Great Books to Read for Hispanic Heritage Month

Okay, I’m a little late to the party. Hopefully, you already know it is Hispanic Heritage Month. Each year, Americans observe National Hispanic Heritage Month from September 15 to October 15, by celebrating the histories, cultures, and contributions of American citizens whose ancestors came from Spain, Mexico, the Caribbean and Central and South America.

The observation started in 1968 as Hispanic Heritage Week under President Lyndon Johnson and was expanded by President Ronald Reagan in 1988 to cover a 30-day period starting on September 15 and ending on October 15. It was enacted into law on August 17, 1988.

The day of September 15 is significant because it is the anniversary of independence for Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. In addition, Mexico and Chile celebrate their independence days on September 16 and September18, respectively.

Literature is an important aspect of any culture. This is the perfect time to read a novel written by a Latin author. Even though there are only two weeks left in Hispanic Heritage Month, don’t let that stop you. Go for it! But what to read… that is the big question. Well, never fear, Amy’s book recommendations are here! I haven’t read them all, but other readers and critics sure have.

 

Afterlife by Julia Alvarez

Antonia Vega, the immigrant writer at the center of Afterlife, has had the rug pulled out from under her. She has just retired from the college where she taught English when her beloved husband, Sam, suddenly dies. And then more jolts: her bighearted but unstable sister disappears, and Antonia returns home one evening to find a pregnant, undocumented teenager on her doorstep.

Aunt Julia and the Scriptwriter by Mario Vargas Llosa

This brilliant, multilayered novel is set in the Lima, Peru of the author’s youth, where a young student named Marito is toiling away in the news department of a local radio station. His young life is disrupted by two arrivals: his aunt Julia and a manic scriptwriter named Pedo Camacho. Vargas Llosa’s novel is masterfully done, hilarious, mischievous, a classic named one of the best books of the year (1982) by the New York Times Book Review.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. From his home in New Jersey, where he lives with his old-world mother and rebellious sister, Oscar dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the Fukœ—the curse that has haunted the Oscar’s family for generations. Díaz won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 2008.

Daughter of Fortune by Isabel Allende

Orphaned at birth, Eliza Sommers is raised in the British colony of Valparaíso, Chile, by the well-intentioned Victorian spinster Miss Rose and her more rigid brother Jeremy. Just as she meets and falls in love with the wildly inappropriate Joaquín Andieta, a lowly clerk who works for Jeremy, gold is discovered in the hills of northern California. Joaquín takes off for San Francisco to seek his fortune, and Eliza, pregnant with his child, decides to follow him.

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende

In one of the most important and beloved Latin American works of the twentieth century, Isabel Allende weaves a luminous tapestry of three generations of the Trueba family, revealing both triumphs and tragedies. The House of the Spirits is an enthralling saga that spans decades and lives, twining the personal and the political into an epic novel of love, magic, and fate.

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Acclaimed by critics, beloved by readers of all ages, taught everywhere from inner-city grade schools to universities across the country, and translated all over the world, The House on Mango Street is the remarkable story of Esperanza Cordero. Told in a series of vignettes—sometimes heartbreaking, sometimes deeply joyous—it is the story of a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become.

The Hummingbird Daughter by Luis Alberto

It is 1889, and the civil war is brewing in Mexico. Sixteen-year-old Teresita, illegitimate but beloved daughter of the wealthy and powerful rancher Don Tomas Urrea, wakes from the strangest dream—a dream that she has died. Only it was not a dream. This passionate and rebellious young woman has arisen from the dead with the power to heal—but it will take all her faith to endure the trials that await her and her family now that she has become the Saint of Cabora.

Inés of My Soul by Isabel Allende

Born into a poor family in Spain, Inés, a seamstress, finds herself condemned to a life of hard work without reward or hope for the future. It is the sixteenth century, the beginning of the Spanish conquest of the Americas, and when her shiftless husband disappears to the New World, Inés uses the opportunity to search for him as an excuse to flee her stifling homeland and seek adventure. After her treacherous journey takes her to Peru, she learns that her husband has died in battle. Soon she begins a fiery love affair with a man who will change the course of her life: Pedro de Valdivia, war hero and field marshal to the famed Francisco Pizarro.

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

Set during the waning days of the Trujillo dictatorship in the Dominican Republic in 1960, this extraordinary novel tells the story of the Mirabal sisters, three young wives and mothers who are assassinated after visiting their jailed husbands. A skillful blend of fact and fiction, the book was inspired by the true story of the three Mirabal sisters who, in 1960, were murdered for their part in an underground plot to overthrow the government.

Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel 

The number one bestseller in Mexico and America for almost two years, and subsequently a bestseller around the world, Like Water for Chocolate is a romantic, poignant tale, touched with moments of magic, graphic earthiness, bittersweet wit – and recipes. Tita, the youngest daughter of the De La Garza family, has been forbidden to marry, condemned by Mexican tradition to look after her mother until she dies. But she falls in love with Pedro and, in desperation, he marries her sister Rosaura so he can stay close to her.

A Long Petal of the Sea by Isabel Allende

This epic novel spanning decades and crossing continents follows two young people as they flee the aftermath of the Spanish Civil War in search of a place to call home. They eventually start over in Chile, and over the course of their lives, they face many trials. But they also find joy as they patiently await the day when they will be exiles no more. Goodreads Choice Award Nominee for Historical Fiction (2020)

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

In their youth, Florentino Ariza and Fermina Daza fall passionately in love. When Fermina eventually chooses to marry a wealthy, well-born doctor, Florentino is heartbroken, but he is a romantic. As he rises in his business career, he whiles away the years in 622 affairs—yet he reserves his heart for Fermina. Her husband dies at last, and Florentino purposefully attends the funeral. Fifty years, nine months, and four days after he first declared his love for Fermina, he will do so again. Audie Award, Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Fiction (1988)

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a Márquez

The brilliant, bestselling, landmark novel that tells the story of the Buendia family and chronicles the irreconcilable conflict between the desire for solitude and the need for love—in rich, imaginative prose that has come to define an entire genre known as “magical realism.” In 1982, Márquez was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature.

The Murmur of Bees by Sofía Segovia

From a beguiling voice in Mexican fiction comes an astonishing novel—her first to be translated into English—about a mysterious child with the power to change a family’s history. Set against the backdrop of the Mexican Revolution and the devastating influenza of 1918, The Murmur of Bees captures both the fate of a country in flux and the destiny of one family that has put their love, faith, and future in the unbelievable. The audio version is incredible!

Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón

Barcelona, 1945: A city slowly heals from its war wounds, and Daniel, an antiquarian book dealer’s son who mourns the loss of his mother, finds solace in a mysterious book entitled The Shadow of the Wind. But when he sets out to find the author’s other works, he makes a shocking discovery: someone has been systematically destroying every copy of every book Julian Carax has written.

The Storyteller by Mario Vargas Llosa

At a small gallery in Florence, a Peruvian writer happens upon a photograph of a tribal storyteller deep in the jungles of the Amazon. He is overcome with the eerie sense that he knows this man… that the storyteller is not an Indian at all, but an old school friend, Saul Zuratas. Weaving the mysteries of identity, storytelling, and truth, Vargas Llosa has created a spellbinding tale of one man’s journey from the modern world to our origins, abandoning one to find meaning in both. Llosa was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature for the year 2010.

 

Stay tuned for my September book reviews in a couple days. Until then, escape in a good book!

 

Amy

 

 

 

 

 

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