A classic of Chicano studies, the novel follows the relationship between six-year-old Antonio (Tony) Márez y Luna and Úlitma, an ancient midwife or curandera. Set in postwar New Mexico, the novel follows Tony through a lot of big questions about who and what God is and some fun Catholic things like the first communion, cursing enemies with the evil eye, and burning witches at the stake.
16-year-old Danny is caught between two worlds. Abandoned by his Mexican dad and raised by a white mom, he can’t speak Spanish and doesn’t like to talk much at all. Danny spends the summer with his Mexican cousins in 1990s San Diego and plays a lot of baseball and learns how to come to terms with himself. Basically, a lot of angst and baseball. We’re here for it.
8. Sanctuary (2021) by Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher
The premise: a quasi-fascistic American president cracks down on undocumented immigrants, thereby forcing 16-year old Vali and her family to go on the run, leaving Virginia for sanctuary in California. Sound familiar? But, hey, at least this story has a lot of really absorbing action sequences, some terrifying villians, and a really cute love interest.
Set in modern-day Chicago, the book centers around how Julia (a.k.a. not the perfect Mexican daughter) deals with the loss of her sister Olga. Despite dealing with lighthearted themes of grief, cultural pressure, assimilation, and stereotypes, the book manages to be really funny and Julia has a compelling, genuine voice.
Inspired by the true story of the Mirabál sisters (codename: the Butterflies) who were murdered in 1960 for their part in an underground plot to overthrow the dictatorship of General Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, this novel makes the legends feel like real people. Plus, Álvarez is a master of suspense, and the Mirabáls do a lot of thriller spy stuff.
Another lighthearted read, this novel centers around seven-year-old Chula who lives a carefree life in her gated community in Bogotá in the 1980s. It’s great, except when the threats of kidnappings, car bombs, and assassinations give her nightmares. Nevertheless, this book captures the unique beauty and brutality of Bogotá (my hometown). Definitely worth a read.
A nerd living with his Dominican family in modern-day New Jersey, Oscar dreams of becoming the next J. R. R. Tolkien, but keeps falling hopelessly in love, to mixed results. Oscar is as sweet and infuriating as a real person, and has a really funny and complex way of thinking about patriarchy and diaspora. Also, it won a Pulitzer. Also, fukú is real.
3. The Poet X (2018) by Elizabeth Acevedo
This is a verse novel narrated by 15-year-old Xiomara who feels trapped between her new body, her conservative Dominican Catholic family, and her own creativity. Set in modern-day Harlem, the book is about how Xiomara (a.k.a. the Poet X) learns how to use her voice through her poetry, which also is this book. So it’s a metaphor, but also, this book? Poetry book-ception?
You probably seen this on BookTok, but it really is worth the hype. Named after philosophers, Ari and Dante meet at a public pool in 1970s Texas. Ari and Dante have the knack for talking about identity and belonging while also being hilarious and quirky. Their friendship drives the plot to become something tender and engaging without being too sappy. Read to regain some faith in humanity.
The book that started it all. This book was so good that it inspired countless non-WASP authors to tell their own stories. Narrated as a series of poem or prose vignettes from the perspective of tween Esperanza Cordero in 1960s Chicago, the book is a beautiful and unpretentious invitation to broaden our understanding of what beauty is and who gets to tell stories.