It’s September, and that means Hispanic Heritage month is here. This year, we wanted to focus on all of the amazing women from Latino and Hispanic countries who’ve written stellar novels about identity, families, political upheaval, and society. Below are ten of our favorite fictional books by Latina authors.
Chilean author Isabel Allende is a literary queen. She’s written a multitude of books, all of which are excellent, and it made selecting one for this list very difficult—EVA LUNA, IN THE MIDST OF WINTER, and THE JAPANESE LOVER are just a few—so we went with her first novel, THE HOUSE OF SPIRITS, a beautifully written story of a family spanning three generations. If you like family sagas, political revolutions, and magical realism, this is the perfect book for you. Read the full review of THE HOUSE OF THE SPIRITS.
“It was an enormous pleasure for me to reread this book three decades after it first made its mark on me. I found myself still enraptured by the words of these women, still dazzled by the magic potion that is Isabel Allende’s gift for storytelling. And as I reached the final page, I smiled in wonderment at the forces that led me to where I am today, and was thankful for the reminder that our future is written in the stars.”
A young woman’s brother is sentenced to death, and she thinks it’s her fault. She moves to a different town in Florida to try and start anew, and meets a Cuban exile who begins to show her the power and connection life has to the ocean. Through this tale of a woman and her family’s past struggles in both Colombia and the United States, Patricia Engel weaves a beautiful tapestry of redemption, love, and connection.
If you loved LIKE WATER FOR CHOCOLATE—Laura Esquivel’s first and bestselling novel, made into an award-winning movie—you’ll fall head over heels for MALINCHE. Based on the native woman who acted as an interpreter and advisor to the Spanish conquistadors and was largely considered a traitor to the people of Mexico, Esquivel’s novel constructs a vivid and lush story around Malinalli, her affair with Hernán Cortés, and the true, complex role she played in the Spanish conquest of Mexico.
Kali Fajardo-Anstine’s SABRINA & CORINA examines the lives of Latinas of indigenous ancestry in the American West, and how heritage and home are connected. Each story takes place in Colorado, following various women as they navigate their world. It’s a beautiful collection that will break your heart and leave you wanting more.
The place? Mexico City. The year? 1988. The people? Meche and her two friends, who are all unpopular. But when Meche learns how to cast spells by using music, things start to look up for the trio. Jump to 2009: Meche returns to Mexico City for the first time in years for her father’s funeral, and encounters one of her friends from the past. The result? A book that is charming, poignant, and utterly magical. Silvia Moreno-Garcia is exceptionally talented at atmospheric writing, so you’ll feel all the teenage emotions and 1980s Mexico City nostalgia you possibly could.
Cristina García’s bestselling book follows three generations of women and their relationship and reactions to the Cuban revolution. Spanning 50 years, from the 1930s to the 1980s, and two countries—the US and Cuba—it’s a heartfelt tale of exile, memory, and the relationships between mothers and daughters.
An intergenerational tale spanning the 1930s to the 1980s, this novel tells the story of a family divided by the Cuban revolution. Infused with magical realism, the narrative presents a unique vision and a haunting lamentation for a past that might have been.
This lush and magical novel gives you a view into the lives of the rich and poor in Colombia during the reign of Pablo Escobar. It’s unlike most pop culture stories about drug cartels, in that it doesn’t focus on the crime itself—instead, it homes in on the lives of everyday people impacted. And specifically, it focuses on Chula, a young girl living in a nice Bogotá neighborhood, and her housemaid, Petrona, who lives in the guerrilla-occupied slums, and how their lives intertwine as the conflict in the country escalates. It was inspired by the author’s own life, and is a deeply beautiful story about growing up in a difficult and dangerous time.
Naima Coster’s amazing novel about family was a finalist for the 2018 Kirkus Prize for Fiction, and one page in, you see why. The main character, Penelope, moves back to Bed-Stuy to care for her aging and sick dad, and finds the Brooklyn neighborhood drastically different from how she remembers it—thanks to rapid gentrification. Also, her mother has moved to the Dominican Republic, leaving her feeling at a loss and searching for family. But her mom is also desperate to reconcile, and old wounds are reopened. It’s a truly moving story about familial relationships and self-discovery.
A woman in 1960s Ecuador discovers that her mother, previously thought dead, is still alive—so she embarks on a journey to uncover the truth. She meets four sisters, each with a name that starts with “A,” any of whom could possibly be her mom. To find out which, she fakes her identity—and in doing so, begins a quest for self-discovery, while also unraveling the buried and twisted secrets of her family’s past. It’s a juicy and suspenseful multigenerational story of the struggle between old and new.