8 Books by Latina Authors That Inspire, Uplift and Educate
The literary world is a challenging environment for up-and-coming BIPOC authors, but that hasn’t stopped the talented writers below from publishing and self-promoting their work online. We rounded up a list of exciting new books, along with deep-cut literary classics that are sure to leave an impact.
Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed
In “Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed,” editor, activist, and contributor Saraciea J. Fennell gathered an array of literary talent from diverse groups within the Latinx diaspora that use storytelling as a tool to tear down the idea that the community is a monolith.
Featuring 15 personal essays and stories from authors representing the Afro-Latinx, Central American, and Caribbean communities, Fennell has provided a space for these voices to share their cultures and personal narratives. As an outspoken advocate for representation, Fennell also spends her time highlighting the lack of access to literary opportunities for Latinx writers.
Fennell says she’s found community and resources across the internet but more specifically on Twitter Spaces, which has become an invaluable tool for sharing awareness with interested audiences and niche communities. “Twitter is a dope online space for me to shout about all the things that I care about in real life, from diversity and equity discussions in book publishing, to amplifying my work as a freelance writer and author, to sharing my frustrations about the lack of Honduran and Central American writers being published today, to spreading the word about my crowdfund campaign and efforts to bring a children’s and general interest bookstore to the Bronx in 2023…,” says Fennell.
Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed ($19) is available at thebronxisreading.com
Written and illustrated by impressionist artist Emily “EMYO” Ozier, “Marisol’s Dress” is a picture book inspired by Ozier’s mom’s own life story. It follows young Marisol on her journey as she is forced to leave her parents and flee the life she knows and loves in Cuba and try to adapt to her new life in the United States.
A beautiful and inspiring story about courage and building confidence through creativity that will inspire kids just as it will inspire grownups.
“Marisol’s Dress” will be released on November 22, 2022, available at blueballoonbooks.com.
Big Chicas Don’t Cry
In the recently debuted, “Big Chicas Don’t Cry,” Annette Chavez Macias tells the story of four cousins who grow up being each other’s best friends, a common dynamic found within Latinx families. However, when the parents of one of them divorce, she moves away and the group splits.
The story allows the reader to intimately follow the lives of all the cousins until they eventually reunite. Colloquially known as “the romance chica,” Macias also writes romance-focused novels under the pen name Sabrina Sol. With infusions of her Mexican American heritage and diasporic nostalgia, Macias paints a vivid picture of the way families love, reunite, forgive, and build community.
Big Chicas Don’t Cry has been dubbed by Entertainment Weekly as “the most anticipated book of 2022” and it is available at bookshop.org.
Reina & Rashad: The Magical Kumba Discovery
Founded by Stephanie Moran Reed and Muammar Reed, children’s book store Mija Books was born with the mission of representing communities that are often left out of the children’s literature genre. Inspired directly by the birth of their Afro-Latina daughter, the couple found that they had a lot of trouble finding published children’s stories that accurately reflected the communities they both came from and that represented their new family.
The brand-new bookstore is located in Lakewood, California, and has been listed as one of the best 65 bookstores in L.A. It is stocked with enchanting children’s stories with main characters that represent the diversity found across the country today.
The duo has also created their own children’s book, “Reina & Rashad: The Magical Kumba Discovery,” a fantasy and adventure series that weaves in sci-fi and historical fictional elements. The story includes the use of alebrije-inspired characters commonly found in the Mexican diaspora. A fairly recent example of this kind of storytelling was seen in the Disney film, Coco, as the magical animals that protect Coco’s ancestors in the afterlife.
“Reina & Rashad: The Magical Kumba Discovery” focuses on the adventures of two siblings in space who stumble upon the discovery of a lifetime; alebrije-inspired Kumbas called The Magical. But to control them, the siblings must outsmart them to capture magic stones. Stephanie and Muammar’s book is currently still in development, and readers are encouraged to pre-order to help the couple raise funds to publish in print. Their official Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign is live through September 21st, 2022.
When You Get to The Other Side
Penned by the illustrious Mariana Osorio Gumá, “When You Get To The Other Side” follows siblings Emilia and Gregorio on a perilous journey to the United States in search of their father after the passing of their grandmother, Mamá Lochi.
Raised by Lochi in Amatlán, México, the kids learn about creating herb remedies and their grandmother’s journey of becoming a curandera. When their grandmother passes away, they find themselves lost and in search of the only family member they knew. The novel offers a glimpse of the migrant experience from the extremely vulnerable lens of unaccompanied children and the dangers they face “piercing beyond stereotypes and superficial discussions.”
“When You Get To The Other Side” ($20) is available at bookshop.org.
When We Make It
The debut novel of rising self-taught poet Elisabet Velasquez follows the story of Sarai, a Brooklyn-born, first-generation Puerto Rican teenager, as she questions and navigates the world around her. Velasquez channels her own story and shares it through the lens of Sarai, from ages 13 to 16, in order to paint a portrait of life in New York that goes beyond the glitz and the glam. She seamlessly explores the themes of housing insecurity, poverty, the first-gen experience, and digs into the tumultuous relationships between mother and daughter and sisterhood.
Along with her debut novel, Elisabet has always been an advocate of both learning and healing through writing using Instagram as a way to access other up-and-coming writers in order to share educational resources, boost fellow BIPOC writers, and build a warm, genuine online community that has bonded around her work.
“When We Make It” ($17) is available at Barnesandnoble.com.
Cenizas de Izalco
In her seminal novel, “Cenizas de Izalco,” Claribel Alegría along with her husband Darwin J. Flakoll transports readers to 1932, El Salvador. They paint a picture of life in the country during the time when the infamous massacre of Izalco occurred.
The story is told through the lens of Carmen Rojas, who was a small child when the massacre occurred. She finds that she can’t escape the memories of the events she witnessed. Living in Washington D.C. with her American husband, Carmen received news that her mother passed. She returns to Santa Ana where she discovers a diary kept by her mother’s American lover, which vividly recounts the experiences of the uprising that led to the horrific event.
In real life, Pipil indigenous tribes along with the rising communist rebellion, banded together to protest the military dictatorship that governed the country and protected the concentration of land ownership of the post-colonial Spanish elite that still resided and retained a majority of the wealth in the country.
This is a pivotal historical moment that set the tone for the eventual civil war that broke out in the country in 1979. What stands out the most is the way Alegria and Flakoll, intertwine one of the darkest moments of Salvadoran history with romance, gentleness, and lyrical prose and draw from their own life and love story. Readers will gain a deeper understanding of the real-life political and societal environment that led to the massacre through the point of view of lived experience. The book is available in Spanish and English.
“Cenizas de Izalco” ($8) is available at Barnesandnoble.com.
Echoes of Grace
In “Echoes of Grace,” teenagers Graciela (Grace) and her sister Mercedes’ dreams of going to college and leaving their hometown of Eagle Pass are derailed after the murder of their mother. The sisters become estranged and lead separate lives.
As Grace begins to experience echoes (or premonitions) she struggles to grapple with their messages. The visions gradually intensify as life’s tragedies continue to strike, bringing deeper generational trauma along with it. In this novel, award-winning author Guadalupe Garcia McCall taps into her Mexican roots and uses magical realism and folklore to explore themes of loss, forgiveness, and generational healing.
“Echoes of Grace” ($22) is available at Barnesandnoble.com