These intriguing novels by Hispanic authors will help your preteen or teen learn more about [email protected] culture and tradition.
“How Tía Lola Came to (Visit) Stay” by Julia Álvarez
In this story, Miguel is not only dealing with his parents’ divorce but also an impending move to Vermont with his mother and Tía Lola, his eccentric and possibly magical aunt. Through this enchanting character, Álvarez teaches her audience about the consequences of living between two different worlds.
“Under The Mesquite” by Guadalupe García McCall
Lupita, who has always found comfort in the closeness of her Mexican-American immigrant family, must become an adult as she cares for her seven younger siblings after her mother is diagnosed with cancer. Written in verse, this book is full of emotional honesty that ultimately leaves readers feeling empowered.
“Mexican WhiteBoy” by Matt de la Peña
Danny can’t find his place in a world so concerned with labels. He isn’t “white enough” for his San Diego private school, and he isn’t “Mexican enough” for the barrio. Finally, in an effort to understand himself better, Danny sets out on a voyage to visit his father in Mexico.
“Esperanza Rising” by Pam Munoz Ryan
On her family's ranch in Mexico, Esperanza enjoy a luxurious life in a beautiful home full of pretty dresses. This all changes when her family falls on hard times during the Great Depression, forcing them to flee to a camp for Mexican farm workers in California. This compelling book about immigration, assimilation, and overcoming adversity is one that many preteens will identify with.
“The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros
This book follows Esperanza, a Mexican-American girl living in Chicago. Through a series of vignettes, readers watch Esperanza go through the struggles of growing up and finding her identity. The novel also includes several stories from the point of view of Esperanza’s neighbors. Cisneros has created a classic that has touched many readers.
Editor’s note: This book contains sexual violence.
“Dreaming in Cuban” by Cristina García
This book follows generations of the del Pino family, from the 1930's to the 1980's. From the effects of the Cuban revolution to life in exile, the novel uses dreams, visions, and recollections from a variety of narrators to document the family’s history. Follow the del Pinos through this adventure steeped in the magical realism that characterizes some of Latin America's finest literature.
“Once More to the River: Family Snapshots of Growing Up, Getting Out and Going Back” by Erasmo Guerra
Guerra, an award-winning novelist and journalist, creates a heartbreaking collection of stories and essays that capture the culture of the Texas-Mexico border. Through his raw, lyrical prose, the author tells the story of growing up and grieving for his murdered sister.
“When I Was Puerto Rican: A Memoir” by Esmeralda Santiago
Esmeralda Santiago eloquently details the story of her life, from her early years in the Puerto Rican barrio to her move to New York, where she quickly must learn a new culture and language. The oldest of her eleven siblings, Santiago takes on new responsibilities as she grapples with a clash of cultures, ultimately confronting the toll these experiences take on her identity.
“Under the Feet of Jesus” by Helena María Viramontes
Viramontes tells the tale of Estrella and her family as they struggle with the dangerous farm work they do in California during the summer months. Through her fascinating characters, the author is able to starkly present the realities of the dangerous labor conditions faced by migrant workers.
“How the García Girls Lost their Accents” by Julia Álvarez
Chosen by New York librarians as one of the 21 classic books for the twenty-first century, “How the García Girls Lost Their Accents” is the tale of four sisters who flee from the Dominican Republic for political reasons in the 1960s and settle in the U.S. Through the descriptions of intimate moments shared by the characters, readers learn about the turmoil of being caught between cultures.
“In the Time of the Butterflies” by Julia Álvarez
This novel is inspired by the true story of the three Mirabi sisters, who were murdered in the 1960s when they attempted to overthrow the Dominican dictator, General Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. Álvarez blends together fact and fiction to tell an intriguing story of courage and political oppression.
“Nilda” by Micholasa Mohr
This coming-of-age novel, set at the outbreak of WWII, explores the life of Nilda, a New York-born Puerto Rican girl dealing with racism, relationships, and more. Mohr writes the book in a stark but beautiful style, giving readers a realistic portrayal of the life of immigrants in the United States.