Talk Chisme to Me, Part II: Favorite Books By Latinx Authors I Read This Past Year

It’s my favorite time of the year, it’s Latinx Heritage Month! This is one of my favorite series to put together each year as it gives me a chance to flail about all the wonderful books I’ve picked up by Latinx authors and future ones that I’m excited to see published. Check out my previous post in this series:

Talk Chisme to Me, Part I: The TBR

For this second post, I am sharing with you my top ten favorite books I read since last Latinx Heritage Month. Feel free to flail in the comments with me and if you haven’t picked up these titles, I hope this post gets you excited about them. Also be sure to check out my Twitter giveaway here. Covers are linked to Goodreads.

Favorite Books By Latinx Authors:

1. Blanca y Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore

Anna-Marie McLemore hasn’t let me down yet. Complex sister relationship, colorism, generational curses, two very different romances, four multi-layered POVs. McLemore once again dazzles. Bury me in a coffin with pages from their novels. I will die happy.

      “The biggest lie of all is the story you think you already know.
      The del Cisne girls have never just been sisters; they’re also rivals, Blanca as obedient and graceful as Roja is vicious and manipulative. They know that, because of a generations-old spell, their family is bound to a bevy of swans deep in the woods. They know that, one day, the swans will pull them into a dangerous game that will leave one of them a girl, and trap the other in the body of a swan.
      But when two local boys become drawn into the game, the swans’ spell intertwines with the strange and unpredictable magic lacing the woods, and all four of their fates depend on facing truths that could either save or destroy them. Blanca & Roja is the captivating story of sisters, friendship, love, hatred, and the price we pay to protect our hearts.”

2. Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno

Nina Moreno cast a spell on me with her debut about a Cuban-American teen trying to outrun the family curse. It’s a love letter to the Latinx diaspora with one of the most complex and charming settings I’ve read in a contemporary. Don’t Date Rosa Santos is one of those rare novels that feels perfect from start to finish.

      “Rosa Santos is cursed by the sea-at least, that’s what they say. Dating her is bad news, especially if you’re a boy with a boat.
      But Rosa feels more caught than cursed. Caught between cultures and choices. Between her abuela, a beloved healer and pillar of their community, and her mother, an artist who crashes in and out of her life like a hurricane. Between Port Coral, the quirky South Florida town they call home, and Cuba, the island her abuela refuses to talk about.
      As her college decision looms, Rosa collides – literally – with Alex Aquino, the mysterious boy with tattoos of the ocean whose family owns the marina. With her heart, her family, and her future on the line, can Rosa break a curse and find her place beyond the horizon?”

3. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Technically this was a reread, but I had the pleasure of reading it again for Latinx Book Club. This time I listened to the audiobook which Elizabeth Acevedo narrated herself. Fell even more in love with this novel in verse. My heart soared with every accomplishment Xiomara made and broke every time the world told her she was not enough or too much.

      “A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.
      Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.
      But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.
      So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.
      Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.”

4. The Moon Within by Aida Salazar

This might very well be my favorite MG novel ever. Salazar’s charming coming-of-age novel in verse tackles menstruation, gender identity, bigotry, and cultural heritage. It’s the book I wish I could gift to my tween self.

      “Celi Rivera’s life swirls with questions. About her changing body. Her first attraction to a boy. And her best friend’s exploration of what it means to be genderfluid.
      But most of all, her mother’s insistence she have a moon ceremony when her first period arrives. It’s an ancestral Mexica ritual that Mima and her community have reclaimed, but Celi promises she will NOT be participating. Can she find the power within herself to take a stand for who she wants to be?
      A dazzling story told with the sensitivity, humor, and brilliant verse of debut talent Aida Salazar.”

5. Gods of Jade and Shadow by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Silvia Moreno-Garcia! Silvia Moreno-Garcia! I cannot hype up this author enough. Her latest novel combines fairytale storytelling with Mayan mythology in this mesmerizing story of a young woman caught up in a battle between two brother gods. Please read and hype this author along with me.

      “The Mayan god of death sends a young woman on a harrowing, life-changing journey in this dark, one-of-a-kind fairy tale inspired by Mexican folklore.
      The Jazz Age is in full swing, but Casiopea Tun is too busy cleaning the floors of her wealthy grandfather’s house to listen to any fast tunes. Nevertheless, she dreams of a life far from her dusty small town in southern Mexico. A life she can call her own.
      Yet this new life seems as distant as the stars, until the day she finds a curious wooden box in her grandfather’s room. She opens it—and accidentally frees the spirit of the Mayan god of death, who requests her help in recovering his throne from his treacherous brother. Failure will mean Casiopea’s demise, but success could make her dreams come true.
In the company of the strangely alluring god and armed with her wits, Casiopea begins an adventure that will take her on a cross-country odyssey from the jungles of Yucatán to the bright lights of Mexico City—and deep into the darkness of the Mayan underworld.”

6. We Set the Dark on Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia

I love books with really interesting mythology and Mejia builds this world where religious origins directly influence politics while simultaneously making commentary on border walls and classism. Also has a great f/f romamce at its center. Can’t wait to read the sequel.

      “At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children. Both paths promise a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class.
      Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her pedigree is a lie. She must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society.
      And school couldn’t prepare her for the difficult choices she must make after graduation, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio.
      Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or will she give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?”

7. Pride by Ibi Zoboi

I love Jane Austen, but haven’t read as many retellings as I’d like and have had very little opportunity to read ones that star PoC. Zoboi’s P&P retelling is about an Afro-Latina with a focus on community and family.

      “Zuri Benitez has pride. Brooklyn pride, family pride, and pride in her Afro-Latino roots. But pride might not be enough to save her rapidly gentrifying neighborhood from becoming unrecognizable.
      When the wealthy Darcy family moves in across the street, Zuri wants nothing to do with their two teenage sons, even as her older sister, Janae, starts to fall for the charming Ainsley. She especially can’t stand the judgmental and arrogant Darius. Yet as Zuri and Darius are forced to find common ground, their initial dislike shifts into an unexpected understanding.
      But with four wild sisters pulling her in different directions, cute boy Warren vying for her attention, and college applications hovering on the horizon, Zuri fights to find her place in Bushwick’s changing landscape, or lose it all.
      In a timely update of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, critically acclaimed author Ibi Zoboi skillfully balances cultural identity, class, and gentrification against the heady magic of first love in her vibrant reimagining of this beloved classic.”

8. Nocturna by Maya Motoyane

I need publishing to invest in more Latinx high fantasy. I adored this one so much and loved that it also addressed colonization. I fell in love with both Alfie and Finn and spent the final pages of this book wishing it would last longer.

      “Set in a Latinx-inspired world, a face-changing thief and a risk-taking prince must team up to defeat a powerful evil they accidentally unleashed.
      To Finn Voy, magic is two things: a knife to hold under the chin of anyone who crosses her…and a disguise she shrugs on as easily as others pull on cloaks.
      As a talented faceshifter, it’s been years since Finn has seen her own face, and that’s exactly how she likes it. But when Finn gets caught by a powerful mobster, she’s forced into an impossible mission: steal a legendary treasure from Castallan’s royal palace or be stripped of her magic forever.
      After the murder of his older brother, Prince Alfehr is first in line for the Castallan throne. But Alfie can’t help but feel that he will never live up to his brother’s legacy. Riddled with grief, Alfie is obsessed with finding a way to bring his brother back, even if it means dabbling in forbidden magic.
      But when Finn and Alfie’s fates collide, they accidentally unlock a terrible, ancient power—which, if not contained, will devour the world. And with Castallan’s fate in their hands, Alfie and Finn must race to vanquish what they have unleashed, even if it means facing the deepest darkness in their pasts. “

9. Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Marie Machado

I haven’t read too many short story collections, but this one is my favorite. Machado’s stories are a great blend of odd and creepy. Definitely one I can see myself revisiting multiple times.

      “In Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado blithely demolishes the arbitrary borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. While her work has earned her comparisons to Karen Russell and Kelly Link, she has a voice that is all her own. In this electric and provocative debut, Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.
      A wife refuses her husband’s entreaties to remove the green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague slowly consumes humanity. A salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery within the seams of the store’s prom dresses. One woman’s surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted houseguest. And in the bravura novella Especially Heinous, Machado reimagines every episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a show we naively assumed had shown it all, generating a phantasmagoric police procedural full of doppelgangers, ghosts, and girls with bells for eyes.
      Earthy and otherworldly, antic and sexy, queer and caustic, comic and deadly serious, Her Body and Other Parties swings from horrific violence to the most exquisite sentiment. In their explosive originality, these stories enlarge the possibilities of contemporary fiction.”

10. Signal to Noise by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Silvia Moreno-Garcia has earned two spots on my list this year. Her novels never disappoint me and I finally had the pleasure of picking up her debut. Her use of dual timelines were perfection and I loved how she utilizes music as a tool for magic. Read it!

      “A literary fantasy about love, music and sorcery, set against the background of Mexico City.
      Mexico City, 1988: Long before iTunes or MP3s, you said ‘I love you’ with a mixtape. Meche, awkward and fifteen, has two equally unhip friends — Sebastian and Daniela — and a whole lot of vinyl records to keep her company. When she discovers how to cast spells using music, the future looks brighter for the trio. With help from this newfound magic, the three friends will piece together their broken families, change their status as non-entities, and maybe even find love…
      Mexico City, 2009: Two decades after abandoning the metropolis, Meche returns for her estranged father’s funeral. It’s hard enough to cope with her family, but then she runs into Sebastian, and it revives memories from her childhood she thought she buried a long time ago. What really happened back then? What precipitated the bitter falling out with her father? And, is there any magic left?”

Have you read any of these? Which book are you most intrigued by? Any you are planning to pick up? Let’s discuss in the comments.

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Latinx Heritage Month 2018, Part I: Favorite Reads

Happy Latinx Heritage Month! September 15th marks the first day of Latinx Heritage Month, which continues through October 15th. Every Saturday on my blog a post will go up highlighting Latinx authors in a five-part series. Be sure to stick around and check them out. Also, I am running a Twitter giveaway for #LatinxHeritageMonth be sure to head on over here to check out the tweet. For this first post, I’m listing the top ten eleven books I’ve read over the past year written by Latinx authors. Covers are linked to Goodreads.

Favorite Books By Latinx Authors:

1. Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

But was there any doubt Anna-Marie McLemore would make this list? When I need my magical realism fix, I immediately reach for McLemore’s novels. Wild Beauty is about a generation of bisexual cousins from a family of horticulturalist who try to stop a family curse.

      “For nearly a century, the Nomeolvides women have tended the grounds of La Pradera, the lush estate gardens that enchant guests from around the world. They’ve also hidden a tragic legacy: if they fall in love too deeply, their lovers vanish. But then, after generations of vanishings, a strange boy appears in the gardens.
      The boy is a mystery to Estrella, the Nomeolvides girl who finds him, and to her family, but he’s even more a mystery to himself; he knows nothing more about who he is or where he came from than his first name. As Estrella tries to help Fel piece together his unknown past, La Pradera leads them to secrets as dangerous as they are magical in this stunning exploration of love, loss, and family.”

2. The Beautiful Ones by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

The Beautiful Ones is my favorite 2018 read. I love it for its subtlety and the care Silvia Moreno-Garcia took in developing her three lead characters. This will be reread by me very soon.

      “A young woman finding her way. 
It is Antonina Beaulieu’s first Grand Season in the elegant city of Loisail. A chance to take her place in high society, to find a suitable husband, and to leave her checkered past behind. Because Antonina possesses telekinetic powers, powers she can’t control, that have made her the subject of cruel gossip.
      A gentleman with a secret
      Famed telekinetic performer Hector Auvray is also new to the city. He arrives in Loisail with the intent of recapturing the heart of his former flame, the beautiful Valérie Beaulieu, and finds his way into her household by courting Antonina.
      Astounded by Hector’s abilities, which she wishes to master, and flattered by his attention, Antonina does not suspect the duplicitous drama which will unfold.
      A romance with a dash of the fantastic
      Set in a sumptuous world inspired by the Belle Epoque, where scandal is a dreaded weapon, The Beautiful Ones is a tale of desire and betrayal, and the struggle between conformity and passion.”

3. The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

I never really thought of myself as a reader who enjoys novels in verse, by Elizabeth Acevedo debut, The Poet X, has changed my mind. Xiomara felt like an extension of who I was as a teen and I felt every emotion reading this one.

      “A young girl in Harlem discovers slam poetry as a way to understand her mother’s religion and her own relationship to the world. Debut novel of renowned slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.
      Xiomara Batista feels unheard and unable to hide in her Harlem neighborhood. Ever since her body grew into curves, she has learned to let her fists and her fierceness do the talking.
      But Xiomara has plenty she wants to say, and she pours all her frustration and passion onto the pages of a leather notebook, reciting the words to herself like prayers—especially after she catches feelings for a boy in her bio class named Aman, who her family can never know about. With Mami’s determination to force her daughter to obey the laws of the church, Xiomara understands that her thoughts are best kept to herself.
      So when she is invited to join her school’s slam poetry club, she doesn’t know how she could ever attend without her mami finding out, much less speak her words out loud. But still, she can’t stop thinking about performing her poems.
      Because in the face of a world that may not want to hear her, Xiomara refuses to be silent.”

4. Peluda by Melissa Lozado-Oliva

This year not only did I discover that I enjoyed novels in verse, but also poetry. Melissa Lozado-Oliva is a slam poet and if you haven’t checked her out on YouTube, stop what you are doing and do so now. I knew I had to own this one after watching her.

      “One of the most original performance poets of her generation, Melissa Lozada-Oliva has captivated crowds across the country and online with her vivid narratives. Humorous and biting, personal and communal, self-deprecating and unapologetically self-loving, peluda (meaning “hairy” or “hairy beast”) is the poet at her best. The book explores the relationship between femininity and body hair as well as the intersections of family, class, the immigrant experience, Latina identity, and much more, all through Lozada-Oliva’s unique lens and striking voice. peluda is a powerful testimony on body image and the triumph over taboo.”

5. Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova

Bruja Born by Zoraida Córdova is probably my favorite sequel I read this year. Labyrinth Lost was one of the first books that made me feel seen. I am beyond stoked for the third novel.

      “Three sisters. One spell. Countless dead.
      Lula Mortiz feels like an outsider. Her sister’s newfound Encantrix powers have wounded her in ways that Lula’s bruja healing powers can’t fix, and she longs for the comfort her family once brought her. Thank the Deos for Maks, her sweet, steady boyfriend who sees the beauty within her and brings light to her life.
      Then a bus crash turns Lula’s world upside down. Her classmates are all dead, including Maks. But Lula was born to heal, to fix. She can bring Maks back, even if it means seeking help from her sisters and defying Death herself. But magic that defies the laws of the deos is dangerous. Unpredictable. And when the dust settles, Maks isn’t the only one who’s been brought back…”

6. Not Now, Not Ever by Lily Anderson

I love books that make me laugh and every Lily Anderson novel as accomplished this. Her characters are so smart and witty and I just love the nerdy world she’s built.

      “Elliot Gabaroche is very clear on what she isn’t going to do this summer.
      1. She isn’t going to stay home in Sacramento, where she’d have to sit through her stepmother’s sixth community theater production of The Importance of Being Earnest.
      2. She isn’t going to mock trial camp at UCLA.
      3. And she certainly isn’t going to the Air Force summer program on her mother’s base in Colorado Springs. As cool as it would be to live-action-role-play Ender’s Game, Ellie’s seen three generations of her family go through USAF boot camp up close, and she knows that it’s much less Luke/Yoda/”feel the force,” and much more one hundred push-ups on three days of no sleep. And that just isn’t appealing, no matter how many Xenomorphs from Alien she’d be able to defeat afterwards.
      What she is going to do is pack up her attitude, her favorite Octavia Butler novels, and her Jordans, and go to summer camp. Specifically, a cutthroat academic-decathlon-like competition for a full scholarship to Rayevich College, the only college with a Science Fiction Literature program. And she’s going to start over as Ever Lawrence, on her own terms, without the shadow of all her family’s expectations. Because why do what’s expected of you when you can fight other genius nerds to the death for a shot at the dream you’re sure your family will consider a complete waste of time?
      This summer’s going to be great.”

7. Undead Girl Gang by Lily Anderson

Yes, there is a second Lily Anderson book on this list because I was lucky enough to read two by her this year. Mila has the kind of confidence I wish I had; she’s a fierce fat Mexican Wiccan and I wish I was a part of this amazing girl gang (hopefully as a living person and not a zombie.).

      “Mila Flores and her best friend Riley have always been inseparable. There’s not much excitement in their small town of Cross Creek, so Mila and Riley make their own fun, devoting most of their time to Riley’s favorite activity: amateur witchcraft.
      So when Riley and two Fairmont Academy mean girls die under suspicious circumstances, Mila refuses to believe everyone’s explanation that her BFF was involved in a suicide pact. Instead, armed with a tube of lip gloss and an ancient grimoire, Mila does the unthinkable to uncover the truth: she brings the girls back to life.
      Unfortunately, Riley, June, and Dayton have no recollection of their murders, but they do have unfinished business to attend to. Now, with only seven days until the spell wears off and the girls return to their graves, Mila must wrangle the distracted group of undead teens and work fast to discover their murderer…before the killer strikes again.”

8. Pitch Dark by Courtney Alameda

I feel like I need to pay more attention to Courtney Alameda after reading her science-fiction/horror novel Pitch Dark. I didn’t even know I needed a Latina protagonist in space until I read this one and now I wish this had a sequel coming out because I need more.

      “Tuck has been in stasis on the USS John Muir, a ship that houses Earth’s most valued artifacts—its natural resources. Parks and mountains are preserved in space.
      Laura belongs to a shipraiding family, who are funded by a group used to getting what they want. And they want what’s on the Muir.
      Tuck and Laura didn’t bargain on working together, or battling mutant aliens who use sound to kill. But their plan is the only hope for their crews, their families, and themselves.
In space, nobody can hear you scream . . . but on the John Muir, the screams are the last thing you’ll hear.”

9. History Is All You Left Me by Adam Silvera

It’s always dangerous to pick up an Adam Silvera book. Seriously, these novels need to come with a box of tissue. One of my favorite things about Silvera’s books is how deeply flawed his protagonists; he has a gift for creating real characters that you can’t help but root for.

      “When Griffin’s first love and ex-boyfriend, Theo, dies in a drowning accident, his universe implodes. Even though Theo had moved to California for college and started seeing Jackson, Griffin never doubted Theo would come back to him when the time was right. But now, the future he’s been imagining for himself has gone far off course
      To make things worse, the only person who truly understands his heartache is Jackson. But no matter how much they open up to each other, Griffin’s downward spiral continues. He’s losing himself in his obsessive compulsions and destructive choices, and the secrets he’s been keeping are tearing him apart.
      If Griffin is ever to rebuild his future, he must first confront his history, every last heartbreaking piece in the puzzle of his life.”

10. A Dash of Trouble by Anna Meriano

This middle grade novel is something I wish I had as a kid. Anna Meriano combines magic and cooking in a charming coming-of-age novel.

      “Leonora Logroño’s family owns the most beloved bakery in Rose Hill, Texas, spending their days conjuring delicious cookies and cakes for any occasion. And no occasion is more important than the annual Dia de los Muertos festival.
      Leo hopes that this might be the year that she gets to help prepare for the big celebration—but, once again, she is told she’s too young. Sneaking out of school and down to the bakery, she discovers that her mother, aunt, and four older sisters have in fact been keeping a big secret: they’re brujas—witches of Mexican ancestry—who pour a little bit of sweet magic into everything that they bake.
      Leo knows that she has magical ability as well and is more determined than ever to join the family business—even if she can’t let her mama and hermanas know about it yet.
      And when her best friend, Caroline, has a problem that needs solving, Leo has the perfect opportunity to try out her craft. It’s just one little spell, after all…what could possibly go wrong?”

11. Gabi, a Girl in Pieces by Isabel Quintero

This list was originally ten books long, but I just finished Isabel Quintero’s Gabi, a Girl in Pieces this week and had to add it to this list. I fell in love with Gabi almost from the get-go and love how honest her portrayal was.

      “Gabi Hernandez chronicles her last year in high school in her diary: college applications, Cindy’s pregnancy, Sebastian’s coming out, the cute boys, her father’s meth habit, and the food she craves. And best of all, the poetry that helps forge her identity.
      July 24
      My mother named me Gabriella, after my grandmother who, coincidentally, didn’t want to meet me when I was born because my mother was unmarried, and therefore living in sin. My mom has told me the story many, many, MANY, times of how, when she confessed to my grandmother that she was pregnant with me, her mother beat her. BEAT HER! She was twenty-five. That story is the basis of my sexual education and has reiterated why it’s important to wait until you’re married to give it up. So now, every time I go out with a guy, my mom says, ‘Ojos abiertos, piernas cerradas.’ Eyes open, legs closed. That’s as far as the birds and the bees talk has gone. And I don’t mind it. I don’t necessarily agree with that whole wait until you’re married crap, though. I mean, this is America and the 21st century; not Mexico one hundred years ago. But, of course, I can’t tell my mom that because she will think I’m bad. Or worse: trying to be White.

Have you read any of these books or authors? Which book by a Latinx author have you enjoyed recently? Let’s discuss in the comments.