10 Works By Latina/o/x Authors to Read This Month

In an effort to celebrate Latinx/a/o Heritage Month, I have put together a list of novels, poems, short stories, and spoken word pieces by Latinx authors that describe the unique experiences of Latinxs/as/os. The recommendations on this list have been provided to me by Latino Studies concentrators, friends, and professors in the LATS department here at Williams.

 

I hope this list not only recognizes the work of Latino/a/x authors that so often goes unrecognized, but also generates some kind of discussion about who gets to be represented and why representation matters. By presenting this list on HerCampus, I wish to reach as diverse an audience as possible and really emphasize the importance of exposing yourself to new genres and perspectives. With that in mind, I hope that this list not only provides helpful recommendations for those looking for more Latino/a/x voices in literature and other forms of text, but also exposes those who maybe have never heard of any of these writers to branch out and read some of these works.

 

  1. The Poet X

 

The Poet X is Elizabeth Acevedo’s first novel, and probably one of the most recently published works on this list. The Poet X is unlike any other novel I have come across, because it tells protagonist Xiomara’s story through poetry. Acevedo’s unique approach and engaging storyline make The Poet X extremely captivating and well worth the read. Elizabeth Acevedo also has a number of amazing spoken word pieces, and not including at least one on this list would be a disservice. Hair is one of Acevedo’s most popular performances with nearly 250,000 views on YouTube.

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0svS78Nw_yY

 

  1. The University of Hip-Hop poems by Mayda Del Valle

 

Williams College alum Mayda Del Valle’s poems tell us about what growing up in the South Side of Chicago was like for her. Del Valle’s poems takes us through her memories and life, and includes us in the difficult moments but also the beautiful ones all while including a rhythmic aspect to the story-telling. In the foreword of the book Chris Albani writes, “From the first poem to the last, we are in the thrall of a performance curated and directed by mayda Del Valle. It is notoriously difficult to transfer the three dimensionality and immediacy of performance to the two dimensional space of a book. The poet manages the collection by curating it so that the reader can DJ the poems, arrange their own set, and thus, to borrow a phrase from the world of hip-hop, ‘spin’ their own performance. I invite you into this book to play.”

 

  1. Julia Alvarez

 

The reason I am not including one specific Julia Alvarez title in this list is because nearly everyone who I asked for recommendations for this list mentioned something by her. Julia Alvarez is a Dominican author who was born in New York City but lived in the Dominican Republic during the Trujillo regime. Some of the titles I was recommended are How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents (Alvarez’s first novel), In the Time of the Butterflies, and Before We Were Free, which all explore the experience of being a young female coming of age in the Dominican Republic.

 

  1. “of a butterfly in el barrio or a stranger in paradise” by Jesús Papoleto Melendez

“of a butterfly in el barrio or a stranger in paradise” was written by Nuyorican poet Jesús Papoleto Melendez and published in 2012 in Hey Yo! Yo Soy!: 40 Years of Nuyorican Street Poetry. This short poem explores the concept of what makes up “Home”, and life in El Barrio. LATS concentrator, Josiel Aponte ‘21, writes: “the poem reminds me that sometimes a re-evaluation of one’s environment is necessary to see the beauty within it. It really gets me to look back at where I’m from in a new perspective.”

 

Here is a link to: “of a butterfly in el barrio or a stranger in paradise” https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/56794/of-a-butterfly-in-el-barrio-or-a-stranger-in-paradise

 

  1. Halsey Street by Naima Coster

Originally from Fort Greene, Brooklyn, author Naima Coster returns to Brooklyn in her recently published book Halsey Street which follows protagonist Penelope Grand and her own return to Brooklyn after moving to Pittsburgh. Through Penelope, Naima Coster explores the real-life issue of gentrification that continues to plague urban areas and those who have lived in these places for years while also sharing the story of the growth and development of Penelope.

 

  1. Soledad by Angie Cruz

 

Soledad by Angie Cruz tells the story of a young woman named Soledad and her struggle with returning home after her mother lands in an emotional coma. While a lot of the focus is on the relationship between Soledad and her mother, the book shifts narrators between chapters which allows for smaller stories unique to each character to be told. Some examples are Soledad’s cousin Flaca’s crush on an older neighborhood boy, Tia Gorda’s spiritual connections, and even the silent thoughts of Soledad’s mother who watches her loved ones take care of her as she remains in this deep sleep. Soledad really is a story that touches on so many different topics such as what family and community mean, sexuality and love, and honesty and healing, which makes this a must read.

 

  1. Brown Girl and Corazon by Yesika Salgado

 

Yesika Salgado’s poetry was recommended to me by several of the LATS concentrators I spoke to. Alyssa Perea ‘21 said:

 

“Yesika Salgado is a Salvadoran poet based in Los Angeles, whose work ranges from romance, loss, and varying forms of love to the burden and beauty of language, to constructions and realities of latinidad. Her poetry became popularized with her book Corazón, which reflects her spoken word as it tells stories of love and loss, intimacy and identity. Salgado’s poetry is not only vulnerable, but mutable as well, intersecting experiences of marginalization with narrative of heartache, showing these the ways that all of these experiences make up the personal, the intimate.”

 

Here’s a video of “Brown Girl” by the author.  https://youtu.be/jC7flQUggS8 and here is a link where you can purchase her new book http://notacult.media/books/corazon/

 

  1. “Mami Says Have You Been Crying”“ by Melissa Lozada Oliva

Alyssa Perea ‘21 also recommended this piece by Melissa Lozado-Oliva, writing: “Melissa Lozada-Oliva is a New York and Boston based Colombian spoken word artist, whose poetry is embodies unapologetic expressions of latinidad, of womanhood, of the vulnerability of the body. Her book Peluda is a collection of comedic and intimate poems that completely defy notions of femininity and projections of identity in the most shameless ways. Her poetry is a fuck you to anything and everything that attempts to present identity as something that is easily captured, and embraces the pain, the shame, the rage, as well as the laughter and the ridiculousness of it all. “

 

Here is a link to one of Lozado-Oliva’s pieces https://youtu.be/KhTikWs34bA  

 

  1. Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas

Down These Mean Streets was recommended to me by multiple LATS professors. Piri Thomas is a Spanish Harlem native who wrote Down These Mean Streets as a memoir about his teenage years growing up in Spanish Harlem. Piri Thomas was born to Puerto Rican and Cuban parents, and writes about his experience with discrimination throughout his life. Below is a short excerpt of the opening for chapter 15 “Brothers Under the Skin” in Down These Mean Streets, where the brothers argue about their racial identity in relationship to them being Puerto Rican. While Piri recognizes how his race will continue to affect his life in the United States, Jose refuses to acknowledge that he and his brothers are anything other than Puerto Rican.

 

  1. Encuentro con Enrique Lihn//Meeting with Enrique Lihn

Encuentro con Enrique Lihn is a unique work of fiction written by Chilean poet and novelist Roberto Bolano in 2001 about an imagined encounter with Enrique Lihn, another famous Chilean writer. In 2008, the New Yorker translated the piece to English and released it five years after Bolano’s death. Attached, is the New Yorker article (the English version) and a link to the original version in Spanish.

 

Original: http://www.literatura.us/bolano/lihn.html

 

New Yorker: https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2008/12/22/meeting-with-enrique-lihn