15 Contemporary Books by Latina Authors That Have Become Classics

In celebration of Latino Books Month this May, we’re excited to look back and celebrate books by Latinx authors that have shifted the narrative and changed the landscape of Latinx literature

Classic Latinx books 2023

Photos: Balzer + Bray; Grand Central Publishing; One World

In celebration of Latino Books Month this May, we’re excited to look back and celebrate books by Latinx authors that have shifted the narrative and changed the landscape of Latinx literature. You may know books like 100 Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Márquez and The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende but what about contemporary books? Just within the last couple of decades, there have been so many books by Latinx authors that have brought more nuanced representation, told a new kind of Latinx story, and impacted readers of all backgrounds all over the world. So many books like these have become classics in the community. While this is not an exhaustive list of those reads, it’s a good starting place to get new stories on your shelf and celebrate the books that have changed us all. Read on for 15 modern books by Latinx authors that have already become classic novels and must-reads.

The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

The Poet X Cover

Photo: Quill Tree Books

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. 

Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Latina book characters Mexican Gothic

Photo: Del Rey

Noemí Taboada’s journey in Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s highly acclaimed novel Mexican Gothic is one that will stay with you even after the ending. After she receives a letter from her cousin claiming her husband is trying to kill her, she heads to her family’s house in the Mexican countryside to provide protection and seek answers—only to ask more questions than she had when she arrived. Faced with mysterious relatives, curanderas, mystical herbs, and a huge generational secret, the socialite is determined to save her cousin’s life and uncover the truth of what’s really happening to her—even if Noemí herself may not survive.

Dominicana by Angie Cruz

Dominicana Cover

Photo: Flatiron Books

Dominicana by Angie Cruz follows 15-year-old Ana Cancion who moves to New York City from DR after getting engaged to Juan Ruiz, a family friend who is decades older and established in the city. Despite Juan being twice her age, her mother pressures Ana to marry him for money, security, shelter, and most of all, for her family. It’s only when she arrives at a cold apartment in Washington Heights that she realizes how frightened and lonely she has become as a young wife away from everyone and everything she knows. She eventually gets pregnant and begins to come to terms with her impending motherhood and what that means for her/their future. Then she befriends Cesar, Juan’s younger brother, and Juan returns to the D.R. to help his family, and she finds herself free for the first time in years: taking English lessons, exploring the city, and inadvertently falling for her brother in law.  This coming-of-age story shows Ana’s growth as she begins to make decisions for the life she now as an immigrant soon-to-be mom living in the U.S.

In the Dream House by Carmen Maria Machado

Classic Latinx books 2023

Photo: Graywolf Press

In the Dream House is a memoir by Carmen Maria Machado that tells the true story of her abusive relationship with an ex-partner through literary tropes, stereotypes, and devices. Haunting and vulnerable, we see the narrator growing up as a queer girl in a highly religious household, carving out a life for herself, falling in love, and finding herself the victim of domestic abuse from a now ex-partner: manipulation, gaslighting, psychological warfare. Blending facts with history, idealism with reality, statistics with personal experiences, this is a powerful tribute to survival, love, and growth.

Infinite Country by Patricia Engel

Classic Latinx books 2023

Photo: Avid Reader Press

Winner of multiple awards and honors including the 2022 Andrew Carnegie Medal longlist, Infinite Country by Patricia Engel follows a Colombian family divided borders and centered around Talia, the youngest child 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 heal the most painful of wounds.

How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez

Garcia Girls Cover

Photo: Algonquin Books of Chapel

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 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 in the U.S.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

House on Mango Street Cover

Photo: Vintage

Almost forty years after it was originally published, The House On Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros continues to resonate with readers and remains an influential contemporary novel and pioneering story centered on a Latina. 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. It has become known for popularizing the vignette format and and easily accessible language for readers of all ages.

What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster

Classic Latinx books 2023

Photo: Grand Central Publishing

What’s Mine and Yours by Naima Coster is the story of two families in North Carolina who are more intertwined than first meets the eye and headed by matriarchs. On one side is Lacey May and her three half-Latina daughters who she only sees as white. On the other side is Jade, who wants to ensure that her son Gee moves through the world with the tools to survive as a Black man in the world: respect, discipline, joy. When their childrens’ schools integrate, Lacy May’s daughter Noelle and Gee cross paths, beginning a tentative romance, bringing up painful histories, and raising questions of class, rave, and privilege.

For Brown Girls with Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts by Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodríguez

For Brown Girls Cover

Photo: Seal Press

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/ racism, white fragility, patriarchy, and so much more, Prisca blends her research with her personal experiences and upbringing to uplift and validate brown girls in an Anglo-American world. By the end, readers will not only feel empowered, but also feel less willing to compromise and erase who they are.

Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed edited by Saraciea J. Fennell

Classic Latinx books 2023

Photo: Flatiron Books

Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed is a groundbreaking anthology edited by Saraciea J. Fennell that features the stories of both established and up-and-coming writers from across the Latinx diaspora. Made up of 15 original pieces of work, the book includes different genres  of storytelling touching on topics including travel, finding love, embracing your truth to to anti-Blackness, addiction, and grief. Featured authors include Elizabeth Acevedo, Naima Coster, Meg Medina, and Ingrid Rojas Contreras.

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez

Latinx book lover's day

Photo: Knopf Books for Young Readers

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sánchez (soon to be a feature film directed by America Ferrera), 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 she 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.

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez

Olga Dies Dreaming Cover

Photo: Flatiron Books

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. 

Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstin

Classic Latinx books 2023

Photo: One World

Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine is a collection of short stories that takes place in the American West and centers Latinx and Indigenous Chicanas as main characters. Set in the landscape of Denver, Colorado, a group of women move through the world, struggling to meet their desires, combat violence, and discover who they really are. They fight land disputes, leave ancestral homes only to face struggle and hostility, leave prison to go back to a gentrified version of home, find themselves in a cycle of violence, and more. With grace and power, these stories explore femininity, abandonment, heritage, power, and home.

The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School by Sonora Reyes

Classic Latinx books 2023

Photo: Balzer + Bray

The Lesbiana’s Guide to Catholic School by nonbinary writer Sonora Reyes is the story of Yamilet Flores, a 16-year-old queer Mexican American girl who trades her old school for an all-white Catholic school after she’s outed by her former best friend. Now, she’s one of the only Mexican kids at Slayton Catholic where she has new to-do’s: protect her brother, make her mom proud, and don’t fall in love. Everything’s going great until she meets Bo, the only openly queer girl at school, forcing Yami to reconsider her plan to pretend to be a straight girl and instead, embrace her true self. A multi-award winner including the Walter Honor Award and Pura Belpré Honor, this story sees Yami encountering racism, xenophobia, and homophobia, but also reclaiming joy, strength, confidence, and love.

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado

Latina romance books

Photo: Holiday House

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado is a coming-of-age story following our titular character Charlotte “Charlie” Vega, who is struggling to live and thrive as a fat, brown girl in her predominantly white community in Connecticut. Her white mom definitely doesn’t help with her weight loss shakes and harmful opinions of how much better she could look if she was thinner and had straight-hair. Things start to change when she starts dating Brian, a cute classmate that actually makes her feel good about herself. But when she finds out that he asked her best friend Amelia out first, who’s more athletic, more popular, and thinner, she immediately starts spiraling feeling like she’s second-best. Ultimately, it will be up to her to rediscover her self-worth, inner power, and confidence.

In this Article

Angie Cruz Elizabeth Acevedo Featured Julia Alvarez latina writers Sandra Cisneros
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