August 9th is National Book Lovers Day and it’s the perfect time to curl up with a good book by a Latina author. While the origin of the unofficial holiday is unknown, the day is meant to uplift readers, book lovers, and booksellers, and encourage everyone to take some time to get lost in a good book. The publishing industry is making positive strides to increase representation but we still have a long way to go, especially when it comes to Latina writers. While they are still underrepresented across the board, it’s clear that our stories resonate with readers because many books by Latinas like Elizabeth Acevedo and Erika L. Sanchez become best-sellers and garner awards, acclaim, and attention from established and emerging writers. This is not an exhaustive list but is a starting place for to learn about some of the acclaimed and bestselling books by Latinas to add to your TBR list. Read on to learn more about 10 bestselling books by Latina authors from the last decade you need to read in honor of National Book Lovers Day.
Afterlife by Julia Alvarez
Known for her best-selling books In the Time of the Butterflies and How the García Girls Lost Their Accents, renowned Dominican author Julia Alvarez released her newest book Afterlife in 2021, which quickly became a success. The novel follows Antonia Vega, an immigrant writer who retires from her job as a college professor when her husband Sam suddenly dies. Her life continues to destabilize when her sister disappears and a pregnant, undocumented teenager shows up on her doorstep. Throughout the story, we see Antonia at one of the most important points of her life navigating love and loss.
The Wind Knows My Name by Isabel Allende
The Wind Knows My Name is the latest novel from Isabel Allende, the iconic Chilean writer known for her groundbreaking novel, The House of the Spirits. In this new book, Samuel Adler is a six-year-old boy in 1938 who escapes Nazi-occupied Austria to the United States alone and with nothing but clothes and a violin. In 2019 Arizona, Anita Diaz is a blind seven-year-old girl who, along with her mother, escapes El Salvador to seek refuge in the U.S., only to become separated at a camp in Nogales. Throughout the novel, we see these two lives come together in unexpected ways, exploring themes of war, immigration, time, dreams, and the resilience of the human spirit.
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez
I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez follows a young Mexican American teen named Julia whose entire family is broken after her older sister Olga dies in a tragic accident. While everyone thought Olga was the perfect daughter, Julia goes on a journey of truth-seeking and self-discovery to find out that the truth is much more complicated, changing the dynamic of her family forever. She also encounters romance with a white boy, navigates cultural differences in her community, and comes to terms with her grief for her sister. The book is soon to be a feature film directed by America Ferrera.
Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez
Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez tells the tale of Olga, a Puerto Rican wedding planner and her brother Prieto, a Congressman representing Brooklyn, their home district. Though they’re both successful now, their youth was marred by their mother’s absence after she fled to Puerto Rico when they were young to fight for the island’s liberation from the U.S. Olga and Prieto each have a complicated relationship with Puerto Rico that’s pushed to the forefront in the wake of Hurricane Maria in 2017. They’re forced to reunite with their mother and question where their identities as Puerto Ricans and Americans on the mainland really end and begin.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
One of the most celebrated young adult books of 2018, The Poet X by Dominican American author Elizabeth Acevedo follows Xiomara, a 15-year-old Dominican American girl growing up in Harlem who joins her school’s slam poetry club and finds her passion for — and voice in — poetry. But when her overly religious mother discovers Xiomara’s journal and her romance with a boy in her class, the two women are forced to confront their relationship and complex love for one another. While originally written for teens, the book is an empowering read for anyone struggling to find and embrace their own voice. She made history when she won the Carnegie Medal for The Poet X, becoming the first woman of color to receive the prestigious British honor. It has also won the Pure Belpré Award and the National Book Award.
Infinite Country by Patricia Engel
Winner of multiple awards and honors including the 2022 Andrew Carnegie Medal longlist, Infinite Country by Patricia Engel centers around Talia, the youngest child of a Colombian family who was born in the U.S. but is now in a correction facility in Colombia for an act of violence. Going back and forth between past and present and entering multiple perspectives, we see Tali’s parents Mauro and Elena falling in love, giving birth to their first child Karina, battling political unrest in their home country, and making a home in the U.S., only to splinter when Mauro is deported. Ultimately, it’ll be up to Talia to return to the U.S., be reunited with her family and work toward healing.
Woman of Light by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
Kali Fajardo-Anstine, whose debut story collection Sabrina & Corina was critically acclaimed, released Woman of Light, her debut novel set in the 1930s in Colorado. The novel follows Luz, a tea leaf reader and keeper of her ancestors’ stories who lives with several generations of her Indigenous Chicano family in Denver. When her brother, Diego, is run out of town by a white mob, Luz is left to fend for herself and begins experiencing visions of her Indigenous homeland and family history—their origins, their peaks, their demise. Reimagining the American West in the 1930s, the story helps Luz reconcile with her history, the history of the land, political division, and what it means to survive in the face of white violence. The book was long-listed for several prizes including the Joyce Carol Oates Prize and Carol Shields Prize for Fiction.
You Sound Like a White Girl by Julissa Arce
You Sound Like a White Girl by Julissa Arce is half memoir, half social commentary that intertwines Julissa’s real-life experiences with research on debunking the myth that assimilation leads to happiness for immigrants. Throughout the book, she discusses topics like representation in media, harmful markers of success, the myth of the finish line, and a history of the U.S. that acknowledges its roots in Indigenous, Latinx, and Black livelihood. If people of color can never truly be accepted in America, she urges readers to reject the myth of assimilation into white American culture and embrace their history, identity, community, and culture to ensure our continued survival and celebration.
The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande
The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande is one of the most well-known books about immigration today. In this memoir, Grande documents her childhood influenced by the traumas and terrors of immigration and life between two countries. When her parents decide to cross the border into the U.S., they’re thrust into the care of their grandmother, who is overburdened, stern, and unprepared to watch over her and her siblings. Some time later when her mother finally returns, she prepares to cross the border herself, at long last seeing her dream of freedom finally come true, only to face more of an unknown future than she’s ever known.
The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina by Zoraida Córdova
The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is Zoraida Córdova’s debut adult fiction novel following the family of Orquídea Divina, a woman with magical abilities who passes on a different power to each of her descendants. At the center is her granddaughter Marimar as she travels to her family’s home country of Ecuador after Orquídea dies to piece together who her grandmother really was—and what Marimar herself could be. Exploring generational trauma, powerful women, bloodlines, and the magic of the past and contemporary worlds, this is a beautifully written novel guaranteed to keep you spellbound.