1. The Veins of the Ocean by Patricia Engle
This literary fiction novel follows Reyna, a Colombian immigrant whose brother commits suicide in jail, leaving her alone but with the time and space to find herself as an individual. She moves to the keys, where she meets Nesto, a Cuban immigrant who teaches her about the ocean and freedom. Their relationship evolves through trips to Cuba and Colombia. Besides the fact that I love an immigrant story, the relationships and character development in this book were so well done. I learned so much about Cuban, Colombian, and even Miami culture.
2. The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood by Richard Blanco
For lovers of nonfiction, this is a memoir by inaugural poet Richard Blanco. It spans from his childhood through his adolescence as he discovers his sexuality and navigates the conflicts between his American and Cuban identities and the difficult culture of toxic masculinity and homophobia perpetuated by his family. I just finished this, and Riqui’s story was so engrossing and well written that it reads like fiction. Recognizing not only the Miami locations like Westchester and Christopher Columbus High School (where Riquí studied) but also the Cuban traditions and customs that Riqui’s family brought from Cuba and adapted to their American life felt very familiar and accurate to me personally.
3. Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia
This is a debut novel from March 30, 2021. I’m recommending it without having read it yet because I have such high hopes for it. Carmen’s daughter, Jeanette, struggles with addiction, while Carmen has difficulties coming to terms with her life as a Cuban immigrant. The reader follows Jeanette on a trip to Cuba to visit her grandmother and uncover secrets from the past. I love that it sets in 19th century Cuba as well as present-day Miami. I’m a fan of multi-generational historical fiction, so I’m hoping I can learn something about my family’s culture as well as see my city reflected in the story.