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Celebrate Hispanic Literature (Even After Hispanic Heritage Month)

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UCLA chapter.

September is Hispanic Heritage Month, which means for 30 days, readers briefly diversify their bookshelves. But as we enter October, I urge you all to extend your appreciation of Hispanic Heritage beyond the finite holiday. 

My reading experience is likely similar to the rest of yours: in high school, I read novels by white authors about forbidden love between two spoiled children, the Salem Witch Trials and a book that used farm animals as an allegory for revolution and power. It’s a shame that the readings intended to enrich impressionable minds are all written by dead white men when most students can’t identify with the struggles in these novels. Books from diverse authors and about diverse communities can serve as both reflection and deep insight into various human emotions and experiences. They provide a powerful opportunity to cultivate community, bring attention to important issues and serve as antidotes to the ignorance that regrettably afflicts us all. Without further ado, I’ve decided to honor authors who identify as Hispanic because our English teachers never did. I do not identify as Hispanic, but I value different points of view, particularly in literature. I hope you appreciate these authors’ perspectives, can relate to their experiences, and see this community through fresh eyes (all year round!).

Mexican Gothic (by Silvia Moreno-Garcia)

During the 1950s in  Mexico City, Noemi Taboada, a young socialite, receives a letter from her cousin, Catalina, pleading for guidance. She is convinced that her English husband is planning to harm her. Noemi’s father, Leocadio, sends her to the Doyle home, High Place, which is located in the mountains outside of a small town called El Triunfo because he suspects Virgil is after Catalina’s money. The novel explores themes of sexism, colonialism, and even eugenics. It was beautifully crafted in the sense that it is nice to see a female main character playing a detective when typically this is seen as a male role.

The Poet X (by Elizabeth Acevedo)

A young girl, Xiomara Batista, discovers slam poetry as a means of understanding her mother’s religion and her own relationship with the world.  In her Harlem neighborhood, she feels unheard and unable to stay hidden. She learns to let her fists and fierceness do the talking since she moves through a new stage in her life. Xiomara has a lot to say and she pours her feelings out in the form of ink on paper. She is surprised to be invited to her school’s slam poetry club and this opportunity is like a creative awakening for her. Slam poetry is an outlet for her and a platform she utilizes to express herself. This is a beautiful coming-of-age novel and it is an amazing way to bring awareness to the silencing of marginalized communities and how they can overcome these obstacles through art.

The House on Mango Street (by Sandra Cisneros)/

This is a classic; you’ve probably heard your high school English teacher rave about it, and the praise is well-deserved. Through a series of vignette, The House on Mango Street tells the story of Esperanza, a Chicana (Mexican-American girl) who is about twelve years old. Over the course of a year, she and her family live on Mango Street. The house is a vast improvement over the family’s previous apartment, and it is her parents’ first home. The house, however, is not what Esperanza had envisioned because it is run-down and small. The house is located in the heart of a crowded Latino neighborhood in Chicago, a city with many racially segregated poor areas. This story follows her as she matures over the years and experiences some painful growing pains. The coming-of-age novel is a beautiful depiction of the life of a young Chicana as she exits adolescence and enters adulthood while also figuring out her identity.

These are all powerful works of literature, there is a reason for their relevance. They are a reflection and commemoration of the communities that they represent. Even if you do not identify with the specific communities, it is your moral obligation to celebrate diversity and be curious. In addition to reading books by deceased white authors, celebrate and seek out profound works by diverse authors. I am confident that by simply reading these books, you will be presented with a vibrant culture or familiarize yourself with some unknown authors who share your heritage.

Wafa is a second-year Comparative Literature Major on the pre-med track at UCLA. Shes's on the editorial team where she hopes to cover topics on politics, beauty, pop culture, and everything in between.