who are often marginalized by others. “The Book of Unknown Americans” was a winner of the Amazon Book of the Month Award in June 2014.

“The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao” by Junot Díaz

This Pulitzer Prize-winning book has become a seminal novel for twenty-first century readers. It documents the life of Oscar, a nerdy Dominican boy who dreams of falling in love and becoming the next J.R.R. Tolkien, if only he can beat the curse that has been laid on his family for generations.

“In Cuba I Was a German Shepherd” by Ana Menéndez

This book, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, is a series of 11 interrelated short stories told by Cuban and Dominican immigrants in Miami. In the titular story, Máximo tells his friends “Here in America, I may be a short, insignificant mutt, but in Cuba I was a German shepherd.” A chorus of stories, mixed with poignancy and humor, come together to create a mosaic of the Latin@ experience in the United States.

“Lotería: A Novel” by Mario Alberto Zambrano

This book is the journal that eleven-year-old Luz Castillo keeps as her family is plunged into turmoil. Luz is forced to deal with her mother's disappearance, her sister's illness, and her father's arrest all at once. As she is taken into state custody, Luz decides to communicate with God through a deck of Lotería cards, which inspires the entries of this book.

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