I am an American citizen, a big fan of football (the American kind), and I can rap any twentyone pilots song out there. After al of that I still appreciate where I’ve come from, El Salvador and Cuba. I’ve never been to these countries and I know very little about them because I’ve grown up “American”. Much to the dismay of my Abuelas, I don’t know much Spanish, my pupusas will never be as good as my Abuela’s, and you can bet that I don’t know how to make Cuban coffee, but I’ve always appreciated the stories they’ve told me of their time in Cuba and El Salvador.
While there are many stories to celebrate during Hispanic heritage month, by far some of my favorites are the ones told in novels. In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez is one of them. The story is a fictionalized account of the Maribal Sisters and their opposition of General Trujillo (El Jefe) in the Dominican Republic in the 1960s. As I read the story, unknown to me, I grew closer to these characters. The author managed to form a sort of relationship between the Maribal sisters and I. Disclaimer, I’m not Dominican and I was unfamiliar with the story of our heroines, but once I read it, I learned of their importance to the Dominican Republic’s history. Though the story was fictionalized, I believe the author was able to portray our heroines personalities correctly according to historical accounts.
How the García Girls Lost Their Accents by Juliá Alvarez is another great novel for Hispanic Heritage month. The story of the Garcia girls is one that is so often played out in the everyday lives of immigrants, not only from Spanish speaking countries but from around the world. Though this story (and article) is about the Hispanic community, it is easy to relate to no matter where one comes from. Alvarez captured the struggles of being an immigrant and was able to retell it in reverse chronological order, giving the reader an already established perspective but allowing them to see how they got there versus going on the journey with them. The structure of the novel added an extraordinary detail that is by far unmatched by any other of Alvarez’s novels; though personally I thought the main characters were a tad too similar to those of In the Time of Butterflies.
Next on the list is Cien Años de Soledad by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. The novel is about the story of the Buendía family. It goes through the seven generations of the family beginning with the patriarch and the founder of the fictitious town of Mocondo in Colombia. Eventually throughout the novel you can see how the members of the Buendía family are unable to escape their own misfortunes, and that they are usually self inflicted. While the town is mostly to itself with little interference of the outside world it is easy to see what the author wanted his readers to take away from the novel; no one person can live without interactions from the outside world and survive. The story has many parallels with reality as the author took much inspiration from the events that happened in Colombia.
The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros also made my list this month. The novel explains the story of Esperanza, the main protagonist and gives insight of her and her family’s everyday lives on Mango Street. As she grows and matures throughout the novel her growth is subjected to many deterrents, which plays in part with Esperanza’s friendship with a girl named Sally. The novel was loosely based of Cisneros childhood and her maturity into adulthood. While the story is mainly about a young girl, it is relatable to any age or gender of the reader.
House of Spirits by Isabelle Allende, Allende’s debut novel, tells the story of the del Valle family and later the Trueba family. While the novel is incredibly complex, the details in which Allende is able to connect one character to another later on in the novel is surreal. The novel is captivating and the characters though thought to originally be stagnant (due to the idea of stereotype characters constantly played out in novels) are capable of making change which can be seen as the novel progresses. While the main antagonist, Esteban Trueba, was originally a sweet, kind, and determined man changed due to the significant loss he faced early on in the story, but was later able to redeem himself in the end and not fulfill a prophecy originally told to him by his sister.The novel is one of Allende’s best works yet and is captivating.
I might be an average American millennial and I probably couldn’t learn Spanish in a month, but reading these books at the suggestion of my coworkers, friends, teachers, and family, helped me grow a lot closer to not only the authors and character but to my loved ones as well. I’m proud to be a Hispanic American. Don’t just take my word for it. Pick up one of these novels for yourself this Hispanic Heritage month.