For many of us, March isn’t just another month but the celebration of Women’s History Month! While we should be uplifting the history, accomplishments, and contributions of women every day, it’s important that women—especially Latinas—take center stage in a world that wasn’t designed to always include us. The publishing industry, which has unsurprisingly been white and male dominated since it started, is no different. But it’s amazing to see Latina authors thriving and publishing books that celebrate our history, diversify the Latinx diaspora, and include women at the center of their stories.
This list is by no means exhaustive but is a place to get you started if you’re looking to include more books by Latinas on your bookshelf. We love that each story spotlights a different historical moment in their country of origin and/or explores identity, growing up, and the importance of finding your own definition of womanhood in a culture that often tells us to silence it. Read on to learn more about 11 books by Latinas that are empowering, enlightening, and educational.
Infinite Country by Patricia Engel
Chosen as a Reese’s Book Club Pick last year, Infinite Country by Colombian-American author Patricia Engel has received critical acclaim and countless awards and honors since its publication in March 2021. The story is set against the backdrop of the Colombian civil war in the 1960s and follows a mixed-status family split between Colombia and the United States. The narrative jumps back and forth between different decades and perspectives. At the center is Talia, the daughter with an American passport but a Colombian upbringing, determined to bring her family back together once more.
How the García Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez
Julia Alvarez’s groundbreaking novel How the García Girls Lost Their Accents tells the story of the four García sisters struggling to assimilate after leaving their homeland. Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofía are forced to flee the Dominican Republic with their parents to escape Rafael Leónidas Trujillo’s dictatorial regime. Told in reverse chronological order and through different perspectives, the book covers their lives up until their adulthood in 1989, and sees the girls endure the effects of immigration, displacement, and assimilation into the culture of the U.S.
Dominicana by Angie Cruz
Written by Dominican-American author Angie Cruz, Dominicana is a powerful testament to the strength, determination, and resilience of Latinas. Inspired by Cruz’s real-life mother, the book takes place in 1965 and follows Ana who, at 15, is coerced into marrying a man twice her age and moving with him to Washington Heights in New York City so she can help the rest of her family immigrate to the United States. When she begins to fall in love with her husband’s younger brother Cesar, the greatest question she’s forced to face is who she really owes her allegiance to: her family or herself.
Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez
Already the basis of an upcoming Hulu pilot starring Aubrey Plaza, 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 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.
Letters to My Mother by Teresa Cárdenas
Letters to My Mother by Afro-Cuban author Teresa Cárdenas is a stunning exposé of the rampant racism and bigotry in Cuban society. Centering a Afro-Cuban girl, the story sees her sent to live with her aunt and cousins after her mother dies. But instead of finding kindness and sympathy, she is forced to endure their taunts about her dark skin and curly hair, as well as charged and racist treatment from the outside world —and still she holds tight to her inner strength and capacity to love.
The House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Without Chicana author Sandra Cisneros and her pioneering classic novel The House On Mango Street, there wouldn’t be Latinx literature like we know it today. First published in 1983, the coming-of-age story follows Esperanza, a young Mexican American girl living in Chicago with her family, experiencing the day to day life of school and work, and learning to come into her own as an aspiring writer. Told through vignettes and easily accessible language, this book is a must-read for any age.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
One of the most celebrated young adult books of 2018, The Poet X by 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.
A Cup of Water Under My Bed by Daisy Hernández
This stunning coming-of-age memoir is not one to miss. Not only is A Cup of Water Under My Bed by Daisy Hernández a collection of lessons that she learned from her Cuban Colombian family — about race, womanhood, money, and love — but an exploration of how she disobeys those very lessons. From coming out as bisexual to questioning what race really means in the larger Latinx diaspora, Hernández weaves a complex, moving story about identity, queerness, history, and community.
Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement
The basis for the critically acclaimed Mexican film Noche de Fuego, Prayers for the Stolen by Jennifer Clement is a story about a group of girls struggling to hold on to their childhood innocence and femininity while growing up in Guerrero, Mexico. The state is known for their opium drug trade and trafficking of young girls and women making them that much more vulnerable. We see the world through the eyes of Ladydi, named after Princess Diana, who is forced to cut her hair to disguise herself as a boy and hide in holes whenever drug traders visit their village, but still lives with love for her mother and hope for her future.
The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
Written by one of the first undocumented immigrant students to graduate from Harvard University, The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio is a eye-opening book about the real lives and histories of undocumented people living all across the United States—including her own. What does it mean to be undocumented? What does it mean to be needed or disposable? What does it mean to be an American? Cornejo Villavicencio seeks to answer these questions and so much more, alternating between reporting on people like the undocumented workers who were part of the federally funded Ground Zero cleanup team to sharing personal narratives that illuminate the lives of a community accustomed to living in the shadows.
For Brown Girls with Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts by Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodríguez
For Brown Girls with Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts by Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodríguez is the book that most of us have been looking for our entire lives. Covering imposter syndrome, colorism and racism, white fragility, and so much more, all through the lens of Prisca’s own upbringing, this book is essential reading for brown girls seeking to fight their way through a white world. As the founder of Latina Rebels, Prisca’s work is much loved in our community and her debut is no different.