One of my favorite ways to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month is by reading and sharing books that celebrate Hispanic and Latino culture. Books written by and for Latinos – whether they mix in Spanish words or detail la comida – have a tendency to feel familiar.
This collection, with books for every age group, shares stories of immigration, history, the feeling of living between cultures, and so much more. There are so many more books I could have included in this list, with each offering something that will give the reader a deep sense of pride in being Latino.
Birth to Age 3
For pre-readers, I love anything from Lil Libros. The beautifully illustrated board books offer a literary introduction to a wide range of Latino cultures and traditions. From their city collection exploring places like Bogota, Havana, Lima, San Juan, and more to biographies about notable Latinos including Walter Mercado, Pelé, and Selena to start, these books are my favorite way to introduce Latinidad to children.
“Round is a Tortilla” by Roseanne Greenfield Thong: “Round are tortillas and tacos too / Round is a pot of abuela’s stew / I can name more round things, can you?” This book teaches shapes by putting them into everyday context for a bilingual household.
Pre-K to Elementary
“Where Are You From” by Yamile Saied Méndez, illustrated by Jaime Kim: A young girl is constantly asked where she’s really from and asks her Abuelo who tells a beautiful story about all the places she’s from, weaving in nature, heritage, culture, and family ties along the way.
“Dreamers” by Yuyi Morales: A mother with her infant son leaves behind their home and everything they’ve ever known, making a home in a new place where they learn the language through books found in the public library. A love letter both to her son and the power of literature to teach and inspire, this is a must-read for anyone with an immigrant story.
“I Love Saturdays y Domingos” by Alma Flor Ada, illustrated by Elivia Savadier: A young girl spends every Saturday with her English speaking grandparents and every Sunday with her Spanish speaking grandparents. Her grandma serves pancakes for breakfast, her Abuela serves huevos rancheros. This sweet story is simply about a girl growing up between two cultures and how things may be different from house to house, but they make her who she is.
“They Call Me Güero” by David Bowles: A 7th-grade boy growing up on the Mexican border writes poems about his life, his family, and his struggles. Beautifully written, this collection of poetry shows how living between two worlds, two cultures, and two languages shapes a person’s identity.
Related Post: Book Review: The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba
“Esperanza Rising” by Pam Muñoz Ryan: Thirteen-year-old Esperanza lives a very comfortable life with her family in Mexico until her father dies and she and her mother head north to California where they find work in a farming camp. Told during the Great Depression, this is a story of perseverance, memory, and learning difficult lessons. Written in 2002, it’s especially timely today and gives middle-grade readers an introduction into the complex intricacies of immigration, poverty, working conditions, and more.
“How Tía Lola Came to Visit” by Julia Alvarez: 10-year-old Miguel’s world has been thrown upside down when he moves from New York City to rural Vermont after his parent’s divorce and his eccentric, non-English speaking, and somewhat magical Tia Lola comes to visit. Miguel is trying to make new friends and adjust to his new life with a Tia who paints the house purple but somehow wins over everyone. A heartwarming story that will feel familiar for this age group, this is particularly good for kids going through any sort of transition.
“Furia” by Yamile Saied Méndez: At home in Argentina, Camila is a dutiful daughter to her overprotective mother and abusive father. Her real passion is fútbol; she dreams of the chance to play in North America and leave her family behind. Playing in secret, her team qualifies for a tournament that could make her every dream come true. Torn between family obligations, her growing feelings for her childhood sweetheart and her passion for sport and drive for independence, this is a riveting book. It’s not afraid to tackle difficult topics while offering a strong lesson in following your heart.
“Enchanted Air: Two Cultures, Two Wings” by Margarita Engle: Set in both Cuba and Los Angeles and beautifully written in prose, this book set during the Cold War looks at the Bay of Pigs Invasion and the Cuban Missile Crisis from the perspective of a Cuban girl living in Los Angeles heartbroken by the rift between her two countries.
“You Had Me at Hola” by Alexis Daria: In this steamy romance novel, telenovela star Jasmine Lin Rodriguez finds herself on the front page of the tabloids after a messy breakup. She agrees to star in a bilingual prime-time sitcom with a leading telenovela star. Things quickly heat up as the two start developing offscreen chemistry. It’s an absolute delight for anyone who grew up watching telenovelas.
“The House on Mango Street” by Sandra Cisneros: One of the most celebrated books by a Latina author, this is an essential book for anyone looking to see a bit of themselves and their story in literature. A coming-of-age story about a young Latina growing up in Chicago. The book, told in short stories, feels like a cup of café con leche, like home.
“Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina” by Raquel Cepeda: In this biography, Raquel Cepeda shares her story of unraveling and understanding her identity both literally through ancestral DNA testing and through her own upbringing. Any Latino who has felt the push and pull of two cultures will identify with the exploration of the hyphen many of us live in.
“The General in His Labyrinth” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: A fictionalized account of the last 7 months of Simon Bolivar’s life, written as he is planning to flee South America for exile in Europe, this brilliant novel by one of the most acclaimed Latino writers of our time tells the story not of a hero, but of a broken man. Filled with the magical realism Garcia Marquez is known for and told in flashbacks, this portrait of a man dispels the hero narrative and shows that we are our own worst critics.
While you’re shopping, consider supporting Latin-owned bookstores. Some of my favorites include Cafe Con Libros (Brooklyn, NY), Duende District (online with pop-ups in Washington, DC, and Albuquerque, NM), and Xolo Books (online with pop-ups in Washington, DC).