September 15th marked the beginning of Hispanic & Latin American Heritage Month, with the Independence Day of several Latin American countries. I kicked off the month by sharing my roots and taking photos with my Costa Rican bandera with IUP’s Latino Student Organization.
What better way is there to celebrate a culture than by learning about it through reading? I invite you to curl up on your couch in the coziest of your clothes with one of the following titles.
- I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter
By Erika Sánchez
This was my book of the summer, honestly. It made me laugh, it made me cry, but most importantly, it made me remember exactly what it felt like to be a fifteen-year-old Latina again. From experiencing a quinceañera, to mental health concerns, to dealing with inappropriate family interactions, this truly is one of the most important and relatable books I have ever read. I identified so much with the main character, Julia and I know that so many other Latinas will as well.
- In the Time of the Butterflies
By Julia Alvarez
I first read this book in my junior year of high school after having watched the movie in Spanish class (hint: read the book first. Always read the book first.) This is a historical fiction novel, based on the reign of dictator Trujillo in the Dominican Republic. While the characters themselves are fictional, it outlines the difficulties of living in this dictatorship and the empowering role women played in fighting against sheer oppression.
- How Not to Drown in a Glass of Water: A Novel
By Angie Cruz
If you are the daughter of a Latina immigrant (or an immigrant yourself,) you must read this book. Following the current struggles and lingering past of the brutally honest and hilarious fifty-six-year-old Cara, the Dominican-Bronx narrator highlights the struggles of leaving her abusive husband in her home country and pursuing a better life for herself and her son. She also details something so many of us first-gen Latinas can relate to with our elders: learning to become accepting, despite the rigid beliefs of her culture. There is no denying the hardship faced in adjusting to life in an unknown country. Honestly, this book made me understand my mom’s struggles so much that I bawled, thanked her for her sacrifices, and gave her this book. I hope you do the same.
- How the García Girls Lost their Accent
By Julia Alvarez
This is Alvarez’s debut novel, which details a family leaving the Dominican Republic due to dictator Trujillo and their subsequent adjustment to life in New York City. Throughout this story, the light of never forgetting your roots shines through- no matter how long it has been, or whether we have ever been, our roots are still strong. The book follows the four sisters and their unique storylines as they grow up and mature. It will leave you proud of where you came from. (PS: check out “¡Yo!” by Julia Alvarez, which continues the story of Yolanda, one of the sisters. I cannot detail anything about it because I am *still* struggling to read this in Spanish.)
- The Four Agreements: A Practical Guide to Personal Freedom
By Don Miguel Ruiz
I have to say, this book is vastly different from the other four, female author and female narrator books I have included. This is a self-help book, which was gifted to me by a friend who continues to inspire me to be proud of my cultura no matter what. It is based on the ancient Toltec teachings to allow one to seek true liberation in their life. Truly, you will be inspired and refreshed. I encourage you to read in Spanish, if you are able.