Category Archives: Latino/a Literaure

Celebrating Hispanic Authors: The Big Book List

National Hispanic Heritage Month ended earlier this week, but it’s always a good time to read a novel by a Latino/a author!

Here’s a list of authors and titles. Most are YA, although there are some MG titles, too. I’m sure it’s not complete, so if I have missed anyone, please let me know. I will add them to the list and to my personal to-be-read list. Enjoy and Happy Reading!

Malín AlegríaEstrella’s Quinceñera, Sofi Mendoza’s Guide to Getting Lost in Mexico

Isabel AllendeCity of Beasts series

Julia AlvarezBefore We Were Free, Return to Sender, Finding Miracles

Rudolfo Anaya: Bless Me, Ultima

Diane Gonzalez Bertrand: Trino’s Choice

Eduardo F. CalcinesLeaving Glorytown: One Boy’s Struggle Under Castro

Viola CanalesThe Tequila Worm

Jennifer CervantesTortilla Sun

Veronica ChambersMama’s Girl, Plus, Marisol and Magdalena, Quinceñera Means Sweet 15

Mayra Lazara DoleDown to the Bone

e.E. Charlton-TrujilloPrizefighter en Mi Casa, Feels Like Home

Sandra CisnerosThe House on Mango Street

Judith Ortiz CoferAn Island Like You, Stories of the Barrio, Call Me María, If I Could Fly

Zoraida Cordova: The Vicious Deep, The Savage Blue (coming 2013)

Maria Colleen CruzBorder Crossing

Lulu DelacreGolden Tales, Salsa Stories, Shake it Morena!

Matt de la PeñaI Will Save You, We Were Here, Ball Don’t Lie, Mexican Whiteboy

Margarita EngleThe Firefly Letters, Hurricane Dancers, The Poet Slave of Cuba, The Surrender Tree, Tropical Secrets, The Wild Book

Caridad FerrerWhen the Stars Go Blue, Adiós to My Old Life, It’s Not About the Accent

Kim FloresGamma Glamma

Enrique Flores-Galbis: 90 Miles to Havana

Jack GantosJoey Pigza Swallowed the Key, Joey Pigza Loses Control, Hole in My Life, Dead End in Norvelt

Cristina GarciaI Wanna Be Your Shoebox, Dreams of Significant Girls

Guadalupe Garcia-McCallUnder the Mesquite

Iris GomezTry to Remember

Christina Diaz Gonzalez: The Red Umbrella, A Thunderous Whisper

Stephanie Guerra: Torn

David HernandezSuckerpunch, No More Us for You

Juan Felipe HerreraCrashBoomLove, Cinnamon Girl: Letters Found Inside a Cereal Box, SkateFate

Oscar Hijuelos: Dark Dude

Francisco JimenezThe Circuit, Reaching Out, Breaking Through

Ofelia Dumas LachtmanThe Trouble with Tessa, Leticia’s Secret, The Truth About Las Mariposas

Diana LópezConfetti Girl, Choke

Lorraine LopezCall Me Henri

Torrey MaldonadoSecret Saturdays

Agnes MartinezPoe Park

Claudia Guadalupe MartinezThe Smell of Old Lady Perfume

Manuel Luis Martínez: Drift

Meg MedinaThe Girl Who Could Silence the Wind, Milagros

Nico MedinaStraight Road to Kylie, Fat Hoochie Prom Queen

Marisa MontesA Circle of Time

Yxta Maya MurrayWhat it Takes to Get to Vegas, The Good Girl’s Guide to Getting Kidnapped

Nancy Osa: Cuba 15

Ashley Hope PerezWhat Can’t Wait, The Knife and the Butterfly

David Pérez: Wow!

Elena Perez: The Art of Disappearing

Sofia QuinteroEfrain’s Secret

Bettina RestrepoIllegal

Carmen RodriguesNot Anything

Pam Muñoz RyanEsperanza Rising, Becoming Naomi Leon, The Dreamer, Riding Freedom, Paint the Wind

Benjamin Alire SáenzLast Night I Sang to the Monster, Sammy & Juliana in Hollywood, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe

René Saldaña Jr.: The Jumping Tree, The Whole Sky Full of Stars, Finding Our Way, A Good Long Way

Alex SanchezBoyfriends with Girlfriends, The God Box, Bait, Rainbow High, Rainbow Road, Rainbow Boys, So Hard to Say, Getting It

Jenny Torres Sanchez: The Downside of Being Charlie, Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia

Michele SerrosHoney Blonde Chica, Scandalosa!

Gary SotoBuried Onions, The Afterlife, Accidental Love, Baseball in April etc.

Francisco X. Stork: Marcelo in the Real World, The Last Summer of the Death Warriors, Irises, Behind the Eyes, The Way of the Jaguar

Gaby TrianaRiding the Universe, Backstage Pass, The Temptress Four, Cubanita

Alisa ValdesHaters, The Temptation: A Kindred Novel

Diana Rodriguez Wallach: Amor and Summer Secrets, Adios to All the Drama, Amigas and School Scandals

Lila Quintero WeaverDarkroom: A Memoir in Black and White

Celebrating Hispanic Authors: Spotlight on Benjamin Alire Sáenz

Happy Hispanic Heritage Month! I hope you’re spending some of your time from Sept. 15-Oct.15 curled up with a good YA book by a Latino/a author. If you need book suggestions, you may also want to check out Latina Book ClubVamos a Leer, and The Hispanic Reader.

Today’s YA author in the spotlight is: Benjamin Alire SáenzEnjoy!

AUTHOR: (information comes directly from Cinco Puntos Press and University of Texas at El Paso)

Benjamin Alire Sáenz was born in 1954 in Old Picacho, a small farming village outside of Las Cruces, New Mexico, less than 50 miles north of the U.S./Mexico border. He was the fourth of seven children and was raised on a small farm near Mesilla Park in a traditional Mexican-American Catholic family. During his youth, he worked at various jobs–painting apartments, picking onions, and cleaning for a janitorial service. After graduating from high school in 1972, he entered the seminary. He was later ordained a Catholic priest, but left the priesthood three and a half years later. At the age of 30, he entered the University of Texas at El Paso. He later received a fellowship at the University of Iowa. In 1988, he received a Wallace E. Stegner Fellowship in poetry from Stanford University. In 1993, he returned to the border to teach in the bilingual MFA program at UTEP.

Sáenz is an award-winning poet and author of books for children and young adults. His first YA novel, SAMMY & JULIANA IN HOLLYWOOD was a finalist for the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and won the Americas Book Award, The Paterson Prize, and the JHunt Award. It was named one of the top ten Young Adult novels by the American Library Association and one of the top books of the year by the Center for Children’s Books, The New York Public Library, and the Miami Herald.

His other YA novels are: HE NEVER SAID GOODBYE, LAST NIGHT I SANG TO THE MONSTER, and ARISTOTLE AND DANTE DISCOVER THE SECRETS OF THE UNIVERSE.

YA NOVEL: SAMMY & JULIANA IN HOLLYWOOD

Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood

DESCRIPTION FROM THE BOOK JACKET: A young adult novel Latino-style–the year is 1969. America is at war, Hollywood is a dirt-poor Chicano barrio in small town America, and Sammy and Juliana, about to head into their senior year, are in love.

MY TWO CENTS: I listened to the audio version of this novel. I had mixed feelings while reading it, but the characters and story have stuck with me. Sáenz creates strong characters–main and supporting–that I cared about and could visualize. Sammy’s voice was spot-on as a teen boy who grapples with the personal issues all teens do–friends, love, fears and hopes for the future–while also dealing with poverty, racism, and the Vietnam War era. A pet peeve of mine is when authors describe in too much detail. Sáenz does this, but it didn’t stop me from reading. Also, while Sammy and Juliana are in love, as the book blurb states, this is not a traditional love story. Something tragic happens shortly into the novel that ends the love affair. I won’t spoil it, but the relationship was short-lived, and Sammy spends the rest of the novel dealing with this loss and many others. If you’re looking for something light-hearted with a happy ending, this one’s not for you. There was no uplifting, triumphant moment for the main character. I wanted something good to happen to Sammy.  Sáenz left me feeling what it’s like to get pounded by life, as Sammy was, which is also a point worth making. Some people take a beating every day and have to find the strength to keep marching forward. Sad but true.

TEACHING TIPS: This book has many issues worth pursuing in the classroom: immigration, poverty, grief, drug-use, discrimination based on race and sexual preference. One thing I thought about while reading was how parts of this novel could easily be used by teachers in different ways. I say parts because I don’t believe every novel used in class needs to be read cover-to-cover. Also, a history teacher, let’s say, may want to zero in on certain aspects of a novel, but may not want to handle elements typically taught by an English teacher, like character development or symbolism.

The thread about the Vietnam War could be pulled from the novel and used to complement non-fiction pieces in history classes. The character Pifas is drafted and students protest the war by wearing black arm bands and staging a sit-in in the school cafeteria. These were among the most memorable moments in the novel. The conversation between Sammy and Pifas about being drafted is emotionally gut-wrenching, and my heart sank when Gigi gets out of the car and falls to her knees in reaction to the news about Pifas’s death.

LEXILE: 390

LINKS for more information:

Find SAMMY & JULIANA IN HOLLYWOOD on Amazon.comBarnes and Noble.comIndieBound.org,  and Goodreads.

National Hispanic Heritage Month 2012

Happy National Hispanic Heritage Month 2012! (Sept. 15-Oct. 15)

For those of you who don’t know, here’s some information about the month directly from www.hispanicheritagemonth.gov:

“The purpose of National Hispanic Heritage Month is to celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

“The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988, on the approval of Public Law 100-402.

“The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September18, respectively. Also, Columbus Day or Día de la Raza, which is October 12, falls within this 30 day period.”

Last year, I vowed to read more young adult novels written by Latino/a authors. My goal was one a month. I fell behind my self-imposed schedule, but I completed ten novels. I wrote about eight already and have two posts in the pipeline. I have decided to make this an ongoing feature, with the hope that it will serve as a resource. With this in mind, I created a “Celebrating Hispanic Authors” page with sub-pages and copied the original posts there. Check those out when you can!

Caridad Ferrer

Cristina García

Francisco X. Stork

Gary Soto

Matt de la Peña

Nancy Osa

Pam Muñoz Ryan

Victor Martinez

I also posted a long list of books by Hispanic Authors, which I plan to update soon. Finally, since I’m a teacher and all, I am going to add two new things to future posts that highlight Hispanic authors. I will add the Lexile number attached to the book, if available, and Teaching Tips. These would not be full-blown lesson plans, but things that stood out to me while reading–things I’d develop further if I were to teach the novel in my class.

While I’m preparing my next post on Benjamin Alire Sáenz and his novel SAMMY & JULIANA IN HOLLYWOOD, you may want to check out three great sites that promote Hispanic literacy are Latina Book ClubVamos a Leer, and The Hispanic Reader.

Celebrating Hispanic Authors: Spotlight on Cristina García

In an effort to celebrate Hispanic authors beyond National Hispanic Heritage month, I plan to read and post about YA novels written by Latino/as. You may also want to check out Latina Book Club, Vamos a Leer, and The Hispanic Reader.

And, today’s YA author in the spotlight is: Cristina García . Enjoy!

AUTHOR: (information comes mostly from the author’s website (http://www.cristinagarcianovelist.com/):  Born in Cuba, García’s family moved to New York when she was two years old. García worked as a journalist for Time Magazine before she became a full-time writer. Her first novel, DREAMING IN CUBAN, was a finalist for the National Book Award. Among other things (she has a long list of accomplishments), García has written five novels for adults and three books for younger readers: DREAMS OF SIGNIFICANT GIRLS, I WANNA BE YOUR SHOEBOX, and THE DOG WHO LOVED THE MOON. She has a bachelor’s degree in political science from Barnard College and a master’s degree in European and Latin American Studies from The Johns Hopkins University.

YA NOVEL: DREAMS OF SIGNIFICANT GIRLS

DESCRIPTION FROM THE BOOK JACKET: Three very different girls. Three very different summers. A powerful bond that stands the test of time. Vivien struggles with her identity. She doesn’t exactly fit in with the kids in her neighborhood. To top it off she worries about her expanding waistline and endlessly infuriating family.

Shirin is an Iranian princess and honestly believes she is better than everyone else. She has no time to suffer fools.

Ingrid has never followed the rules. It is easier for her to rely on herself and grow up way too fast. She is not in the business of showing how she feels, but that isn’t always easy when you never get what you want.

National Book Award Finalist Cristina García weaves a story of first loves and hates, the heartbreak of being disappointed by your parents, finding what you are good at, and the realization that family is more than sharing a last name.

Here is a review of the novel in the New York Times by Veronica Chambers.

MY TWO CENTS: This is a quiet novel. No explosions every few chapters, no governments being overturned or alien invasions averted. Yet, what happens to these girls is significant because the moments they experience are crucial to their personal development. The gentle pace of this novel won’t appeal to everyone, but I enjoyed getting to know these characters and taking a break from action-driven YA. I had some questions about character motivation along the way, but overall, I was attached to these girls as they experienced the pain and joy involved in friendships and first loves. I wanted to find out what would happen to them.

LINKS for more information:

Find DREAMS OF SIGNIFICANT GIRLS on Amazon.comBarnes and Noble.comIndieBound.org,  and Goodreads.

Celebrating Hispanic Authors: Spotlight on Francisco X. Stork

In an effort to celebrate Hispanic authors beyond National Hispanic Heritage month, I plan to read and post about YA novels written by Latino/as. You may also want to check out Latina Book Club, a site by Maria Ferrer dedicated to promoting Hispanic authors and literacy.

http://www.latinabookclub.com/

And, today’s YA author in the spotlight is: Francisco X. Stork. Enjoy!

AUTHOR: (information comes from the author’s website (http://www.franciscostork.com): Francisco Xavier Arguelles was born in 1953 in Monterrey, Mexico, to his single mother, Ruth. She later married Charles Stork, who adopted Francisco and gave him his last name.  The three moved to El Paso, Texas, where they struggled to make ends meet. For his seventh birthday, Charlie gave Francisco a portable typewriter because Francisco announced he wanted to be a writer. Two years later, Charlie Stork died in a car crash. Francisco and his mom stayed in El Paso. Francisco was awarded a scholarship to the local Jesuit High School. He received a full scholarship to Spring Hill College in Alabama, where he majored in English Literature and Philosophy and received the college’s creative writing award. After college, a Danforth Fellowship allowed him to attend graduate school at Harvard University, where he studied Latin American Literature. Francisco then went to Columbia Law School. His plan was to make a living as a lawyer without abandoning his plan to write fiction. Twenty years and twelve or so legal jobs later, Francisco published his first novel. He has published five novels so far: THE WAY OF THE JAGUAR, BEHIND THE EYES, MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD, THE LAST SUMMER OF THE DEATH WARRIORS, and IRISES.

YA NOVEL: MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD

Marcelo In The Real World

BOOK DESCRIPTION FROM AMAZON.COM: Marcelo Sandoval hears music no one else can hear–part of the autism-like impairment no doctor has been able to identify–and he’s always attended a special school where his differences have been protected. But the summer after his junior year, his father demands that Marcelo work in his law firm’s mailroom in order to experience “the real world.”

MY TWO CENTS: This description doesn’t do the  novel justice. I listened to this one on audio. Stork’s writing is simple yet beautiful. He masterfully crafts a story that includes issues of religion, love, friendship, loyalty, ethics, and conscience. He also creates a main character who is Mexican-American with a “developmental disorder,” but the narrative is about so much more than those two elements. I’ve been reading lots and lots of blogs and comments about the need for diversity in YA. Many have called for authors to include racially or ethnically diverse characters in stories that are not necessarily about being a person of color (i.e. the newly arrived immigrant or POC vs. the majority). If this is what some readers want, then this novel is a model. A great read! I don’t know what took me so long to get to this one!

LINKS for more information:

Find MARCELO IN THE REAL WORLD on Amazon.com, Barnes and Noble.com, IndieBound.org,  and Goodreads.

Celebrating Hispanic Authors: Spotlight on Nancy Osa

In an effort to celebrate Hispanic authors beyond National Hispanic Heritage month, I plan to read and post about YA novels written by Latino/as. You may also want to check out Latina Book Club, a site by Maria Ferrer dedicated to promoting Hispanic authors and literacy.

http://www.latinabookclub.com/

And, today’s YA author in the spotlight is: Nancy Osa. Enjoy!

AUTHOR: (information comes from the author’s website http://www.nancyosa.com): Nancy Osa was born in Chicago, grew up in South Holland, Ill., and now lives in Portland, Oregon. Her father is from Cuba, and her mother’s side of the family traces back to the Mayflower. Her first novel, written as her BA thesis, remains unpublished. Her debut novel, CUBA 15, earned the following awards/honors: Pura Belpré Honor Book, ALA Notable Book for Children, YALSA Best Book for Young Adults, An Americas Award Honor Book, a Booklist Top Ten First Novel for Youth, A Children’s Book Sense 76 Pick, A New York Public Library Book for the Teen Age, Delacorte Press Prize for a First Young Adult Novel.

YA NOVEL: CUBA 15

BOOK DESCRIPTION FROM AMAZON.COM: “Violet Paz has just turned 15, a pivotal birthday in the eyes of her Cuban grandmother. Fifteen is the age when a girl enters womanhood, traditionally celebrating the occasion with a quinceañero. But while Violet is half Cuban, she’s also half Polish, and more importantly, she feels 100% American. Except for her zany family’s passion for playing dominoes, smoking cigars, and dancing to Latin music, Violet knows little about Cuban culture, nada about quinces, and only tidbits about the history of Cuba. So when Violet begrudgingly accepts Abuela’s plans for a quinceañero–and as she begins to ask questions about her Cuban roots–cultures and feelings collide. The mere mention of Cuba and Fidel Castro elicits her grandparents’sadness and her father’s anger. Only Violet’s aunt Luz remains open-minded. With so many divergent views, it’s not easy to know what to believe. All Violet knows is that she’s got to form her own opinions, even if this jolts her family into unwanted confrontations. After all, a quince girl is supposed to embrace responsibility–and to Violet that includes understanding the Cuban heritage that binds her to a homeland she’s never seen.”

MY TWO CENTS: I have read a lot about, and even written an article or two, about the Hispanic Sweet 15 party, so I was familiar with the subject going into this book. Osa does a great job of presenting all that goes into this important ceremony and representing Violet’s mixed heritage: Cuban, Polish, and American. All of the characters are distinct, and well-developed with the right mix of seriousness and humor. Violet is a members of the debate team, which is cool and something I had never seen before with a Latina protagonist. I often read books by Hispanic authors about the harsh realities of living in poverty. I have to say, reading CUBA 15 was a refreshing change.

LINKS for more information:

Find CUBA 15 on Amazon.com and Goodreads.

Celebrating Hispanic Authors: Spotlight on Matt de la Peña

In an effort to celebrate Hispanic authors beyond National Hispanic Heritage month, I plan to read and post about YA novels written by Latino/as. You may also want to check out Latina Book Club, a site by Maria Ferrer dedicated to promoting Hispanic authors and literacy.

http://www.latinabookclub.com/

And, today’s YA author in the spotlight is: Matt de la Peña. Enjoy!

AUTHOR: (information comes from the author’s website www.mattdelapena.com): Matt de la Peña has had four YA novels, a picture book, and several short stories published. His debut novel, BALL DON’T LIE, was published in 2005 and made into a major motion picture. The book was named as an ALA-YALSA Best Book for Young Adults and an ALA-YALSA Quick Pick for Reluctant Readers. His other novels, MEXICAN WHITEBOY, WE WERE HERE, and I WILL SAVE YOU were also recognized by the ALA-YALSA, the Junior Library Guild, and others. Matt received his MFA in creative writing from San Diego State University and his BA from the University of the Pacific, where he attended school on a full athletic scholarship for basketball. He lives in Brooklyn, NY. He teaches creative writing at NYU and visits high schools and colleges all over the country.

YA NOVEL: MEXICAN WHITEBOY

Mexican WhiteBoy

FROM THE BOOK JACKET: Danny’s tall and skinny. Even though he’s not built, his arms are long enough to give his pitch a power so fierce any college scout would sign him on the spot. Ninety-five-mile-an-hour fastball, but the boy’s not even on a team. Every time he gets on the mound, he loses it. Ball ends up so far out of the strike zone it’s laughable.

But at his private school, they don’t expect much else from him. Danny’s brown. Half-Mexican brown. And growing up in San Diego, that close to the border, means everyone knows exactly who he is before he even opens his mouth. Before they find out he can’t speak Spanish, and before they realize his mom has blond hair and blue eyes, they’ve got him pegged. But it works the other way too. And Danny’s convinced it’s the whiteness that sent his father back to Mexico.

That’s why he’s spending the summer with his dad’s family. Only, to find himself, he may just have to face the demons he refuses to see–the demons that are right in front of his face. And open up to a friendship he never saw coming.

Set in the alleys and on the ball fields of San Diego County, MEXICAN WHITEBOY is a story of friendship, acceptance, and the struggle to find your identity in a world of definitions.

MY TWO CENTS: I don’t often read books about sports, and I have already read a lot of  books about mixed-race cultural identity struggles. Because of this, I wasn’t sure  how I would react to this novel. I picked it up because I had heard and read a lot about  de la Peña. In the end, I wasn’t disappointed. The novel blends the major issues, so a reader can’t pin it down and say, “It’s a sports book,” or, “It’s a cultural identity book.” It’s both. And it’s more than that. It’s about friendship, family, love, pain, and the complicated process of figuring out one’s identity. I think it’s an especially good book for boys and reluctant readers because the issues and characters make you want to keep reading.

LINKS for more information:

Find MEXICAN WHITEBOY on Amazon.com and Goodreads.

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