2018 Best Latino/Latin American History Books

Alejandra Oliva puts out another banger of a 2018 list for Remezcla here: http://remezcla.com/lists/culture/2018-latino-latin-american-history-books/ 

Please note not every book on this list is US Latinx proper.


There’s no reason studying and academic books have to stay in school – often, scholars are working on telling stories about fascinating intersections between art, culture, and politics that don’t have “mass-market appeal.” Unfortunately, smaller projected audiences often translate to higher prices, or more niche-academic language, but a good writer and a good scholar will write a text everyone can get into.

Here are some books that tell good stories, or can help you get an overview of topics you care a lot about. We’ve tried to get a little bit of everything: food, music, art, politics. Poke around, order books from your local library, use bibliographies to track down other writers you might also want to be in conversation with, and do a little studying outside of school!

Latinx: The New Force in American Politics and Culture Ed Morales (Verso)

In Latinx, Morales argues for a growing portion of American culture – a gender-neutral term for a cross-national, multi-and-inter-racial group that has so far gone largely unrecognized on the stage of national culture. Latinx provides a history of Latinx people in the United States, and suggests that they might be a key to the future.

Pop América, 1965-1975, Esther Gabara (Duke University Press)

An academic book that doubles as a coffee table tome! A guide to accompany a traveling exhibit of Latin American pop art, this book comes with plenty of colorful images, as well as essays that trace the art movement’s origins across Latin America.

A Library for the Americas: The Nettie Lee Benson Latin America Collection, ed. Julianne Gilliand and Jose Montelongo (University of Texas Press)

UT Austin has one of the best collections of Latin American rare books and artifacts, and this tome will bring them into your home library. Showcasing the treasures of the library in full color, you’ll be able to page through treasures of Latin American history – codexes, paintings, and more.

A Massacre in Mexico: The True Story Behind the Missing Forty-Three Students, Anabel Hernandez, trans. John Washington (Verso)

Since 2014, the murder of 43 Mexican students from Ayotzinapa has been a dark and unsolved mystery that has come to symbolize everything wrong with Mexican politics and corruption. Here, journalist Anabel Hernandez does her best to unravel the mystery behind the massacre, and in the process, shines a harsh and unforgiving light on Mexican politics and government.

Latinx Literature Unbound: Undoing Ethnic Expectation, Ralph E. Rodriguez (Fordham University Press)

The last few years have seen an explosion of Latinx lit, and in this volume, Ralph E. Rodriguez attempts to figure out exactly what that means. What is Latinx lit? What does it mean to have a critical framework surrounding it? Read this for a more meta look at the books you already love.

Cuba: The Cookbook, Madelaine Vázquez Gálvez and Imogene Tondre (Phaidon)

If you’re looking for an absolutely beautiful showstopper of a book on everything to do with Cuban cuisine, this is it. Basically a food showroom (nice to look at and dream about, not always easy or practical to make), this is the kind of cookbook you might sit down and read, cover to cover.

Sounds of Crossing: Music, Migration, and the Aural Poetics of Huapango Arribeño, Alex E. Chavez

Chavez uses the songs of the borderlands to talk about immigration into the US and the culture that has sprung up around the border. He pulls in both history and current situations – and best of all, his own experiences as a Mexican academic and musician – to create a multidimensional, gorgeous book.

La Pastorela: An Old Los Angeles Christmastime Tradition

Victoria Bernal wrote this in 2016. It turns out that two years later, it’s still good! https://www.kcet.org/shows/lost-la/la-pastorela-an-old-los-angeles-christmastime-tradition?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=kcet&fbclid=IwAR1Cha_12jBgbjie_C1UIpCKvSNFBuSSJEEGmnL1Tmd0g5DLBZUTYDuIp_I

While historians and musicologists in Texas and New Mexico have documented the Pastorelas in their regions, there have only been scattered attempts to study it in Southern California – until now. John Koegel, a music professor at California State University Fullerton, is writing a book about Mexican musical theater in Los Angeles and, in an interview, articulated the rich history of the La Pastorela in the city. “La Pastorela was mostly an amateur tradition that reflected popular piety – a folk expression of strongly held beliefs performed as theatrical and musical entertainment.” As Koegel notes, specifics about the play’s history can be elusive.

1883 Los Angeles Herald advertisement for Los Pastores performance
An advertisement for a Pastores performance from the Los Angeles Herald

One challenge in understanding this tradition in Los Angeles is that although local archives preserve complete playscripts with song lyrics and dialogue, they do not include the music that accompanied performances. At the Natural History Museum of Los Angeles County resides a Pastorela manuscript purportedly dated 1839 that was owned by Antonio Coronel, a respected public figure in nineteenth-century Los Angeles. In his memoir, Bandini mentioned Coronel’s important role in producing La Pastorela for St. Vincent’s College (the predecessor of Loyola Marymount University). Bandini was thrilled to be cast in this production as the Archangel even if his tissue-paper angel wings caught fire when an elderly near-sighted women held her candle too close to him. The flames were extinguished by the actor playing the devil, an irony not lost on Bandini, who described the moment he went from “white angel to fiery devil.”

Old Southern California periodicals abound with mentions of Pastorela performances. In 1883, the Los Angeles Herald reported that Los Pastores was so popular that another performance was given in February at Turnverein Hall on Figueroa Street. Just over 100 years ago, the Hidalgo Club, a Mexican mutual aid society, revived La Pastorela for performances in several halls in the Plaza area. The December 1931 issue of the Auto Club’s Touring Topics magazine documented performances of Los Pastores given by Mexican agricultural workers in La Habra, Fullerton, Corona, Upland, and Placentia. The reporter explained that the previous year, “a group organized and trained at Placentia by an almost illiterate orange picker gave more than 25 performances between Christmas Eve and February, traveling all over Southern California in an open truck.”

While the general premise of La Pastorela remains the same, renditions evolve to reflect the times. When PBS broadcast Luis Valdez and El Teatro Compensino’s La Pastorela in 1991, the devil took several forms – Hell’s Angels, a wealthy Californio rancher, and a Middle East sultan. In the 2016 version performed at the Frida Kahlo Theater, evil was represented by a diabolical character named Donald. La Pastorela continues to be performed on the old Plaza, across from the Pico House and Olvera Street, its performance following another Los Angeles Christmastime tradition, Las Posadas.

New Book: Mexicans in Alaska by Sara V. Komarnisky

You can listen to an interview with the author here: https://newbooksnetwork.com/sara-komarnisky-mexicans-in-alaska-an-ethnography-of-mobility-place-and-transnational-life-u-nebraska-press-2018/


“There are Mexicans in Alaska?” This was the response Sara Komarnisky heard repeatedly when describing her research on three generations of transnational migrants who divide their time between Anchorage, Alaska and Acuitzio del Canje, Michoacán, Mexico. In her multi-sited ethnography, Mexicans in Alaska: An Ethnography of Mobility, Place, and Transnational Life (University of Nebraska Press, 2018), Komarnisky explores these migrants’ experiences of mobility—across space and time—and the processes by which they get used to this transnational way of life. This engaging book offers a persuasive case for reimagining how we think about immigration, identity, and national boundaries.


More about the book:

Mexicans in Alaska analyzes the mobility and experience of place of three generations of migrants who have been moving between Acuitzio del Canje, Michoacán, Mexico, and Anchorage, Alaska, since the 1950s. Based on Sara V. Komarnisky’s twelve months of ethnographic research at both sites and on more than ten years of engagement with the people in these locations, this book reveals that over time, Acuitzences have created a comprehensive sense of orientation within a transnational social field. Both locations and the common experience of mobility between them are essential for feeling “at home.” This migrant way of life requires the development of a transnational habitus as well as the skills, statuses, and knowledge required to live in both places. Komarnisky’s work presents a multigenerational and cross-continental understanding of the contemporary transnational experience.

Mexicans in Alaska examines how Acuitzences are living, working, and imagining their futures across North America and suggests that anthropologists look across borders to see how broader structural conditions operate both within and across national boundaries. Understanding the experiences of transnational migrants remains a critical goal of contemporary scholarship, and Komarnisky’s analysis of the complicated lives of three generations of migrants provides depth to the field.

San Francisco Unveils ‘Frida Kahlo Way,’ Renaming Phelan Avenue

Michelle Wiley did this for KQED news: https://www.kqed.org/news/11710877/san-francisco-unveils-frida-kahlo-way-renaming-phelan-avenue?fbclid=IwAR3C-IWhPZd_bjTu1_KxbnjX7H-jDPDHfGQJu9Q28LQO4F9TtghsLVd-maQ


At the Diego Rivera Theatre at City College of San Francisco, city officials gathered with students and faculty to celebrate the unveiling of Frida Kahlo Way on Friday.

The street — formerly Phelan Avenue — was named after James Phelan, an Irish immigrant who amassed his fortune in the city during the Gold Rush. But it’s the politics of Phelan’s son — former United States senator and San Francisco Mayor James D. Phelan — that inspired the name change.

During his time in office as mayor from 1897 to 1902, James D. Phelan supported the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. After leaving the Senate in 1921, he remained active in anti-immigrant movements and supported the Immigration Act of 1924. He also ran a campaign to “Keep California White.”

Supervisor Norman Yee says changing the name of the street is particularly important to him as a 3rd-generation San Franciscan and Chinese-American. (Michelle Wiley/KQED)

District 7 Supervisor Norman Yee said that even though the street is not directly named after the former mayor, the family association is enough to warrant the change.

“My family came over in the 1800s,” said Yee. “So they actually had to feel this type of racism that people had to go through around that time, and it did impact my family. So for me to be able to rectify what was the wrong thing to do means a lot to me personally.”

The San Francisco Board of Supervisors unanimously voted to approve the name change in June.

It’s one of the latest steps taken by the city to rename streets and other public spaces with historically racist origins. In September, officials removed the “Early Days” statue from the Civic Center due to its disparaging depiction of Native Americans.

Chancellor of City College of San Francisco Mark Rocha said the renaming of the street “… is not so much about the past, but about the future. About the community empowering itself to cast a beacon to the future about who we are of the San Francisco of today, which is a great city of immigrants.”

Of the five names shortlisted for the change, artist Frida Kahlo received the highest number of votes. (Michelle Wiley/KQED)

The street now bears the name of renowned Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, who lived in San Francisco in the early 1930s with her husband, muralist Diego Rivera.

“She’s a powerful, queer woman of color at a time in Mexico where there weren’t really big female names in the art scene,” said Associated Student Council Vice President Angelica Campos, of Kahlo. “It’s a really powerful statement at this time … where women are under attack in many ways.”

Associated Student Council Vice President Angelica Campos (left) and Board of Trustees member Shanell Williams (right) celebrate the name change. (Michelle Wiley/KQED)

The San Francisco Foundation, which had a visual arts award named after James D. Phelan, made the decision to remove his name from the award in July.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the foundation said the decision is in line with the organization’s mission.

“As a community foundation focused on racial equity and economic inclusion in the Bay Area, we work with many partners, including our generous donor community. We adhere to donor intent; and in making the decision regarding the aforementioned award names, we have kept our commitment on how the funds are to be used. We have yet to make a final decision on the new names of the awards.”

Interstellar Bruja 1 & 2: 2 new zines by Rios de la Luz

If interested, you can purchase here: https://interstellarbruja.bigcartel.com/product/interstellar-bruja-vol-1-2?fbclid=IwAR1kFZdN1wqOLtflqEcAR5-KpYaWRFpncUlf0BxfdYe7YoYf2XGu6OmVDeY



Holiday special: 2 for $12 plus shipping 💋

♥️✨👽🔮 Interstellar Bruja Vol 1: Stories and words by Rios de la Luz. Sci-fi. Magic. Galactic hearts. The enchantment of being a child and believing so hard in Mister Spock. This chapbook is dedicated to the weird brown girls of the planet.

Cover art by Jessie Rocha.

Interstellar Bruja was originally part of the Ladybox Books limited edition Ladybox Vol 2. Parts of Interstellar Bruja have appeared on AJ+, Fem Lit Magazine and Corporeal Clamor.

💙Interstellar Bruja Vol.2💙
Stories and Essays by Rios de la Luz

Interstellar Bruja Vol. 2 contains stories and essays on heartbreak, reinvention, trauma, queerness, and connecting with nature. Interstellar Bruja Vol 2 is dedicated to all the magical brown femmes on the planet.

Cover art by Cynthia Treviño.

The Best Books by Latino and Latin American Authors of 2018

The original post by Alejandra Oliva for Remezcla can be found here: http://remezcla.com/lists/culture/latino-latin-american-authors-2018/

Please note that not all of these are necessarily US Latinx…

Compiling a list of the best works in a year can feel like kind of a wild exercise – it’s impossible for any one person to read everything that comes out in any given year, even when you get to narrow the field a little bit and limit yourself to only Latinx writers. This year’s list represents writers past and present, writing in English and Spanish (and sometimes both), presses big and small, books for children and adults (and maybe kind of both), works categorized as fiction and non-fiction and poetry. What it doesn’t represent is even a tenth of the fantastic books written and published by Latinx writers this year.

We would recommend using this list as a jumping off point to find new favorite writers, to read further, and to write your own story.


The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo

Release Date: March 6, 2018
Publisher: Harper Teen

This year’s National Book Award winner in Young People’s Literature, The Poet X, is out here changing people’s lives. The book-in-verse centers on Xiomara, an Afro-Latina growing up in Harlem caught between the strict religion her mother is raising her in and her desire to find her own voice. Acevedo is an award-winning slam-poet, and the poems that she gives Xiomara are stirring and gorgeous.

After The Winter by Guadalupe Nettel, translated by Rosalind Harvey

Release Date: September 4, 2018
Publisher: Coffee House Press

Nettel is maybe one of the most underappreciated writers being translated from Spanish right now – her work is wry, sad, and funny. After The Winter is an intercontinental story of the ways that even fleeting relationships can shift a life, but it is also about the particular strangeness of the lonely and alone. This is a novel that takes as its focus all the peculiarities of the personal, in short, a fantastic character study.

Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir by Jean Guerrero

Release Date: July 17, 2018
Publisher: One World

As anyone who has ever lived along the border knows, it’s far more complicated than a simple dividing line. In Crux, Guerrero, who is trained as a journalist, investigates not only her own family’s relationship with the border across generations, but the life of her father, a Mexican immigrant, and the borders he traverses between mysticism and sanity, illness and health, drugs and medicine. Crux is as deeply reported as it is deeply felt.

Dreamers by Yuyi Morales

Release Date: September 4, 2018
Publisher: Neal Porter Books

Yuyi Morales is a rockstar in the children’s book world – she won a Caldecott Medal for her biography of Frida Kahlo in 2015. Her latest, Dreamers, is the story of a mother and child arriving to the United States, and finding a sense of home in their public library. It’s a beautifully illustrated, colorful text that makes wondrous again language that has been somewhat politicized.

The Taiga Syndrome by Cristina Rivera Garza, translated Suzanne Jill Levine and Aviva Kana

Release Date: October 1, 2018
Publisher: Dorothy

This book, published in English just a year after The Iliac Crest, will hopefully usher in a wave of Rivera Garza-mania in the US. Much like her earlier work, The Taiga Syndrome is dark and strange and layered over with social commentary. With the same kind of dream-like narration as a fairy tale, and the haunted forests of Hansel and Gretel and Snow White, The Taiga Syndrome is a gorgeous winter read.

The Dragon Slayer: Folktales from Latin America by Jaime Hernandez

Release Date: April 3, 2018
Publisher: TOON Graphics

Jaime Hernandez is better known as one of the brothers behind acclaimed comic book series Love and Rockets. Here, he uses his graphic-novelist skills to retell three stories from across Latin America, including an introduction by teacher and folklorist F. Isabel Campoy, which helps to put the whole project into context. If you’re looking for a gift for your Spanish-speaking primito, the book was also simultaneously published in translation.

Museum of the Americas by J. Michael Martinez

Release Date: October 2, 2018
Publisher: Penguin Books

A National Book Award nominee this year in Poetry, Museum of the Americas takes as its subject the body under colonialism – as seen in the early colonial castapaintings popular in Mexico, his own family, General Santa Ana’s wooden leg. Crossing the lines between the personal and the historical, and blending the two, Martinez addresses both the past and the present moment.

Packing My Library: An Elegy and 10 Digressions by Alberto Manguel

Release Date: March 20, 2018
Publisher: Yale University Press

The former head of the national library of Argentina packs up his personal book collection to prepare for a move. That’s it, the whole premise. But it unspools like you’re sitting across from someone who has spent a lifetime thinking about books and libraries and collections, and he’s riffing off everything as its going into boxes – Manguel ranges deeply and widely across his own collection and history, making this a joy to read.

The Carrying by Ada Limón

Release Date: August 14, 2018
Publisher: Milkweed Books

If you follow a lot of poets on Twitter, you’re likely already at least a little familiar with Ada Limón’s work. Poems from her latest book, The Carrying, were photographed and posted for inspiration, benediction, aspiration, admiration, tweeted and retweeted. The Carrying in its totality is a meditation on bodies and aging, ranging between the personal and political. A book to inspire and bless and admire.

10 Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras

Release Date: July 31, 2018
Publisher: Doubleday

A coming-of-age story set in Bogota during Pablo Escobar’s reign that focuses on the relationship between a little girl and her mostly-silent maid, Petrona. Rojas Contreras’ lovely, spare prose alternates between both girls, and in the process tells a complex story about class, violence, and living in turbulent times.

11 Comemadre by Roque Larraquy, translated by Heather Cleary

Release Date: July 10, 2018
Publisher: Coffee House Press

An absolutely bananas kind of sci-fi, kind of historical novel that plays with the borders and boundaries between life and death, person and object, bodies and pain and doubling over. Larroquy is an Argentine screenwriter, and the cinematic noticeably bleeds into Comemadre. If the word extra was a novel, this would be it.

12 Lo Terciario/The Tertiary by Raquel Salas Rivera

Release Date: April 14, 2018
Publisher: Timeless, Infinite Light

Rivera’s book is a poetic response to the Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Stability Act that the United States passed two years ago. They place it against and in conversation with Marx, and queerness, and in the process create a politically sharp, stirring poetic declaration. This year was rich in Latinx National Book Award Nominees – this is another!

13 Sexographies by Gabriela Wiener, translated by Lucy Greaves and Jennifer Adcock

Release Date: May 29, 2018
Publisher: Restless Books

Gabriela Wiener is a Peruvian sex writer, and Sexografias is a book of her collected essays. However, she doesn’t just stay on the carnal, and uses her explorations of egg donation, swingers parties, cruising, and squirting as channels into meditations on motherhood, death, and immigration, all while staying sharp and funny and wild.

14 The Naked Woman by Armonia Somers, translated by Kit Maude

Release Date: November 6, 2018
Publisher: The Feminist Press

Along with the boom in translations of contemporary Latinx authors, we’re also lucky enough to be in the midst of a revival of older Latinx writers as well. Armonia Somers is an Uruguayan writer from the mid-century, and her work, about the violence women encounter while reaching for personal autonomy was shocking back in the 1950s, but will still resonate with audiences today.


15 Stripped by Zoey Castile

Release Date: April 28, 2018
Publisher: Kensington Books

Sometimes all you want to do when you’re reading is hunker down with…well, a hunk. Zoey Castile (aka YA author Zoraida Cordova) has got you covered, with this story of a traditional, Catholic Latinx school teacher who meets her hot neighbor who happens to be a male stripper. A very sweet, very sexy, and very fun romp of a read.

New Book: Contemporary U.S. Latinx Literature in Spanish


Here’s a new book for you literature types out there! Edited by Amrita Das, Kathryn Quinn-Sánchez and Michele Shaul…


U.S. Latinx Literature in Spanish remains an understudied field despite its large and vibrant corpus. This is partly due to the erroneous impression that this literature is only written in English, and partly due to traditional educational programs focusing on English texts to include non-Spanish speakers and non-Latinx students. This has created a vacuum in research about Latinx literary production in Spanish, leaving the contemporary field wide open for exploration. This volume fills this space by bringing contemporary U.S. Latinx literature in Spanish to the forefront of the field. The essays focus on literary production post-1960 and examine texts by authors from different backgrounds writing from the U.S., providing readers with an opportunity to explore new texts in Spanish within U.S. Latinx literature, and a departure point for starting a meaningful critical discourse about what it means to write and publish in Spanish in the U.S. Through exploring literary production in a language that is both emotionally and politically charged for authors, the academia, and the U.S., this book challenges and enhances our understanding of the term ‘Americas’.