The list includes searing memoirs about bicultural identity, gripping novels and beautiful poetry collections.
This year’s Hispanic Heritage Month is an exciting season for publications by your favorite Latino authors and a few noteworthy newcomers.
Highlights include Carmen Maria Machado’s new memoir, two years after her wildly popular story collection, "Her Body and Other Parties;" the return, after two decades, of Michael Nava’s San Francisco lawyer-turned-sleuth Henry Ríos; and a remarkable debut by Diana Marie Delgado, a Chicana poet from La Puente, California. The Chicano writer Luis J. Rodríguez says of Delgado’s work: “I feel the bones she rattles, the blood currents she rides, the imagery and language that spiral up the crushed and diminished voices.”
Not so long ago, a person seeking books by Latino authors had to mine the bookstore shelves for that rare but rewarding find. Today, the Latino literary field is thriving and has become quite visible, thanks to the growing recognition across various communities that our writers are dynamic, engaging and continually attuned to the politics of the present — something Latino readers have always known.
1. Jennine Capó Crucet, "My Time Among the Whites: Notes From an Unfinished Education" (Picador)
Jennine Capó Crucet’s honesty about the privileges of being a light-skinned Latina and the challenges of being a first-generation Cuban American and a first-generation college student give this collection of essays about navigating predominantly white spaces a personal touch that is both stirring and inspiring. “It took me leaving Miami to realize I was not white,” she writes as she enters academia as a student, then a professor, moving to Ithaca, New York, then to Lincoln, Nebraska, where she becomes a wedding crasher in order to reconcile with her sense of isolation and her loneliness post-divorce. But it’s her ability to find humor in most of her experiences, such as the story about her parents explaining how she was named after Miss America 1980, that shines a warm light on these compelling lessons about assimilation, acculturation and familial love by the acclaimed writer and New York Times contributing columnist.
2. Angie Cruz, "Dominicana: A Novel" (Flatiron Books)
After the death of dictator Rafael Trujillo, the Dominican Republic is poised to begin its healing, but economic and political upheaval fling its communities into further chaos. For the Canción family, young Ana might be their ticket off the island, so they push her into a loveless marriage with a man twice her age who whisks her off to New York City. Vulnerable but not so naïve, Ana is able to survive the cold city streets and her abusive relationship: “I have learned a lot from growing up with animals.” But every day is a new test of her will to endure for the sake of her loved ones and to resist the possibility of true love. "Dominicana" is a triumphant return for Cruz, 14 years after the publication of her last novel. The journey of Ana Canción is one of the most evocative and empowering immigrant stories of our time.
3. Michael Nava, "Carved in Bone" (Persigo Press)
Henry Ríos, a criminal defense lawyer, is enlisted by an insurance company to investigate a few questionable claims. The year is 1984, when the AIDS crisis is at its peak, and Ríos’ journey into the private lives of the company's clients brings to light the complexities of insuring gay men and collecting after their demise. There’s one case in particular — the alleged accidental death of a runaway from Illinois who went on to prosper in San Francisco — that captivates Ríos’ curiosity and sends him even deeper into the distress of living under the specter of an incurable disease. Nava’s new mystery novel will appeal to long-time fans of Henry Ríos, but new readers will find a moving portrait of men responding wisely and sometimes foolishly when faced with their own mortality.