Each year from September 15th to October 15th, Americans celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month. This year’s theme is “Hispanics: One Endless Voice to Enhance our Traditions.” The National Council of Hispanic Employment Program Managers, who chose the theme, says it “invites us to reflect on Hispanic American’s tradition, history and culture.” The literary world has certainly benefited from works by Hispanic Americans, so to celebrate, we’ve pulled together a list of a few of our favorites.
The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez
“Powerful. . . . Moving. . . . [Henríquez has] myriad gifts as a writer.” —The New York Times
When fifteen-year-old Maribel Rivera sustains a terrible injury, the Riveras leave behind a comfortable life in Mexico and risk everything to come to the United States so that Maribel can have the care she needs. Once they arrive, it’s not long before Maribel attracts the attention of Mayor Toro, the son of one of their new neighbors, who sees a kindred spirit in this beautiful, damaged outsider. Their love story sets in motion events that will have profound repercussions for everyone involved. Here Henríquez seamlessly interweaves the story of these star-crossed lovers, and of the Rivera and Toro families, with the testimonials of men and women who have come to the United States from all over Latin America. The Book of Unknown Americans is a stunning novel of hopes and dreams, guilt and love—a book that offers a resonant new definition of what it means to be American.
“A classic. . . . This little book has made a great space for itself on the shelf of American literature.” —Julia Alvarez
The bestselling coming-of-age classic, acclaimed by critics, beloved by readers of all ages, taught in schools and universities alike, and translated around the world.
The House on Mango Street is the remarkable story of Esperanza Cordero, a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become. Told in a series of vignettes—sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous—Sandra Cisneros’ masterpiece is a classic story of childhood and self-discovery. Few other books in our time have touched so many readers.
“Beautifully told with rich details and a plot that is finely woven. . . . Pulls you in from the first page and holds you until its last.” —The Dallas Morning News
On the first day of the year 1900, a small town deep in the Uruguayan countryside gathers to witness a miracle—the mysterious reappearance Pajarita, a lost infant who will grow up to begin a lineage of fiercely independent women. Her daughter, Eva, a stubborn beauty intent on becoming a poet, overcomes a shattering betrayal to embark on a most unconventional path. And Eva’s daughter, Salomé, awakens to both her sensuality and political convictions amid the violent turmoil of the late 1960s.
The Invisible Mountain is a stunning exploration of the search for love and a poignant celebration of the fierce connection between mothers and daughters.
“Bodega is a fascinating character. . . . The story [Quiñonez] tells has energy and verve.” —The New York Times Book Review
In a stunning narrative combining the gritty rhythms of Junot Díaz with the noir genius of Walter Mosley, Bodega Dreams pulls us into Spanish Harlem, where the word is out: Willie Bodega is king. Need college tuition for your daughter? Start-up funds for your fruit stand? Bodega can help. He gives everyone a leg up, in exchange only for loyalty—and a steady income from the drugs he pushes.
Lyrical, inspired, and darkly funny, this powerful debut novel brilliantly evokes the trial of Chino, a smart, promising young man to whom Bodega turns for a favor. Chino is drawn to Bodega’s street-smart idealism, but soon finds himself over his head, navigating an underworld of switchblade tempers, turncoat morality, and murder.
“A wonderful, wonderful book.” —Maxine Hong Kingston
Focusing on the relationship between two fiercely independent women—Teresa, a writer, and Alicia, an artist—this epistolary novel was written as a tribute to Julio Cortázar’s Hopscotch and examines Latina forms of love, gender conflict, and female friendship. This groundbreaking debut novel received an American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation and is widely studied as a feminist text on the nature of self-conflict.