It is Immigrant Heritage Month and an important part of recognizing and celebrating this month is uplifting the voices and perspectives of Latinx immigrants. In an industry where Latinx writers are not widely published, reading works like these is a step in the right direction toward getting more Latinx authors in publishing.
During this month and beyond, we are amplifying these novels, memoirs, essays and poetry books written by authors whose experiences as immigrants inform their writing. These seven written works address topics ranging from deeply personal, vivid memories like Javier Zamora’s memoir to the profiles of undocumented people in Karla Cornejo Villavicencio’s book. These seven books are must-reads, not just as a means to support fellow Latinx authors but also for their compelling and intimate storytelling.
A Dream Called Home: A Memoir by Reyna Grande
Having penned The Distance Between Us—a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Awards in 2013—Mexican author Reyna Grande published the sequel to her bestselling book with the 2018 memoir A Dream Called Home. Through powerful prose, she portrays a girl fighting for the American Dream and building a home. Her story is divided into two parts, the first about her undergraduate career at a predominantly white institution and the second about her post-graduate struggles. From memoir to memoir, Grande continues to propel the voices of immigrants like herself through her personal narratives.
Afterlife by Julia Alvarez
Dominican-American writer, Julia Alvarez brought us her 2020 novel Afterlife nearly 15 years after her last book, Saving the World. Alvarez’s extensive career has brought many works ranging from nonfiction to poetry. Her work even earned her a spot as one of the recipients of the National Medal of Arts and Humanities in 2013. Her most recent work, Afterlife follows Antonia Vega, a retired English professor, as she mourns the sudden death of her husband and deals with the chain of events that happen soon after.
Dominicana: A Novel by Angie Cruz
Author Angie Cruz whose works include, Let It Rain Coffee and Soledad, released the YALSA Alex Award-winning novel, Dominicana in 2019. The novel follows a young girl, Ana, who marries Juan Ruiz and leaves the Dominican Republic behind to move to America. Her time feeling trapped by her husband is overwhelmed by an internal conflict between her desires outside of her marriage and her family obligations which are intensified once Juan leaves to return to DR. Dominicana is a critically-acclaimed novel and was shortlisted for the 2020 Women’s Prize for Fiction, making Cruz the only Latina author in the lineup that year.
Unaccompanied by Javier Zamora
Yet another amazing memoir, Unaccompanied, written by poet Javier Zamora relates his experience migrating from El Salvador to the United States at just nine years old through poetry. Zamora’s perspective is important and unique by discussing immigration from such a personal level informed by firsthand experience. The book, released in 2017, includes stories of borderland politics, family, and race as Zamora recounts his past.
Dulce: Poems by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo
Dulce is the winner of the 2017 Drinking Gourd Poetry Prize. Zacatecas born writer and immigration advocate, Marcelo Hernandez Castillo provides a collection of poems discussing the border and maps “a parallel between the landscape of the border and the landscape of sexuality”. Castillo’s works like Cenzontle often engage topics of immigration and address being undocumented. Alongside poets, Christopher Soto and Javier Zamora, he co-founded the Undocupoets in response to the exclusion of undocumented poets in first-book publishing contests.
Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
On top of being one of the first undocumented students accepted into Harvard, Karla Cornejo Villavicencio’s Undocumented Americans was named a National Book Award Finalist in nonfiction. Her book covers the stories of undocumented immigrants from different cities and tackles the idea of the “American Dream”. Just as there is a focus on the profiles, Villavicencio’s own experience as an immigrant is intertwined in the narrative as she details her struggles with mental health and trauma.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Born in Bogotá, author Ingrid Rojas Contreras’s novel follows, Chula and Cassandra, two sisters living in the comfort of their gated community, and Petrona, a maid hired by their mother as they face their own troubles in the midst of Colombian drug lord Pablo Escobar’s reign. Loosely based on her experience growing up in Colombia, Contreras brings to life a narrative inspired by her and her sister almost getting kidnapped and the dangers they faced at a time where violent acts were common in their country.