Blog – Posted on Friday, Aug 28
20 Latinx Authors With Books That Belong on Your TBR List
Latinx literature, or the corpus of works produced by people of Latin American origin or descent, covers a vast depth of stories that span borders, experiences, and generations. Though we can trace its rich and vibrant history all the way back to the 16th century, modern Latinx literature as we know it didn’t take shape until the 20th and 21st centuries. Today, Latinx authors are on the forefront of literary development, powerfully reshaping cultural imagination and defining their own identities in the context of diaspora, displacement, and migration.
Whether you want to revisit classic luminaries like Isabel Allende and Julia Alvarez or scope out fresh contemporary voices like Angie Cruz, we have the best of Latinx writers here in this post. Without further ado, here are 20 Latinx authors that belong on your TBR list — along with their best books.
1. The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
What started out as a letter to her dying grandfather soon became The House of the Spirits, a fantastical family saga that marked Isabel Allende’s debut as a novelist. Just as Allende had to navigate the choppy waves of postcolonial Chile’s political instability, the novel chronicles the ups and downs of three generations of the Trueba family as they live through revolutions and dictatorships. The story starts with the sibylline Clara del Valle and ends with her kind-hearted granddaughter, highlighting not only the lives of women in 20th-century Chile, but also the depth and strength of the culture that keeps them going.
2. In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez
It’s the late 50s: Rafael Trujillo is dictator of the Dominican Republic, and the Mirabal sisters are fast becoming a force to be reckoned with in the world of clandestine activism against his reign. As Julia Alvarez’s In the Time of the Butterflies exquisitely portrays, the four young women — Patria, Minerva, María Teresa, and Dedé — distributed pamphlets under the codename “Las Mariposas” — or “the Butterflies.”
While this powerful novel is a fictionalized account of these legendary women’s lives, the resounding voices that Alvarez gives the Mirabal sisters reminds readers that the struggles they courageously faced, both as women and as citizens of a police state, were very real — and very deadly.
3. One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
Not only is it a pillar of Hispanic literature, One Hundred Years of Solitude is also proof of Gabriel Marcía Márquez’s trailblazing role in developing the genre of magical realism. It’s the story of Macondo, a utopia founded on the bank of a river somewhere in soon-to-be Colombia by the Buendía family’s patriarch. In the following decades, as they try to build their own world separate from the emerging nation, the Buendías will have to come to terms with their heritage and complex world that’s taking shape around them.
4. When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago
Esmeralda Santiago is an author and former actress who graduated from Harvard before going on to write books and found a film production company with her husband. But before she created a successful career as a storyteller, she was a girl living out her tropical childhood on the island of Puerto Rico. When her parents' marriage fell apart, her mother brought Santiago and her siblings to New York — which was when everything changed. Her memoir, When I Was Puerto Rican recounts that journey, beginning with Santiago trying to find her place in a new culture, using a new language.
5. Woman Hollering Creek by Sandra Cisneros
Sandra Cisneros grew up at the border between Mexico and America, and her critically acclaimed short story collection provides an astounding glimpse into that experience. Divided into three sections covering childhood, adolescence, and then adulthood, these vignettes of seemingly stereotypical Latinx characters reveal just how complex their lives and experiences are. From religion to feminism, from first to third person POV, Cisneros’s tales are varied both in themes and in style, making Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories a colorful and invigorating short story collection that’s difficult to put down.
6. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
Junot Díaz’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel isn’t just about Oscar Wao, a Dominican-American living in New Jersey with a passion for science fiction and fantasy books. Nor is it just about finding love, as exciting as it may be. At its heart, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao is also about a long family history of living with the fukú — an intergenerational curse of unhappiness — and of persevering for a better tomorrow. Rich in symbolism and masterful in its use of voices and languages to show the duality of mixed cultures, it’s no surprise that this is often considered one of the best books of all time.
7. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Let’s head over to New York to meet another budding writer who’s walking the line between family traditions and chasing her dreams. In The Poet X, the titular character Xiomara is a teenager toughened by the streets of Harlem, but who finds solace in writing verses. Unfortunately, slam poetry is not her religious family’s idea of what’s good for her, and that’s something the young poet would soon have to confront. Down to earth but energetic, Elizabeth Acevedo’s debut gives voice to many young Latinx who are trying to understand themselves and finding their own way through multiple layers of social expectations laid upon them.
8. The Death of Artemio Cruz by Carlos Fuentes
Drawing on his own background as a son of a diplomat and a journalist, Carlos Fuentes brings readers on a trip into the memories of a dying Mexican media mogul and politician in this era-defining novel. Through many flashbacks and different characters’ point of views, The Death of Artemio Cruz brings to light the rapid and messy development of modern Mexico. Empathetically told in the voice of a regretful dying man, Fuentes’ critique of the country’s distorted and corrupt systems is, in short, a pillar of Latin American literature.
9. Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero
This epistolary novel may be written from the perspective of a Latinx high-schooler, but that doesn’t mean that she has little to share. With a voice that’s full of wonder and life, Quintero tackles a series of solemn topics without being disheartening, from sexuality and diversity to drug problems, eating disorders, and mental health issues. Life throws a lot at Gabi — but that doesn’t mean that she’d not going to tray to pick up the pieces, particularly in her beloved journal.
10. Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
Published in 2019, Lost Children Archive is more timely than ever. Amidst the heightening immigration crisis throughout the world, a family of four — mother, father, a son, and a daughter — go on a road trip along the North-South axis of America. But the adults are not just having an adventure: both are searching for something to help them and others make sense of the situation that they’re living in. Luiselli’s combination of real life experiences with fictionalized segments make the novel both introspective and heart-warming.
11. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez
Julia Reyes is brash, confrontational, volatile, and sarcastic. Here’s what she is not: your perfect Mexican daughter. That’s Julia’s sister, Olga — but when Olga dies in a tragic bus accident, Julia’s suddenly expected to fill some shoes that are a lot bigger and scarier than she ever thought possible. A heartfelt, honest snapshot of Mexican culture, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter is a stunning exploration of a number of themes, from the immigrant experience to anxiety and depression. And while Julia might not make the perfect Mexican daughter, she will make the perfect protagonist for fans of The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian and Jane the Virgin.
12. Unaccompanied by Javier Zamora
4,000 miles and multiple borders separate El Salvador from the United States. And Javier Zamora was only nine years old when he traveled that distance — alone and unaccompanied — to be reunited with his parents in the States. This is his story, told in a series of gritty, powerful poems that captures all the hope and heartbreak of border-crossing. Zamora’s debut is a firecracker of a poetry collection, and a must-read for anyone who wants to dig deeper than American Dirt into the real heart of the matter.
13. Cantoras by Carolina De Robertis
Set in the late 70s, Cantoras follows the intertwined stories of five remarkable Uruguyan women who are “cantoras” — the code in Uruguay for a woman who “sings,” or a lesbian. Oppressed by Uruguay’s military government and beaten down by a brutal system that punishes homosexuality i, the women take refuge in Cabo Polonio, an isolated cape nearby. What follows is a breathtaking, exquisitely captured story, one that spans 35 years as the women navigate tragedy, grief, and, ultimately, triumph.
14. At Night We Walk in Circles by Daniel Alarcón
Nelson thought that his life was complicated before, what with the cheating girlfriend, the brother who’s up and left him to care for their aging mother in South America , and the acting career that just doesn’t seem to be able to take flight. But when he lands the starring role in The Idiot President and starts touring the country with his fellow actors, Nelson realizes what’s really at stake. Fiery and deeply intense, At Night We Walk in Circles confronts the legacy of South American civil wars and the scars that they can leave on the land — and on the people.
15. Love War Stories by Ivelisse Rodriguez
In this dazzling collection of nine short stories, Ivelisse Rodriguez explores the fine line between love and violence, illusions and reality, life and loss in Puerto Rico. Linked together by the shared experiences and emotions that come with love, Love War Stories is at once a thoughtful critique and a sublime celebration of Hispanic culture. But most memorable of all are Rodriguez’s protagonists: richly portrayed, multi-dimensional women and girls from all walks of life whose hearts are bared — and starkly recognizable — on these pages.
16. The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez
Juan Gabriel Vásquez’s generational The Sound of Things Falling begins with a hippopotamus on the loose from a Colombian drug kingpin’s dilapidated zoo — and it only escalates from there. Our narrator is Antonio Yammara, whose life changes dramatically the moment he befriends an ex-pilot named Ricardo Laverde in a shadowy billiard hall in Bogota. When Laverde is shot dead on the streets, Yammara takes it upon himself to investigate his murder. The ensuing adventure gives readers an explosive, undaunted look at one of the most defining periods in Colombian history: that of a flourishing cocaine trade, cold-blooded drug cartels, and an increasingly desperate War on Drugs.
17. Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
In Ingrid Rojas Contreras’s Fruit of the Drunken Tree, we see Colombia in the 1990s through the eyes of two very different young girls: one, Chula, comes from a well-to-do family who lives in relative comfort behind gated walls, safe from the violence that typifies Pablo Escabar’s reign of terror in the country. The other, Petrona, is their live-in maid who hails from a poor village torn apart by the local guerillas. What results is an achingly beautiful book covering two intertwined coming-of-age stories that will keep you riveted until its emotional end.
18. How to Leave Hialeah by Jennine Capó Crucet
A spectacular debut short story collection, How to Leave Hialeah will transport you to the working class neighborhood of Hialeah, the Cuban heart of Miami — from kitchens bursting with the aroma of croquetas to smoky cigar factories and lonely canals. And at the heart of all of this life are the people of Hialeah: the kids, the women, the men, the salsa singers. Brilliantly evocative and infused with a vivid, visceral sense of place, How to Leave Hialeah ironically will make you never want to leave the Hialeah within the pages of this book.
19. My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter by Aja Monet
The youngest person ever to win the legendary Nuyorican Poet’s Café Grand Slam title, Aja Monet delivers a thunderous poetry collection in her 2017 publication of My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter. Divided into three parts — “inner (city) chants,” “witnessing,” and “(un)dressing a wound” — the book exquisitely tackles a range of topics, including race and racism, sexism, genocide, love, education, police brutality, diaspora, poverty, and death. At once a gut-punch and a beacon of hope, this poetry collection is an unmissable look at one Cuban-American’s experience growing up in East New York and the South Side of Chicago.
20. Dominicana by Angie Cruz
When fifteen-year-old Ana Canción says yes to a man twice her age and moves to America to secure her family’s fortunes, she cannot expect the future that she is about to embrace. Trapped on multiple fronts — in a loveless marriage, in a decrepit walkup apartment, and in a country whose language she cannot speak — Ana can only start to hope again when she meets Cesar, a free spirit who helps her imagine the possibility of a different sort of life in America. Shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction in 2020, Dominica is a timeless portrait of the immigrant experience — and, as Angie Cruz herself puts it, a searing “valentine to all of the unsung Dominicanas” in the world.
Still hungry for more new voices in literature? Check out this list of 21 best novels of the 21st century. Or, if you're looking to read widely and diversely, try our list of 70 must-reads by Black authors.