Everyone knows J.K. Rowling, Stephen King, Colleen Hoover and John Green.
But do you know Elizabeth Acevedo? Jaime Cortez? Yamile Saied Méndez?
You’ve probably picked up a book about the history of submarines, read comic books about intergalactic time travel or cried to a beautiful, gut-wrenching romance where they don’t end up together.
But have you read a book about a child coming to America alone? Have you read about a teenage girl who doesn’t want to have a quinceañera? Have you read about the lives of undocumented immigrants across the United States?
Here are some inspiring books by Hispanic authors that capture these experiences and others.
Solito – Javier Zamora (Salvadoran)
Maybe it’s because I’m also Salvadoran, but I strongly recommend this book. It is a memoir, in poems, about Zamora’s journey to the U.S. when he was only nine years old. He did so by himself, hence the title.
“I hope that nonimmigrants can see that we don’t want to do this and that it’s difficult and that we carry this with us every single day,” Zamora said in an interview about his book on the podcast Poured Over.
There is an English version of the book titled Unaccompanied.
Promises of Gold – José Olivarez (Mexican)
This book is a collection of poems where Olivarez “explores every kind of love” and “the contradictions of the American Dream.”
Olivarez wrote the book in English, but if you flip it over, you can read the book in Spanish. Fellow poet David Ruano translated the Spanish version.
Besides romance, Promises of Gold covers the love between friends, family and culture, which has the potential to deeply resonate with many readers.
Olivarez, a Harvard graduate born to Mexican parents, also authored the poetry book Citizen Illegal, which was a finalist for the PEN/Jean Stein Award.
Gordo – Jaime Cortez (Chicano)
A collection of short stories, the book is about a young boy, Gordo, and his life at a migrant workers’ camp in 1970s California where he figures out his sexuality and contemplates the idea of manhood that his father imposes on him.
It’s also humorous with a little bit of childlike wonder.
Cortez is a LGBTQ+ rights activist and works with HIV/AIDS prevention. His graphic novel, Sexile, was created for the 2003 AIDS Project Los Angeles.
Furia – Yamile Saied Méndez (Argentinian)
This novel features an Argentinian girl who is a talented fútbol – soccer in English – player trying to follow her dreams while living with a narrow-minded mother and an abusive father. Neither of her parents know she plays fútbol, as they would forbid it if they were aware.
Not only does Méndez write young adult novels, she’s also written picture books, middle grade books and anthologies. She works to connect readers with different themes with her books, such as friendship, identity and home.
Miss Quinces – Kat Fajardo (Honduran and Colombian)
This is a coming-of-age graphic novel about a girl who does not want a quinceañera, a celebration of a girl’s 15th birthday in Hispanic culture. However, her mom is planning one for her anyway while they visit family in Honduras.
Miss Quinces is perfect for those who are not into long, wordy chapters and are fans of illustrated books.
Fajardo is an award-winning cartoonist and illustrator from New York City who graduated from the School of Visual Arts.
The Undocumented Americans – Karla Cornejo Villavicencio (Ecuadorian)
Cornejo Villavicencio tells the personal experiences and stories of undocumented immigrants across the U.S. in a novel that is also part memoir and was a National Book Award finalist.
Cornejo Villavicencio graduated from Harvard University while she was an undocumented immigrant, one of the first few to do so.
The book provides a meaningful opportunity to learn more about the lives of undocumented immigrants other than people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border into the U.S.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao – Junot Díaz (Dominican)
Set in both New Jersey and the Dominican Republic, Díaz’s book is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel.
The novel tells the story of Oscar, a young Dominican boy who just wants to find love, and the lives of his family members in the present and the past. Unfortunately, Oscar’s family suffers from a curse that has plagued them for years and caused them much trouble, including ill-fated love.
Born in the Dominican Republic but raised in New Jersey, Díaz is currently a fiction editor at Boston Review and a professor of writing at MIT.
The Poet X – Elizabeth Acevedo (Dominican)
Last, but certainly not least, is one of my favorite books. It is a New York Times best-seller with numerous awards, including the National Book Award and the Boston Globe-Horn Book Award.
Written by a University of Maryland alum, the poetry novel is about a Dominican girl born and raised in the U.S. struggling between the life as her mom’s obedient Catholic daughter and the life as herself – a teenage poet who just wants to be heard.
A National Poetry Slam Champion, Acevedo previously taught at Buck Lodge Middle School in Adelphi and dedicated her book to her former students from 2010 to 2012.