[By: Kai Hansen]
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, HBW has compiled a reading list for the occasion. From memoirs to graphic novels, here are 10 fantastic books by Afro-Latinae authors you should read this month:
A Message From Rosa – An African Diaspora Novel in Short Stories by Quince Duncan
A Message From Rosa consists of a series of short stories describing historical moments for people of African descent. From enslaved African women on a slave boat, to Afro-Mexican troops standing against Spanish colonialists, to Afro-German women resisting Nazi rule, Duncan’s novel takes the reader on a journey through the lives of people who lived centuries apart and showcases the connections they all share.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
The Poet X is a young adult novel following the life of fifteen-year-old Xiomara. Using the moniker “X”, Xiomara writes poetry to understand the world around her. Acevedo’s novel uses the life of a young girl to explore themes such as cultural identity, family, and religion, in this coming-of-age novel.
Our Lady of the Night by Mayra Santos-Febres
Our Lady of the Night follows the life of Isabel “La Negra” Luberza, a Black Puerto Rican woman, who, after being born into poverty and abandoned by her mother, becomes one of Puerto Rico’s most feared businesswomen and “madam” of her brothel. Based on a true story, this novel explores themes of class disparities, female sexuality, and power.
I Am Alfonso Jones by Tony Medina
I Am Alfonso Jones is a graphic novel focusing on Alfonso Jones, a teenager excited to play Hamlet in his school’s production of the play who never gets the chance. As Alfonso is going to buy his first suit, he is shot and killed by a police officer. The story follows Alfonso’s journey through the afterlife as well as his family’s fight for justice, examining topics such as police brutality, coping with death, and what it means to be Afro-Latino.
The Brief Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz
The Brief and Wonderous Life of Oscar Wao follows the life of a Dominican-American nerd from New Jersey named Oscar de León. Oscar dreams of becoming the next great fantasy author and finding love, but fears that the fukú curse, which has haunted his family for generations, will stop him. This book utilizes magical realism to portray themes of identity, sexuality, and oppression.
Shadowshaper by Daniel José Older
Shadowshaper is a young-adult fantasy novel following Sierra Santiago, an Afro-Boricua teenager from Brooklyn, as she discovers the Shadowshapers, a supernatural order who connect with spirits via paintings, music, and stories. This fast-paced adventure explores themes of family, religion, and racism.
Mama’s Girl by Veronica Chambers
Mama’s Girl is a memoir told from the perspective of a young Chambers as she reflects on her relationship with her mother -a Panamanian immigrant trying to raise her children on a secretary’s salary- and her desire to be the perfect child. An honest reflection on childhood, this book explores themes such as family, pain, and forgiveness.
Down These Mean Streets by Piri Thomas
Down These Mean Streets is a memoir about growing up in Spanish Harlem and what that meant to Thomas. With discussion of what it means to be Puerto Rican in the United States and dark-skinned in a family that ignores its African heritage, Thomas tells the story of his early life in poverty, and his connection to drugs, street gangs, and crime, confronting themes such as racial identity, poverty, and drug use.
On Friday Night by Luz Argentina Chiriboga
On Friday Night is about a young girl named Susana who receives a bouquet of flowers each Friday night from a secret admirer, who is eventually revealed to be her white neighbor. The book follows Susana as she forms an understanding of herself as a Black woman living in a racist society and explores themes such as race, class, exploitation, injustice, and prejudice.
Song of the Water Saints by Nelly Rosario
Song of the Water Saints follows the women in a Dominican family through three generations. Traveling through the dreams and struggles of each generation, this novel explores themes such as freedom, responsibility, and family.
Happy reading and happy Hispanic Heritage Month from everyone at HBW!
Kai Hansen is a sophomore at the University of Kansas, double majoring in English & Biology with a minor in Dance. A member of the University Honors Program with plans to become an English professor, Kai is actively engaged in the study of Black and queer literature.