A group of people look at books spread out on large tables.
People sort through tables of free books at a Desayuno con Libros (Books and Breakfast) event in 2018. Photo by Andrea Morales for MLK50

One of the best ways to explore culture is through reading. So with about two weeks left in what is designated as National Hispanic Heritage Month, we scoured the internet to compile this list, then added some personal picks from visuals director Andrea Morales.

We think we found voices that help us understand how far we’ve come from President Lyndon Johnson’s idea to celebrate “the people of Hispanic descent,” a group he described as the “heirs of missionaries, captains, soldiers, and farmers who were motivated by a young spirit of adventure, and a desire to settle freely in a free land.”

But binding such different identities feels like a disservice. Creating the ethnic group “Hispanic” centers Spain and Spanish speakers, so the vast identities under that umbrella are flattened by its perpetuation

Below is our attempt to undo that wrong, to celebrate and recenter the indigenous and diasporic communities, all year long. 

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Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos translated by Jack Agüeros 

In this first bilingual edition of her work, the Afro-Boricua freedom fighter offers what a friend of visuals director Andrea Morales described as “both the sacred and scarce space for her self-actualization.”  

Racial Innocence: Unmasking Latino Anti-Black Bias and the Struggle for Equity by Tanya Katerí Hernández

Racism is deeply complex, and this law professor and comparative race relations expert uses personal stories and legal case studies to explore racism within the Latino community. 

Me Gusta by Angela Dominguez

Kirkus Reviews said this bilingual children’s picture book about love and community is like slipping into a hug. 

The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

A book that serves as a portrait of this country written by an undocumented writer. Nominated for a national book award. 

Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez

This is the debut novel of this author and she’s managed to write a romantic comedy that’s smart enough to examine political corruption, familial strife and the very notion of the American dream. The main characters are a wedding planner, her closeted congressman brother and their revolutionary activist mother. The title is an allusion to a Pedro Pietri poem

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Neruda on the Park by Cleyvis Natera

This novel follows members of a Dominican family in New York City who take radically different paths when faced with encroaching gentrification and “tenderly and thoughtfully invites readers to weigh our own obligations to the places and people who made us,” according to one reviewer.  

How Not To Drown In A Glass Of Water by Angie Cruz

The structure of this novel is built around a dozen interview sessions the middle-aged Dominican main character has as she tries to prove her job readiness and eligibility for unemployment benefits. (She’s a worker!) A personal story of a woman on the brink of trying to find herself.

High-Risk Homosexual by Edgar Gomez

This memoir by a Florida-born gay, Latinx man asks big questions: What is Latinidad? What is machismo? What does it mean to be a man? What does it mean to be a queer man? He explores the answers in an interesting place — his uncle’s cockfighting ring in Nicaragua, where he was sent at 13.

We Are Owed by Ariana Brown 

The author identifies as a queer Black Mexican American poet. This poetry collection about her childhood in Texas and a trip to Mexico as an adult challenges the typical definitions of Mexican identity and reveals the histories of formerly enslaved Africans in Texas and Mexico. 

Book covers

Willy Cut Deep by Carlos Jaramillo

A collection of photographs that evoke a cultural staple — the barber shop poster — to play with appearance and perception. Beautifully done and really intriguing in its ability to question your assumptions. 

Echame La Agua by Amy Morales and Elizabeth Garcia

Stories about queer, undocumented Cubans in Miami, told by using various mediums and histories. Bonus: It’s published by independent zine and book publishers Homie House Press, which is queer Latinx owned. 

El jardin de senderos que bifurcan by Tarrah Krajnak

A remarkable object that tells the story of the artist and trying to reconnect and reconstruct with the life left behind in Peru (and what she could have grown up into) after she was adopted by white American parents. The photographer includes ephemera and haunting prose.

Andrea Morales is the visuals director for MLK50: Justice Through Journalism. Email her at  andrea.morales@mlk50.com

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