10 Chicanx Literature Must-Reads

1. The Latino Reader: An American Literary Tradition from 1542 to the Present Compiled by Harold Augenbraum

Description: The Latino Reader is an anthology of contemporary texts-- both fictional and nonfictional-- by Latinx authors spanning from early Spanish encounters with indigenous communities to modern issues of what it means to be Latinx.

Why You Should Read It: "The historical survey approach works well to establish the length and depth of Latina/o writers' participation in the literary history of the US. Anyone studying 'American' Literature without reading the writers in this book isn't studying a representative slice of the literature of the United States" --Paul T. Corrigan

2. When I Was Puerto Rican: A Memoir by Esmeralda Santiago

Description: In the first installment of this trilogy, Esmeralda Santiago and her family migrate to New York, where Esmeralda must attend a new school, learn a new language, and take on a new identity.

Why You Should Read It: "I live in a town that is nearly half Puerto Rican and I found this book added some perspective to my viewpoints. ... After reading this and then Almost A Woman also by Esmeralda Santiago I have a newfound appreciation for any young person who comes to this country and tries to find their way" --chantal

3. Borderlands / La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldúa

Description: In Borderlands, Anzaldúa challenges what it means to be Latinx, and makes it clear that borders are more than just a divide; they are social, political, and psychological boundaries. 

Why You Should Read It: "It is very rare that you come across a book that will shake the very foundations of the way that you see the world. This book has done that for me" --El Osophilosophico

4. Always Running: La Vida Loca: Gang Days in L.A. by Luiz J. Rodriguez

Description: Set in the streets of Los Angeles, Rodriguez recounts his experiences in a Chicano gang, and warns against the dangers of his old lifestyle.

Why You Should Read It: "Though Always Running is a personal account of Rodriguez’s gang activity and later activism, it’s as much a historical account of the factors that led to the rise of gangs in LA in the 20th Century—and he blends the two perfectly" --Jon

5. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Description: The House On Mango Street is a collection of short stories of a young Latina figuring out her identity in the city of Chicago.

Why You Should Read It: "One major struggle seen throughout the novella is that of self-definition, as every decision Esperanza makes is underscored by her struggle to define herself. In the beginning of the novel, she desperately tries to escape the identity that has been given to her by her family ... Ultimately, the subsequent journey of acceptance throughout the novella leads her to discovering how to define herself. She learns to accept where she is from" --Scott Williams

6. How The Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez

Description: Julia Alvarez tells the story of four sisters growing up in-between two cultures: Dominican and American.

Why You Should Read It: "The subjectivity of privilege is revealed through the family’s experience in two different cultures and issues of class, gender, and race are woven throughout the narrative" --Linda G.

7. The Cha Cha Files: A Chapina Poética by Maya Chinchilla

Description: This poetry book combines reality with fiction to tell tales of love and war in modern Guatemala.

Why You Should Read It: "Chinchilla writes inclusively, as a revolutionary, feminista, spiritual, intellectual. This is a refreshing representation of our culture and her poetry is thoughtfully collected and well-organized" --Gavi

8. Loving in The War Years: Lo Que Nunca Pasó Por Sus Labios by Cherríe L. Moraga

Description: Moraga struggles to find her way through her complex intersectional identity.

Why You Should Read It: "Moraga tackles a wide array of issues facing the Chicana community, ultimately concluding that education, compassion, openness, and pride among Chicanas are the tools necessary to help the movement progress" --Mary Feeney

9. Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

Description: Esperanza's lavish life of pretty dresses and servants is flipped upside-down when tragedy forces her and her mother to flee to a California farm labor camp. When things threaten her and her mother's security, Esperanza must learn to rise to the occasion.

Why You Should Read It: "This books also touches on more important issues such as the Dust Bowl, Mexican Deportation Act, and the discrimination foreigners receive. It also shows the perspective of immigrant workers and how they struggle to even just put food on the table. I really enjoyed this book because Esperanza really does grow up and learn how to be responsible" --Jay Kiker

10. This Bridge Called My Back, Fourth Edition: Writings by Radical Women of Color Edited by Cherríe L. Moraga & Gloria Anzaldúa

Description: A collection of short stories by various women of color, This Bridge Called My Back explores intersectionality from a feminist perspective. 

Why You Should Read It: "As a cis-man, I couldn’t take having so much truth hit me at once, from looking at my own experiences and experiences from the women around me" --Amazon Customer