Happy Cinco de Mayo! This holiday commemorating the Mexican army’s victory over France during the Franco-Mexican War in 1862 is certainly celebrated in Mexico but is also quite the occasion here in the United States. We tend to use this day as an excuse to throw a party and enjoy Mexican food and drinks—and now, books. Let’s kick off the celebration with these contemporary Mexican writers you should read on Cinco de Mayo. Mix the guacamole, pour the margaritas, and turn the page.
THE STORY OF MY TEETH is an eccentric, arresting, and witty novel that takes readers on a mesmerizing tour through the industrial suburbs of Mexico City. Highway was born with four premature teeth and a fine coast of fuzz, but his inauspicious start was just the beginning. Highway went on to be a late-in-life world traveler, yarn spinner, auctioneer, and collector of teeth from infamous people like Plato and Virginia Woolf.
Álvaro Enrigue’s gloriously original story has it all: assassinations, criminals, schemes, artistic and religious revolutions, love, and war. Set during the course of a tennis match in the 16th century between a radical Italian artist and a Spanish poet, SUDDEN DEATH is a highly imaginative novel of grand adventure and clashing empires. As the poet and painter battle it out in Rome, England executes Anne Boleyn (whose hair is transformed into the most-sought-after tennis ball) and Mexico is conquered by Hernán Cortés.
During sessions with her psychoanalyst, the narrator reflects on her bizarre childhood starting when she was born with an abnormality in her eye. Through Guadalupe Nettel’s artful storytelling, readers experience an inspirational and startling portrait of the artist as a young girl—taking us from Mexico City to Aix-en-Provence, France, and back again as the narrator strings together hard-won, unwieldy memories.
More than anything else in the world, Tochtli wants a new pet for his private zoo: a pygmy hippopotamus from Liberia. Tochtli’s father, a drug baron on the verge of taking over a powerful cartel, sets out on delirious journey to grant his son’s wish. DOWN THE RABBIT HOLE is a darkly comic masterpiece that perfectly encapsulates the chaos of a lawless existence.
And if you still have another margarita to finish, read SIGNS PRECEDING THE END OF THE WORLD—a beautiful and allegorical novel about borders, crossings, and translations that follows a lonely young woman who is smuggled across the United States–Mexico border with secrets.