Reading is one of the best ways to explore culture. So, with about two weeks left in what’s designated National Hispanic Heritage Month, we scoured the internet to compile this list, then added some personal picks from visual director Andrea Morales.
We believe we have found voices that help us understand how far we have moved away from President Lyndon Johnson’s idea of celebrating “people of Hispanic descent,” a group he described as “the heirs of missionaries , captains, soldiers and farmers driven by a youthful spirit of adventure and a desire to settle freely in a free land.
But linking such different identities seems like a disservice. The creation of the “Hispanic” ethnic group centers Spain and Spanish speakers, so the broad identities under this umbrella are flattened by its perpetuation.
Below is our attempt to right that wrong, to celebrate and refocus Indigenous and Diaspora communities, all year round.
Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos translated by Jack Agüeros
In this first bilingual edition of her work, the Afro-Boricua freedom fighter offers what a friend of visual director Andrea Morales has described as “the sacred yet rare space for her personal growth.”
Racial Innocence: Unmasking Latino Anti-Black Bias and the Struggle for Equity by Tanya Kateri Hernandez
Racism is deeply complex, and this law professor and comparative race relations expert uses personal stories and legal case studies to explore racism within the Latino community.
I like by Angela Dominguez
Kirkus Reviews said this bilingual children’s picture book about love and community is like slipping into a hug.
Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
A book that serves as a portrait of this country written by an undocumented writer. Nominated for a National Book Award.
Olga dies dreaming by Xochitl González
This is the author’s first novel, and she managed to write a romantic comedy clever enough to examine political corruption, family strife, and the very notion of the American dream. The main characters are a wedding planner, her congressman brother, and their revolutionary activist mother. The title is an allusion to a poem by Pedro Pietri.
Neruda on the park by Cleyvis Natera
This novel follows the members of a Dominican family in New York City who take radically different paths in the face of encroaching gentrification and “tenderly and thoughtfully invites readers to weigh our own obligations to the places and people who made us,” according to a critic.
How not to drown in a glass of water by Angie Cruz
The structure of this novel is built around a dozen interview sessions that the middle-aged Dominican main character has as she tries to prove her job readiness and eligibility for unemployment benefits. (She’s a worker!) The personal story of a woman on the verge of trying to find herself.
High risk homosexual by Edgar Gomez
This memoir by Florida-born gay Latinx asks some big questions: What is Latinidad? What is machismo? What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a queer man? It explores the answers in an interesting place — his uncle’s cockfighting ring in Nicaragua, where he was sent at age 13.
We are due by Ariana Brown
The author identifies as a queer Black Mexican American poet. This collection of poetry about his childhood in Texas and a trip to Mexico as an adult challenges typical definitions of Mexican identity and reveals the stories of Africans once enslaved in Texas and Mexico.
Willy cuts deep by Carlos Jaramillo
A collection of photographs that evoke a cultural staple – the hair salon poster – to play with appearance and perception. Beautifully done and truly intriguing in its ability to challenge your assumptions.
Echame La Agua by Amy Morales and Elizabeth Garcia
Stories of undocumented gay Cubans in Miami, told using various mediums and stories. Bonus: It’s published by independent zine and book publishers Homie House Press, which is owned by Latinx.
The garden of senderos that bifurcan by Tarrah Krajnak
A remarkable object that tells the story of the artist and attempts to reconnect and rebuild with the life left behind in Peru (and where she could have grown up) after being adopted by white American parents. The photographer includes ephemera and haunting prose.
Andrea Morales is the visual director of MLK50: Justice Through Journalism. Email him at [email protected]
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