A Latinx Summer Reading List to Revolutionize, Escape, and Unnerve
By Christina Miranda
With summer officially here, there’s now plenty of time do some light (or heavy) reading, depending on your liking. Whether you are taking a vacation, a road trip, or working but squeezing in some reading in throughout the workday, we have compiled a summer reading list of Latinx books that are sure to entertain, inform, and inspire you throughout the hot few months ahead.
Natalia Sylvester - Everyone Knows You Go Home (Amazon Publishing )
Sylvester’s second novel tells the story of an unexpected family reunion. Following Isabel and Martin’s wedding, Omar, Martin’s father, appears unexpectedly as a spirit visible only to Isabel. Still unwelcome after abandoning his family, Martin admits his being unaware of Omar’s passing. Every year after, on their wedding anniversary, Omar visits Isabel in order to redeem himself by offering her his story, and revealing parts of her new family and husband. Everyone Knows You Go Home offers a story embedded in the harsh, emotional reality of new lives in a new country, how it takes a brutal toll on one family’s future, and the uphill journey towards redemption in life and death.
Jose Antonio Vargas - Dear America: Notes of An Undocumented Citizen (HarperCollins )
As a Filipino immigrant, Jose Antonio Vargas lets the reader know right from the beginning that “this book is not about immigration at all.” Instead, Vargas takes a different approach to describing his new life in America through his immediate immersion in its culture, his fascination with it, and the discomfort experienced in not belonging to it or his Filipino culture. Dear America is about wandering for an identity not just during a fresh start but for the many years that follow, and the weight one bears in finding a home.
Martha Cotera, Brenda Sendejo, and Maylei Blackwell - Chicana Movidas: New Narratives of Activism and Feminism in the Movement Era (University of Texas Press )
We are witnessing a new racial and social movement, and Chicana Movidas serves as the perfect companion to the new Chicana revolution. Containing multiple contributions from Chicana activists and scholars, the book traces the early stages of the early Chicana movement up into the new century. Focusing on multiple subjects, from race to gender and sexuality, this anthology serves as a refreshing contribution to social activism and identity equality.
Daniel Peña - Bang (Arte Publico Press )
Peña’s debut novel introduces us to Uli and his brother, Cuauhtémoc. After taking a joy ride on a crop duster plane over the U.S.-Mexico border, the two crash land in Mexico, leaving them injured and immediately separated. Uli finds himself in a hospital, while Cuauhtémoc wakes up as a hostage to a drug cartel. In between these narratives lies their mother, Araceli, who makes the difficult decision to cross back to Mexico in search of her sons. Throughout the narrative, the three characters navigate the normalized dangers of living in Mexico and illuminate the personal experiences of Mexicans caught in the middle of a drug war.
Sandra Cisneros - Puro Amor (Sarabande Books )
Sandra Cisneros offers a truly special piece of literature in her new chapbook, Puro Amor, presented in English and Spanish side-by-side along with illustrations by Cisneros herself. Artists Mister and Missus Rivera surround themselves with a great number of animals, to the point that neighbors believe they’re running a farm. Cisneros provides her animals, ranging from cats and dogs to a fawn and iguana, with a regal, spiritual quality. As the two maneuver through the complications of their marriage, the animals are what give her life and the love she desires.
Fernando A. Flores - Tears of the Trufflepig (Farrar, Straus, and Giroux)
Set in a South Texas dystopian future where multiple border walls have been erected, all narcotics have been legalized and cartels have begun to enter the biological black market, resurrecting and mutating extinct animal species for consumption and shrinking indigenous heads for the wealthy. Esteban Bellacosa is submerged in a dark underground world, coming across relics of the ancient past, including the lost Aranaña Tribe and their dirty Trufflepig, which possessed mystical powers. Flores’ debut novel is fascinating and sprinkled perfectly with dark humor and psychedelic imagery that pulls you deep into Bellacosa’s universe.
Hernan Diaz - In the Distance (Coffee House Press)
Set in the 19th century, Swedish immigrant Håkan Söderström sets out east from California in search of his brother Linus, who was separated from him during their voyage to America. Through his journey he encounters the brutality and struggle of the people migrating west as he himself attempts to understand the violent and confusing world around him as a non-English speaker. As Diaz’s first novel (a Pulitzer Prize finalist to boot), In the Distance is an appealing new take on the modern western novel, countering the traditionally masculinist and violent narrative through Håkan’s own criticisms against it, and the shame it brings him as he becomes pulled into the frontier it creates.
Paloma Martinez-Cruz - Food Fight! A Millennial Mestaje Meets the Culinary Marketplace (The University of Arizona Press)
Paloma Martinez-Cruz makes a gastronomic analysis of the way Chicanx food has evolved and is currently evolving in order to create a clearer understanding of its appropriation and exploitation. From the treatment of farm workers in multiple countries who grow and harvest the foods that supply its industry, to the way that traditional Latinx and Chicanx foods have been appropriated by an Anglo luxury market, this culinary critique brings light to the issues that surround one of the most important cultural components of Latinx communities. Cruz successfully helps food consumers understand what is currently wrong with the way we produce food, and pushes us to act to improve the quality of the products we purchase and the lives of the individuals who produce them.