5 Excellent Books By and About Latinas
5 Excellent Books By and About Latinas
In celebration of Women's History Month, here are some notable stories about the journey from girlhood to womanhood written by and about Latinas. The most popular and bestselling title is without question Sandra Cisneros's The House on Mango Street, which continues to set the standard because of its popular appeal, complex characters, and emotional truths. The following are excellent companions to that beloved book. Some are already classics in the Latinx genre, others will soon find their place in the hearts of readers everywhere, standing proudly next to Cisneros's cherished Chicana, Esperanza.
1. Julia Alvarez, How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, Algonquin Books.
First published in 1991, Alvarez's novel-in-stories chronicles the lives of four sisters from the Dominican Republic as they navigate cultural displacement, assimilation and feminism. Growing up in New York City offers exciting challenges and freedoms, but their journeys and awareness of their privileges is inextricably bound to the García family's status as political refugees fleeing the Trujillo dictatorship. Each of the sisters works to overcome her unique personal struggle, but it's Yolanda, the writer, who takes on the role of memory-keeper, clinging to family history to avoid forgetting.
2. Jennine Capó Crucet, Make Your Home Among Strangers, St. Martin's Press.
Cuban American writer Capó Crucet creates a kindred spirit for all of those young Latinas who are daughters of immigrants and first-generation college students. Lizet Ramírez trades her familiar Florida surroundings for a chance to study in a private college located in upstate New York. This eye-opening dislocation allows Lizet to fully appreciate her Cuban community's complicated relationships to exile, but she's also painfully aware that she has access to resources and knowledge that will widen the rift between her experience and those of the people she left behind. Capó Crucet's dazzling novel shows that leaving home is never easy, and neither is coming back.
3. Reyna Grande, The Distance Between Us, Washington Square Press.
Grande's two novels Across a Hundred Mountains (2006) and Dancing with Butterflies (2009) dealt with the sacrifices Mexican families make to secure a better life for their children, and how the harsh realities of separation from homeland and even from each other affect a person's emotional well-being. In this inspiring memoir, Grande details her own experience as a girl left behind in Mexico, who eventually joins her parents in the U.S. as an undocumented immigrant. Her family members are strangers in a strange land, but Grande pushes past the stigmas of poverty and her immigrant status, finding her voice by pursuing an education.
4. Daisy Hernández, Cup of Water Under My Bed, Beacon Press.
Strengthened by the cultural lessons of her Columbian-Cuban ancestry and a deep respect for her family's spiritual beliefs, Hernández, a bisexual woman of color, prepares to confront the disappointments and hard-won triumphs of the professional world. This empowering memoir traces Hernández's path from the comforts of home to the discomforts of school and beyond. She learns that what makes her unique will also be subject to suspicion, exclusion, and even ridicule. But no matter what kind of unexpected encounter awaits her, her self-esteem and pride, fortified by love, remains unshakable.
5. Judith Ortiz Cofer, Call Me Maria, Farrar Straus Giroux.
Call Me Maria by Judith Ortiz Cofer Amazon / Amazon
This legendary Puerto Rican author passed away only a few months ago, but she left behind an incredible literary legacy: poems, fiction and nonfiction that spoke to the immigrant journeys, usually experienced by women. Her other well-known books include Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood (1990) and The Latin Deli: Telling the Lives of Barrio Women (1993). In this 2004 novel, Ortiz Cofer writes beautifully about one young woman's struggle with depression. Separated from her mother and the motherland, she taps into her own imaginative powers to make poetry out of heartache, to find hope while in despair.