September 15 marks the beginning of Hispanic Heritage Month! This year, we’ve rounded up books by some amazing Latino and Hispanic authors, who’ve written incredible stories about legacy, families, political upheaval, and society. Below are eight of our favorite picks brimming with magic, history, and love.
8 Captivating Books to Read This Hispanic Heritage Month
Chilean author Isabel Allende’s first book, THE HOUSE OF SPIRITS, spans three generations of the Trueba family, so it covers a lot of ground, yet somehow still manages to feel intimate as its women (mother, children, grandchildren) fight their individual battles, ranging from over-ambitious husbands to elements of the surreal. Woven within these personal stories are Chile’s political histories, encompassing war, government coups, and more. If you like sweeping family sagas, revolutions, and a hint of magic, pick up this book!
“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.”
Drawing many comparisons to Allende’s writing, THE INHERITANCE OF ORQUÍDEA DIVINA is one of our most anticipated new releases of the fall. When the family’s mysterious matriarch, Orquídea, is close to dying, she gathers her descendants together for what they hope is a revealing reunion. But they’re in for a shock, since she dies before answers about their inheritance are presented. Seven years later her dark legacy—at play behind her odd behaviors and supernatural talents—leaks out, as magical objects and hidden creatures began to appear. The story lines in this enchanting novel alternate between Orquídea’s haunted past, as she travels from Ecuador to her tiny Midwest home of Four Rivers, and the strange occurrences surrounding her descendants’ present, ultimately exploring how our actions reverberate through generations.
Perfect for fans of Alice Hoffman, Isabel Allende, and Sarah Addison Allen, this is a gorgeously written novel about a family searching for the truth hidden in their past and the power they’ve inherited, from the author of the acclaimed and “giddily exciting” (The New York Times Book Review) Brooklyn Brujas series.
The Montoyas are used to a life without explanations. They know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low or empty, or why their matriarch won’t ever leave their home in Four Rivers—even for graduations, weddings, or baptisms. But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead, Orquídea is transformed, leaving them with more questions than answers.
Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways for Marimar, Rey, and Tatinelly’s daughter, Rhiannon, granting them unexpected blessings. But soon, a hidden figure begins to tear through their family tree, picking them off one by one as it seeks to destroy Orquídea’s line. Determined to save what’s left of their family and uncover the truth behind their inheritance, the four descendants travel to Ecuador—to the place where Orquídea buried her secrets and broken promises and never looked back.
Alternating between Orquídea’s past and her descendants’ present, The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina is an enchanting novel about what we knowingly and unknowingly inherit from our ancestors, the ties that bind, and reclaiming your power.
Leaving her small hometown in Mexico, ten-year-old Juana García sets out for the US to find her father, who left to look for work there two years before. When Juana’s path crosses with Adelina Vasquez, a young woman who followed her lover from California to Mexico, they strike up an intense friendship that bolsters their spirits through desert treks, a Tijuanan jail cell, and plenty of heartbreak. Filled with glimmers of hope and one life-affirming friendship, ACROSS A HUNDRED MOUNTAINS is a must-read. Plus, be sure to check out Grande’s newest novel, A BALLAD OF LOVE AND GLORY.
Winner of the American Book Award, Across a Hundred Mountains is a stunning and poignant novel about a young girl who leaves her small town in Mexico to find her father, who left his family to find work in America—a story of migration, loss, and discovery.
After a tragedy separates her from her mother, Juana García leaves in search of her father, who left them two years earlier. Out of money and in need of someone to help her across the border, Juana meets Adelina Vasquez, a young woman who left her family in California to follow her lover to Mexico. Finding themselves—in a Tijuana jail—in desperate circumstances, they offer each other much needed material and spiritual support and ultimately become linked forever in the most unexpected of ways.
In Across a Hundred Mountains, Reyna Grande puts a human face on the controversial issue of immigration, helping readers to better understand those who risk life and limb every day in pursuit of a better life.
Get ready to laugh out loud and then maybe shed a few tears with this heartwarming memoir in essays. Author John Paul Brammer, a popular queer advice columnist, brings his best wisdom to the table in this book. With his straightforward, profound words, he dives into issues we all face, such as regret, confrontation, and heartbreak, while chronicling his experiences of growing up as a queer Mexican-American kid in Oklahoma.
From popular LGBTQ advice columnist and writer John Paul Brammer comes a hilarious, heartwarming memoir-in-essays chronicling his journey growing up as a queer, mixed-race kid in America’s heartland to becoming the “Chicano Carrie Bradshaw” of his generation.
“I loved ¡Hola Papi!” —Shea Serrano * “An invigorating and vital read.” —R. Eric Thomas * “We are lucky to live in the era of JP Brammer.” —Alexander Chee * “JP Brammer is the best storyteller. ” —Heather Havrilesky * “[Brammer is] a beautiful writer.” —Rainbow Rowell * “Essential and necessary.” —Jonny Sun
The first time someone called John Paul (JP) Brammer “Papi” was on the popular gay hookup app Grindr. At first, it was flattering; JP took this as white-guy speak for “hey, handsome.” Who doesn’t want to be called handsome? But then it happened again and again…and again, leaving JP wondering: Who the hell is Papi?
What started as a racialized moniker given to him on a hookup app soon became the inspiration for his now wildly popular advice column “¡Hola Papi!,” launching his career as the Cheryl Strayed for young queer people everywhere—and some straight people too. JP had his doubts at first—what advice could he really offer while he himself stumbled through his early 20s? Sometimes the best advice to dole outcomes from looking within, which is what JP has done in his column and book—and readers have flocked to him for honest, heartfelt wisdom, and of course, a few laughs.
In ¡Hola Papi!, JP shares his story of growing up biracial and in the closet in America’s heartland, while attempting to answer some of life’s toughest questions: How do I let go of the past? How do I become the person I want to be? Is there such a thing as being too gay? Should I hook up with my grade school bully now that he’s out of the closet? Questions we’ve all asked ourselves, surely.
With wit and wisdom in equal measure, ¡Hola Papi! is for anyone—gay, straight, and everything in between—who has ever taken stock of their unique place in the world, offering considered advice, intelligent discourse, and fits of laughter along the way. “Readers are likely to become addicted to these stories; they’re that good…Brammer comes to know himself very well, and readers will be delighted to make his acquaintance, too,” says Booklist in a starred review.
After the death of her father, Malena Sevilla learns that her mother is still alive, but the only information she has to go by is a letter signed by “A,” which mentions a small town in the Andes Mountains. So, she sets out to uncover the truth. Arriving in town, she meets four sisters who could each be her mom, so she lies about her identity in order discover which one is her mom. Set in 1960s Ecuador, this historical fiction story peels back the layers of mystery with sweet moments that build in suspense, until you grow to love the quirky small-town characters, and wish they could all be your own family.
In alternating story lines, INFINITE COUNTRY delivers an intense drama of migrant life from Bogotá to Houston. In one perspective, we follow fifteen-year-old Talia as she breaks out of a correctional facility in Colombia and races to Bogotá in order to board her flight to the United States. And in the other perspective, in the past, we watch Talia’s parents, Mauro and Elena, fall in love at a market in the midst of Colombia’s civil war. When they flee to the US in search of a better life, new struggles emerge. A Reese’s Book Club pick, INFINITE COUNTRY is written in breathtaking prose, and highlights the tense reality of undocumented immigrants living in the United States, and the unbreakable bonds of family.
“Remarkable...this is as much an all-American story as it is a global one.” —Booklist (starred review)
For readers of Valeria Luiselli and Edwidge Danticat, an urgent and lyrical novel about a Colombian family fractured by deportation, offering an intimate perspective on an experience that so many have endured—and are enduring right now.
Talia is being held at a correctional facility for adolescent girls in the forested mountains of Colombia after committing an impulsive act of violence that may or may not have been warranted. She urgently needs to get out and get back home to Bogotá, where her father and a plane ticket to the United States are waiting for her. If she misses her flight, she might also miss her chance to finally be reunited with her family in the north.
How this family came to occupy two different countries, two different worlds, comes into focus like twists of a kaleidoscope. We see Talia’s parents, Mauro and Elena, fall in love in a market stall as teenagers against a backdrop of civil war and social unrest. We see them leave Bogotá with their firstborn, Karina, in pursuit of safety and opportunity in the United States on a temporary visa, and we see the births of two more children, Nando and Talia, on American soil. We witness the decisions and indecisions that lead to Mauro’s deportation and the family’s splintering—the costs they’ve all been living with ever since.
Award-winning, internationally acclaimed author Patricia Engel, herself a dual citizen and the daughter of Colombian immigrants, gives voice to all five family members as they navigate the particulars of their respective circumstances. And all the while, the metronome ticks: Will Talia make it to Bogotá in time? And if she does, can she bring herself to trade the solid facts of her father and life in Colombia for the distant vision of her mother and siblings in America?
Rich with Bogotá urban life, steeped in Andean myth, and tense with the daily reality of the undocumented in America, Infinite Country is the story of two countries and one mixed-status family—for whom every triumph is stitched with regret, and every dream pursued bears the weight of a dream deferred.
Overwhelmed and heartbroken, college linguistics professor Blanca Perea runs away from her ruined marriage, quite literally, traveling across the world from Madrid to California, in 1999, upon accepting a research fellowship. Her task, while in the States, is to organize the files of a deceased Spanish writer, but, in the process, she catches the detective bug. As she grows to intimately know the writer’s protégé, Daniel Carter, and develop a friendship with him, more secrets appear, ultimately revealing a deep emotional narrative in Daniel’s past, and that of his deceased mentor’s. This is one haunting and satisfying historical fiction book, in which Blanca learns about the Spanish Revolution and the missions of California, while coming to an understanding of her own path in life.
Declared “a writer to watch” (Publishers Weekly, starred review), New York Times bestselling author María Dueñas pours heart and soul into this story of a woman who discovers the power of second chances.
A talented college professor in Madrid, Blanca Perea seems to have it all. But her world is suddenly shattered when her husband of twenty years leaves her for another woman. Questioning the life she once had and whether she truly knows herself, Blanca resolves to change her surroundings. She accepts what looks like a boring research grant in California involving an exiled Spanish writer who died decades ago. Anxious to leave her own troubled life behind, she is gradually drawn into his haunted world, with its poignant loves and unfulfilled ambitions.
But in delving into the past, Blanca finds herself simultaneously awakened to the present by Daniel Carter, a charismatic professor with crucial knowledge about the dead writer that he has never before revealed. Amid this web of passion, conflict, and hidden feelings, including her own, Blanca advances like an avid detective, refusing to quit, and ultimately discovers startling answers that resonate deeply in her own life.
Evocative, lyrical, and humorous, The Heart Has Its Reasons is a journey of the soul from the pangs of the past to the vibrant present. It is a story about the thrill of creating one’s life anew.
Mexican writer F.G. Haghenbeck was inspired to write this bold novel after learning that Frida Kahlo’s notebooks were found at her home in Mexico City. Jumping off from there, the author richly reimagines Kahlo’s attempts to refine her artistic talents, speak out on behalf of her political convictions, and develop relationships with famous creative figures—including Diego Rivera, Georgia O’Keeffe, and Leon Trotsky, to name a few. This is an impressively crafted narrative with beautiful prose, providing a well-rounded depiction of one of Mexico’s most famous painters.
One of Mexico’s most celebrated new novelists, F. G. Haghenbeck offers a beautifully written reimagining of Frida Kahlo’s fascinating life and loves.
When several notebooks were recently discovered among Frida Kahlo’s belongings at her home in Coyoacán, Mexico City, acclaimed Mexican novelist F. G. Haghenbeck was inspired to write this beautifully wrought fictional account of her life. Haghenbeck imagines that, after Frida nearly died when a streetcar’s iron handrail pierced her abdomen during a traffic accident, she received one of the notebooks as a gift from her lover Tina Modotti. Frida called the notebook “The Hierba Santa Book” (The Sacred Herbs Book) and filled it with memories, ideas, and recipes.
Haghenbeck takes readers on a magical ride through Frida’s passionate life: her long and tumultuous relationship with Diego Rivera, the development of her art, her complex personality, her hunger for experience, and her ardent feminism. This stunning narrative also details her remarkable relationships with Georgia O’Keeffe, Leon Trotsky, Nelson Rockefeller, Ernest Hemingway, John Dos Passos, Henry Miller, and Salvador Dalí. Combining rich, luscious prose with recipes from “The Hierba Santa Book,” Haghenbeck tells the extraordinary story of a woman whose life was as stunning a creation as her art.
Photo credit: Off the Shelf