Around the same time that American Dirt (in case you don’t know: that’s an infamous “immigration thriller” by a white author who misrepresents Mexican culture and stereotypes immigrants) started hitting Bestseller lists, I picked up Dominicana by Angie Cruz, a story about a young woman marrying an older man because of her family’s dream to move to the US, a shortlisted book to the Women’s Prize for Fiction. It was incredibly frustrating.
I am tired of seeing Latinx books that get attention and international readership for displaying Latinx pain, and portraying the US as a safe haven, land of freedom, the happiest ending any Latin American could wish for – and it’s even worse that American Dirt is not even written by a Latinx author, whereas in Dominicana at least the writing was really good and sensitive, even if I disliked the book.
So I thought it would be a good idea to come up with a list of Latinx books I recommend instead!
It was not that easy to come up with this list, because most of the Latinx books I read are in Portuguese and not many are translated into English, so I spent more time looking into translated-to-English books as well. I originally wanted to post this months ago.
When I write “Translated” in the list below, I mean: this was originally written in Portuguese/Spanish and there is a translation into English available.
I also have already a post on some recommendations of Brazilian books and one focused on my project of reading more Latinx books:
Without further ado, here are 15 books I recommend:
Latinx Books Recommendations
One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez / Colombian, Classical Fiction, Magical Realism, Translated
Starting with a well-known and beloved one! This beautiful family saga is peppered with magical realism and is so gorgeously written, so full of sorrow, loneliness and broken people, it’s easy to lose yourself into the story, although it’s perhaps not as easy to keep the characters apart, whose names are very similar. Still, this is one of my favorite classics!
Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia / Review / Mexican, Fantasy
This reads very much like a fairy tale; it’s set in Mexico, where Mayan gods still exist and is full of adventure and a romance subplot. Moreno-Garcia has a few books out, including one thriller with sharks and an upcoming Gothic horror. She writes such interesting stories!
In the Dream House: A Memoir by Carmen Maria Machado / Review / American-Cuban, Memoir
This is a fantastic memoir, uniquely told in several chapters, each in a different style from a different fictional genre. It’s the perfect book for fiction readers who want to broaden their reading with some non-fiction and are worried about boring writing. It tells the author’s real experience with an abusive Sapphic relationship and it’s brilliant.
Stubborn Archivist by Yara Rodrigues Fowler / Review / British-Brazilian, Contemporary Fiction
This book is the story of a Brazilian-English girl and her journey towards understanding her identity of being a little here, a little there. The cultural Brazilian references might be a little obscure for the gringos, but the book is still enjoyable and beautifully written even if you don’t get every reference.
History is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera / Review / American-Puerto Rican, Young Adult Contemporary
This is a YA contemporary that was quite popular a few years ago, and it’s such a lovely story about a boy who is grieving for his boyfriend’s death. Adam Silvera also has written YA soft sci-fi (They Both Die at the End) and YA fantasy (Infinity Son), so there’s lots to choose from!
Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli / Review / American-Mexican, Literary Fiction
I really enjoyed this book – it’s the story of a family in a road trip going to the Apacheria. It’s a beautiful book about immigration, family, marriage, and documenting. It’s a really interesting book, which was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2019!
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo / Dominican-American, Young Adult Contemporary
This tells the story of a girl who finds in slam poetry her passion, but she must hide it from her friends and family, as especially her mother doesn’t approve. This was such a great read, and works amazingly as an audiobook! Elizabeth Acevedo does slam poetry herself, so this was absolutely well-done! Other books by the author that I heard great things about are With the Fire on High and more recently, Clap When You Land.
Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera / Review / Puerto-Rican, Young Adult, Contemporary
This has one of the best representations I’ve ever seen – and it’s a story about how your biggest idols are but human, and can be flawed, sometimes in unforgivable ways, even if they brought so much good in your life and inspired you so much. The author also has written Marvel comics, if that’s more your style!
The House of Spirits by Isabel Allende / Chilean, Historical Fiction, Magical Realism, Translated
I recently finished this and it’s so gorgeous, layered and left a deep impression on me. It’s the story of the del Valle and Trueba families with focus on the women. The magical realism is just so well-done, and the political discussions feel very timely (women’s rights, classism, worker’s rights, the crucial involvement of the US in Latin American dictatorships, and so on). I loved it.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras / Review / Colombia, Historical Fiction
Historical fiction set in 1990s Colombia, this is about a middle class family and their maid Petrona, a strange girl who will change the lives of this family forever. This has drugs and cartel in the center of the story, but in an actual good and realistic representation. Also the writing is beautiful, I’ve seen it compared to Isabel Allende and Gabriel Garcia Marquez!
Brazil: A Biography by
A recommendation from my dad! He’s a history nerd, especially Brazilian history, and recommended this as a book that is really nicely written and easy to follow for people who aren’t too familiar with our history. I need to pick this up asap!
Near to the Wild Heart by Clarice Lispector / Review / Brazil, Literary Fiction, Translated
If you are new to Clarice Lispector, I recommend starting with The Complete Stories – I’ve taken a look at the list of stories and it includes my favorites (Convert Joy and Remnants of Carnival) , and might be a better introduction to her more difficult, challenging work like this one and The Stream of Life. Near to the Wild Heart is her first novel, and it’s also a good introduction if you aren’t into short stories, even though this wasn’t for me. Her prose is very poetic, highly introspective and fragmented, vague and meandering. There is little in terms of plot and Joana isn’t a main character easy to like. If you really dislike her books, do try the short stories instead, I’m a big fan of those but so far haven’t found a full-length book by her that captured my heart. I’m recommending her here because it’s such a different and unique writing that I think there are many readers who will love her.
In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez / Review / Dominican Republic, Historical fiction
This was recommended to me by a friend and it’s really a fantastic book that I haven’t stopped thinking about. This tells the true story of the Mirabal sisters, symbol of revolution against the Trujillo dictatorship, who were murdered in 1960. To this day, the 25th of November is dedicated to combating violence against women in America Latina. This is a fictionalized story of their early years until becoming the figures that they are now, and how the surviving sister Dedé has been keeping their memory alive since then.
It Would be Night in Caracas by Karina Sainz Borgo / Review / Venezuelan, Contemporary Fiction, Translated
This urgent novel is the story of Adelaida, who just lost her mother and now must face grief and the violence sweeping her country. When a gang of women take her apartment, she must face a difficult choice to save herself.
The House in Smyrna by Tatiana Salem Levy / Brazilian, Contemporary Fiction, Translated
This is an interesting book about identity and immigration, telling the story of a woman who goes to Turkey to find her roots. This is written in a fragmented way with a few different narratives, from her experience with a violent relationship, her dealing with grief over her mother’s death, her mysterious illness, her grandfather leaving Turkey for Brazil, and her going to Turkey in hopes to meet her family. It’s a multi-layered and sensitive book that touched my heart.