Ten books by Latino authors you should be reading, according to Sandra Cisneros

In conversation with The Independent, the author of House on Mango Street, who is set to speak at the Santa Fe Literary Festival later this month, shared some of her recent reads with Alexandra Tirado Oropeza

Wednesday 04 May 2022 21:46
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Sandra Cisneros is as well known for her writing as she is for her love of reading.

“Everyone needs to know yourself before you can be in any kind of relationship, but especially a writer needs to be reading to be writing,” she said.

In a  conversation with The Independent, the author of House on Mango Street, who is set to speak at the Santa Fe Literary Festival, shared some of her recent reads. Cisneros will be appearing at the festival, being held later this month, alongside U.S. Poet Laureate Joy Harjo. The pair join a line up which includes other award winning authors such as George RR Martin, John Grisham, Margaret Atwood, Asma Khan, and Jonn Krakauer.

Here is the list, in no particular order:

The Consequences: Stories, Manuel Muñoz

Set in California’s Central Valley, The Consequences: Stories is Manuel Muñoz’s first book in a decade. Muñoz, author of What You See in the Dark and Zigzagger: Stories (Latino Voices), tells the story of various characters around southern California and Texas.

“I envy that I didn’t write these stories myself,” says Cisneros, kindly. “He really just did his highest work, his genius highest work. And I’m in admiration.”

The book is set to be released in October, 2022.

Crying in the Bathroom, Erika L. Sánchez

Move over, Sydney Sweeney, there is a new queen of crying in the bathroom.

In her essay collection, Crying in the Bathroom, Erika Sánchez, recounts the experience of being the daughter of Mexican immigrants while also being everything a daughter of Mexican immigrants shouldn’t be: a foul-mouthed, melancholic rabble-rouser, in Sánchez own words. The result is a funny and raw window into the author’s life that is sure to be as relatable as it is funny.

“It’s a great book for talking about issues that we don’t talk about,” Sandra says.

Not "A Nation of Immigrants": Settler Colonialism, White Supremacy, and a History of Erasure and Exclusion, Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz 

“I don’t usually read a book like that, but I had liked her An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States,” Cisneros said, referring to Roxanne Dubar-Ortiz’s previous book.

In Not a Nation of Immigrants, Dunbar-Ortiz strives to debunk the myth that the United States was, as they say, “ is proudly founded by and for immigrants”, and shines a light on the more complicated, often ruthless history behind immigration in the U.S.

“I truly wish everyone would read it,” Cisneros said.

​​Hurricane Season, Fernanda Melchor 

Named New York Public Library Best Books of 2020, Fernanda Melchor’s Hurricane Season tells the story of a Mexican village in which Witch of La Matosa has been murdered and her body found by the town’s children. What unfolds is a mythical and violent story told by unreliable narrators trying to find out who killed the The Witch and why.

Cisneros, who has been reading both the Spanish and English editions at the same time, sugest billingual readers do the same.

Dragonfly. Toad. Moon., Mary Jane White

“She has an incredible story,” Cisneros said of her ex-classmate and the author of Dragonfly. Toad. Moon., Mary Jane White. “She was a single mom raising her child and they told her he was never going to develop speech… and he just finished getting his degree in robotics.”

In the book of poetry, White tells the story of her and her son, who suffers from Autism and was told he was never going to be able to speak. She is now planning to turn hers and her son’s story into a memoir.

“I can’t wait for her to write the full story,” Cisneros said.

Juliet Takes a Breath, Gabby Rivera

“This one is for the younger audience,” Cisneros said.

In Juliet Takes a Breath, Gabby Rivera tells the story of Juliet Milagros Palante, after coming out to her family the night before an important trip. Juliet goes to Oregon where she begins a journey of self-discovery after arriving to study under the mentorship of a well-known feminist writer.

If that isn’t enough to peak your interest, Roxane Gay’s review, in which she used the phrase "f--king outstanding” to describe the book, may convince you.

The Nine Guardians: A Novel, Rosario Castellanos

In The Nine Guardians: A Novel, Rosario Castellanos writes mostly from the point of view of a seven-year-old girl as she watches her landowner, wealthy parents go about their business while being cared for by Nana, their Indian nurturing servant, in the middle of the Mexican revolution.

“If you can read her in Spanish, all the better,” Cisneros points out.

Gordo, Jaime Cortez 

Similarly to The Consequences: Stories, Gordo by Jaime Cortez talks about the farm workers and people in the farm working community.

In his first ever book of short stories, Cortez follows the life of Gordo, an immigrant kid growing up in a migrant workers camp near Watsonville, California in the 1970s.  We follow Gordo as he faces the reality of life as an immigrant and the machista attitudes of his alcoholic father throughout his life.

NPR’s Michael Schaub called the book “an unforgettable portrait of the working-class Mexican Americans who lived there in the 1970s.”

The Distance Between Us: A Memoir, Reyna Grande

For the 10th anniversay of Reyna Grande’s The Distance Between Us: A Memoir, which is set to come out later this year, Cisneros was able to write the introduction. However, the author has been vocal in the past about her love of the book and her admiration for Grande as a writer.

"I've been waiting for this book for decades. The American story of the new millennium is the story of the Latino immigrant, yet how often has the story been told by the immigrant herself? What makes Grande's beautiful memoir all the more extraordinary is that, through this hero's journey, she speaks for millions of immigrants whose voices have gone unheard," Cisneros said at the time the book came out in 2013.

Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed: 15 Voices from the Latinx Diaspora, Saraciea J. Fennell 

Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed: 15 Voices from the Latinx Diaspora, is an antology edited by Saraciea J. Fennel, the founder of The Bronx is Reading, an online bookstore that aims to “promote literacy and foster a love of reading among children, teens, and adults.”

In the book, 15 different Latina writers share their experience about their experience in the Latino diaspora.

“I only know two of [the 15 writers] and a whole bunch of these writers, I don't know,” Cisneros said. “And I thought, ‘Wow, I'm so glad there's so many.’”

The inaugural Santa Fe Literary Festival will be taking place between 20-23 May 2022. The four-day event is set to explore issues at a time of extraordinary change – in politics, race, immigration, the environment, and more. The Independent, as the event’s international media partner, will be providing coverage across each day of the festival as well as during the lead up with exclusive interviews with some of the headline authors. For more on the festival visit our Santa Fe Literary Festival section or visit the festival’s website here. To find out more about buying tickets click here.

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