Reminder: You can find my entire 2021 list at my shop on Bookshop.org. As an affiliate I get a small percentage of your purchase, but the rest goes to supporting independent bookstores.
Well, it’s a new year and so many releases are due out this year. It’s a great year to be a Book Nerd, with that being said this year I have two main goals:
- Read at least one book per month
- Read more books written by Latinx authors
As a default I want half of the books I read to be written by Latinx authors, I’ve joined a Latinx book club so that is helping me reach my goal. If interested you should join us, we review books on Instagram and sometimes the writer’s join us. Which is awesome!
JULY UPDATE: I’ve officially met both of my goals. I’ve read 16 books total and more than half of those are by Latinx authors. I feel pretty proud of myself. I’ve actually achieved one of my 2021 goals!
This year, you might find a mix bag. I’m taking a deep dive into a few different topics, so you’ll see that reflected in my reading selection. As everything else in my life, it will be diverse. I hope you enjoy and feel free to let me know what you think of each read.
“HUMANS” by Brandon Stanton. Yes, this is the same guy that created the Humans of New York Series; however, I learned about him on Facebook I love reading the stories behind every portrait he takes. I knew this book would be the same, in this book he goes beyond NY. I’m not sure how but he even talked to some folx at a refugee camp. He takes a picture of everyone, young or old, rich or poor, diversity is key. Just like the subjects, the stories are also diverse. Some are happy, some sad, but no matter the story it’s all real. The emotions are real. I really did enjoy this, it’s a quick read but it’s more of a visual interpretation of humanity and our emotions.
“Empowering Women: A guide to loving yourself, breaking rules, and bringing god into your life”. by Louise Hay. I ordered this book directly from Hay House, as I always get something from them at the end of the year during their holiday sale. This book was a great way to start out my year, it helped align both my heart and mind in order to set my intentions for the new year. It’s a combination of pep-talk, affirmations, and exercises that get you to understand where you have gaps or need a little more help in the self-love department.I bought a few copies of this book and included it in my Christmas gift bags.
“Developing self-worth, self-love, and self-esteem is essential , or we won’t believe that we deserve to be honored and protected.”-Louise Hay, “Empowering Women”
“Hillbilly Elegy: A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis” by J.D Vance. I’ll be honest, I saw the Netflix Movie first and unlike popular opinion, I enjoyed it. I really did. Glenn Close alone in this movie was amazing and should have won an Oscar for this role. The book gives great insight to white low income-working families. It’s a great and powerful read, he did a great job at narrating the realness of the “culture”, he included their demons, their wins, and their fears. Apparently he now has gone Right, as in off the rails echoing 45’s nonsense. But you can’t let that cloud your judgement of this book. It actually makes it harder to understand why he would support someone that is so totally against what Vance is trying to save and honor in this memoir. But I do highly recommend it, the movie does a great job at showcasing some of the more powerful scenes in the book but the book helps fill in the gaps. You can watch the movie or read the book, you will not be sorry either way. But the books always dive deeper into the characters and fill in some of the gaps that cannot make it into 120 mins of screen time.
“Never Look Back” by Lilliam Rivera. This was my first intro read to my Litina Book Club. I think I read this book in three days and it probably could have been one but I have someone that depends on me being a functional adult. <shoulder shrug> We also got to hear directly from the author on this one, as she was a guest on Insta Live. It was a modern day version of “Orpheus” with a Puerto Rican twist, as any good latinx love story the soundtrack is key-bachata was at the forefront of this tale. This book was a great introduction into modern day latinx authors. It brought in politics, climate justice (via Hurricane Maria and the US’s reaction or lack of to it), mental health, religion, family traditions along with taboos. Rivera does an amazing job of taking the reader through our world and one of fantasy all with the same pen stroke. In this story the prince and his love is not enough to save you, but his belief in tradition is.
“The Collected Autobiographies of Maya Angelou” What can I say? After reading “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” last year I needed more of Maya. Through her words she takes us with her as she discovers who she was outside of being a mother, daughter, sister, and lover. As she figures out what it is like to be Black in America during the civil rights movement, a Black American in Africa, and a woman with a story to tell. Through her words I learned a bit about Malcolm X, MLK, and James Baldwin and many other amazing Black entertainers, artists, and changemakers. I learned a bit, which means “I need to learn more” which translates to: you’ll be seeing more of them in my reading lists. Check out the post that this book inspired for Women’s History Month.
“Porgy” by DuBose Heyward. After reading Maya Angelou’s autobiographies I had to reread Porgy. In case you didn’t know, Angelou starred in the International tour of Gershwin’s “Porgy and Bess”. Some have said that the story is hard to follow, as Heyward kept a lot of the colloquial language from the time. Many have praised this book as “the first major southern novel to portray African Americans outside the stereotypes.” Others believe that he highlighted their generalizations and designed the characters as inferior to the whites in the story. I first read this novel in undergrad, I might have missed a few things but this time around I felt like I really saw the characters a bit more. I was able to see both sides of the critiques, but I was also reading it again with Maya as one of the characters in my head. This is one of those novels whose interpretation will change every 10 years as time, movements, and social change takes place. Each read will leave you with something different.
“Love War Stories” by Ivelisse Rodriguez Where do I begin? Have you ever had a book, just make you stop and think back on past decisions, relationships, or just life itself? Well, this did exactly that for me (read about it here). It made me go back and take a deep dive into my relationships. Why was I with them? Was it really love I felt then? Why have I not allowed myself to love again? Why is love so bittersweet? Through her short stories, Rodriguez takes us through the lives of Puerto Rican girls from Holyoke, Massachusetts. These stories are real, raw, and so damn relatable it hurts all over again. To think we read this during the month of love. But it was a perfect selection because love is not always unicorns and rainbows, actually nowadays it rarely is. Love is beautiful but dammit it can break you if you let it. Rodriguez wants us to ask ourselves, would we let it? Even though love hurts, why do we allow ourselves to be vulnerable to it? Why do we dive deep and get drunk in it, with it, and because of it?
“Infinite Country” by Patricia Engel This book was another page turner, my first night reading it (I’m a mom I either have to stay up late to read or wake up early), I read 11 chapters. I wanted to keep on going, but work got in the way (adulting, ugh!). This story takes place in Columbia, Engel not only brings to life the myths of her native country but also its landscape. As a first generation American, this book made me think of my mother’s journey to this country. Her sacrifice and also the harsh reality that many undocumented women in this country face on a day to day. The broken heart of having your heart in two different countries separated by miles, poverty, and immigration laws. I remembered the first time I met my siblings in El Salvador, I was their sister because we had the same mother, but not the same childhood. I thought about my brother making the journey with my mother. How did he feel in this country for the first time? Engel asks these questions and gives you the answers, or one version of them. Everyone has a different journey, a different realization, a different outcome.
“Of Women and Salt” by Gabriela Garcia. Another great read, this book had me up until 2:30 am. It made me think of how daughters and mothers keep secrets from each other. Why do we do it? Is it for us or for them? The link between women is strong, even when it seems broken, it’s still there holding strong under the pressure of “el que dirán”, vergüenza, olvido, odio, fronteras, miedo, y adicción. This is another one of those books that makes you see the harsh reality of what many immigrants face when they come to this country, what secrets and lives they leave behind. We had the pleasure of meeting Garcia, as she joined our Insta Live. You almost can’t believe that this is her first novel, as she writes with such precision. But then when you are made aware of the fact that she has been in the frontlines, working directly with immigrants as she was an immigrant justice advocate you understand how she is able to make this story come to life. I promise you, you will love this book and you will ask yourself if you really know everything there is to know about your family.
“On Fire: The Burning Case for a Green New Deal” by Naomi Klein I went a little wild in April and got me a few books in honor of Earth Day. By now you should know that I am a self-proclaimed treehugger. I try to grow my own food, I try to conserve almost as much as I try to learn what we can do to protect our environment. Things are dire and people need to realize this. I live in California. Our fire season keeps starting a lot earlier and ending a lot later every year. It makes perfect sense that I would want to read my fellow Taurus’s book as she so kindly lays it for us “Wake the FUCK up! We are on FIRE!” Klein allowed me to see the connection between environmental justice and social justice. Environmental rights and human rights, environmental rights and economic justice. If you’re an activist you must read. We are fighting the good fight but it’s all part of a bigger picture. Here’s my Love Letter to Mother Earth
“Climate Justice: Hope, Resilience, and the Fight for a Sustainable Future” by Mary Robinson. April had a theme and it was all about the ENVIRONMENT. If you are not aware who Robinson is, let me fill you in, she was the first woman to be President of Ireland (1990-1997). Then she was the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (1997-2002). I know? What a badass, right? Well, she also created a foundation and put her money where her mouth is, Mary Robinson Foundation-Climate Justice. Enough about her, more about her book. The book was inspiring, it had stories from all over the world, which makes sense because she has been all over the world. During her travels she realized a few key things: 1) women were at the forefront of all of the conservation efforts in parts all over Africa, Vietnam, South America, and even here in the US. 2) these efforts were predominantly grassroots. This translates to: these women saw there was a problem and realized that they had to do something before things got worse. 3) Resilience and ingenuity can move mountains. This was quite an easy read, but it was also a very uplifting one. It gives you hope, it helps those of us asking ourselves ‘what can I do to help save my planet?’ The answer is simple, ACT! Do it for you, your family, your grandkids, your community. Just do it. Or join and uplift others that are already doing it.
“My Broken Language” by Quiara Alegría Hudes This book had many moments in which I just couldn’t continue reading, not because it was a hard read. But because it was a deep read. Let me explain what this means, she wrote about her family, growing up biracial in a Puertan Rican world. She hit us with so much realness, I kept wondering if her parents or family had disowned her. These pages cover so many issues that many of our families face, cover to cover there was something I could relate to. Things that are not said, things that are assumed, things that are carried from generation to generation, addiction, sexuality, colorism, religion, and language. My favorite chapter in this book is the one titled “Mom’s Accent”…it made me cry. It made me think of my mother struggling to learn this language, of the times that I would giggle or joke at her expense when she would try to speak English. Then realizing how I was made aware of my accent for the first time when I was navigating through a predominantly white space. I had to stop reading and take a moment with these thoughts. Then how beautifully she describes our bodies, the latina body, she uses beautiful descriptions typically used for nature to describe our hips, our bellies, our breasts, and our butts. It just made me look at my body in such a different way, it made me realize that as Latinx our bodies are exquisite, beautiful, and sexy. This is a beautiful read, you will come out of it changed. You will also come out with a yearning to write your own story, I know I’m ready to write OUR story.
“Don’t you know how badly we need you? So much history will go to the grave with Abuela. She doesn’t have many years left. This is stuff that’s not written anywhere, Quiara. Y recuerdas que, if it’s not written down, it doesn’t exist. Didn’t I always say how much power a library shelf holds?”My Broken Language, Quira Alegría Hudes
“The Three Mothers: How the Mothers of Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and James Baldwin Shaped a Nation” by Anna Malaika Tubbs I bought this book in May in honor of Mother’s Day. I was extremely intrigued by it because so many times we only hear about the men, but not the women. Especially never the mother, when I read Maya Angelou’s autobiographies she mentions meeting Baldwin’s mother and the relationship that they had briefly. I wanted to know more, she reminded me of my grandmother, the more I read I realized I wasn’t wrong. Tubbs beautifully describes each mother, their hardships, the women before they were mother’s. The focus is on the mother’s, not the son’s, as a mother I appreciated this. I ended this book with two takeaways: 1) Be mindful in your mothering, as mother’s we have more influence on our child’s character than we might ever know. 2) It is important to write your story, even if you think you have nothing to say. The story of our lives is valuable and worth documenting even if only for future generations in your family.
“Ordinary Girls: A Memoir” by Jaquira Diaz Let me tell you this book was AMAZING! I devoured it in 3 nights, it could have been two pero work and parenting . This book was a labor of love, vulnerability and strength. Revisiting those memories is never easy and Diaz puts it all out there for us to experience. Beautifully written, words that will stay with you. She takes you on a wild ride, you feel her pain, you root for her, you get angry at her for sabotaging her own life, and you want to protect her. Then if you are like those of us that grew up with a parent fighting an addiction, you might even see yourself in some of her words. It might draw up some of your own memories.
These lines hit me hard, it made me tear up instantly because I’ve felt that pain. My mom is a recovering alcoholic, luckily for me she quit when I was seven. But the memories are still there. Those stay with you, they never leave. The interesting thing was that the night before reading this book I had a dream in which my mother was drinking again. I was in my 40’s, but she was her younger self, her drinking age self. I was angry, I knew our family was done with. I was upset the next morning and confused by it, to this day I don’t know what brought on that dream. Here’s what I do know: AA saved my mother and my family. I’m proud of her, she just hit 35 years of sobriety. That’s 35 years of memories we wouldn’t have if she would have kept drinking. The drinking is gone, but the neurosis is still there. Sometimes the neurotic hurts you more than the drunk, even if sober for 35 years.
“What Would Frida Do? A Guide to Living Boldly” by Arianna Davis Where do I start? I had been dying to get my hands on this book for a while, I had seen it on a few bookstagrammers posts. I think I was also like a month late when my book club read it. If you know me, you know Frida is my Sheroe, she is the woman that made me realize the beauty in my brows, in my dark skin, the strength and glamour that comes with being uniquely YOU! Uniquely ME. So this book was all that I thought it would be and more. I finished it in two nights, it was the perfect poolside read. I was in Palm Springs for the weekend celebrating the Guncles’ anniversary. I cannot lie, the more and more I read the more badass, sexy, and bold I felt. I love how Davis gives us snippets of Frida’s life and her words. I learned so many things about her life that I didn’t know. The only thing that I didn’t like (it doesn’t take away from the greatness of the book, just my personal preference), was that I would like to read/hear her words in Spanish. I felt that her essence was somewhat lost when her words were translated into English. Again, this is just me. I have the privilege of knowing Spanish and I think highly of this native tongue of mine. If you love Frida and often wonder WWFD? This is your book!
“A Long Petal of the Sea” by Isabel Allende This book is proof I have a book problem. I saw it and I just had to have it, even though I had her latest book waiting for me on my “TBR” shelf. Yes, I have an entire shelf (more like two now) of TBR books. But I got it and I stand by my decision, it was such a good read. Let me tell you why I love this woman and every book she writes. In every thing that she writes she gives a little bit of history, not just of the character but the character’s home country. We learn of the trials they have to go through because of whatever war or crisis was happening in their country at that time. The history is accurate and she just makes her story fit into pieces of it. It makes sense as she comes from a family that was directly impacted by conflict and will be part of Chilean history for centuries to come. She does each character justice, she weaves the lives of her characters so beautifully that you wonder why you didn’t see it sooner. Like most of her books, I really did enjoy this book. I learned so much about the wars in Spain and Chile, about the famous writer Pablo Neruda. The title alone is an ode to him, don’t worry I didn’t catch it either until I read the book. Her characters are real, relatable and at times reflectable. You will not be sorry you read this book. You’ll just wonder why you didn’t get it sooner, like I did!
“The Kissing Bug: A True Story of a Family, an Insect, and a Nation’s Neglect of a Deadly Disease” by Daisy Hernández .This was an interesting read, Hernández combines research with a personal narrative. Sometimes it feels like you’re reading a white paper on kissing bugs, but she throws in stories to help us understand the science. At first I wasn’t sure about it, but then I continued reading it and devoured over 100 pages in one day-it’s that good. When I finished it, I had to sit with it for a bit. It is about an actual disease, but after the year we’ve been through…just needed to take it in for a bit. It was hard not to see some similarities with how those in power react to disease, what they give importance to, and who they gave importance to when it comes to medical care. Hermández does an amazing job at highlighting the Health inequities that many of our black and brown communities face in the US (again COVID!). But even more intriguing is the fact that even in poor countries this disease is not something talked about or invested in. I lived in one of the countries she mentions in the book, I never heard of it. I heard and was careful about dengue and cholera but not this. I spent time outdoors, even helped pick coffee sometimes past sundown. I never heard “cuidado con los chinches o talajes!” I asked my mother about the bug and she does remember it, especially when they would go to their pueblo to visit family. I wonder if that was the reason I didn’t hear of it? I lived in the capital, with more resources, and typically those in the pueblos were of lower income. I guess even “third-world” countries have their pyramid of exclusion.
“Mexican Gothic” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia. This book was amazing, I didn’t know what to expect. I’ve read traditional gothic, my favorite being my homeboy Edgar Allan Poe. But Moreno-Garcia does something amazing in this story, she brings in our customs and culture and puts you in a trance with her amazing narrative. It was a page turner, I didn’t know what to expect, which made it that much more suspenseful. Her words make all the colors and characters come alive. I can’t wait for the Hulu adaptation being produced by Kelly Rippa. I really don’t want to take a look at the cast or anything of the sort because I want to be surprised. I just hope it’s good, like the book. I think this book will be my gateway book to Latinx Gothic. I loved “Wuthering Heights” but there’s something about having the characters relatable or set in a place that you know of or are from. In a way it pulls you in even more, because we grow up with folklore and not all of it is COCO-esque. There’s some dark stuff in there too. Seriously a really good read, cozy up with some hot cocoa, coffee, or cider and dive right in. You won’t regret it.
“Seven Days In June” by Tia Williams. My girl, the Librarian, texted me out of the blue and said she sent me a book that she thought I would like. Bonus, the main character reminds her of me. I was interested, I knew the book was going to be good. This is the girl that introduced me to Roxanne Gay and the “A Court of Thorns and Roses” series, so I knew it would be good. I was so right, the minute it got here I knew I had to hold off until the weekend because it would be an all nighter read. I finished it in less than 48 hours. It was that good. I really enjoyed the different perspectives and the backtracking, it all aligns perfectly. It reminded me a bit of Jodi Picoult’s style, which is why I couldn’t help but smile that Jodi herself had reviewed the book. The characters are extremely relatable, especially Eva, a single mother, writer, and like me migraine sufferer. There was something about the inner circle of writers and creatives that made me imagine a young Maya Angelou and Baldwin hanging out and discussing the state of the artist. Baldwin does make an appearance, which just adds to the literary magic a little more. This book has it all, it’s funny, sexy, sad, and it celebrates Black Joy and love perfectly. It leaves you wondering about what decisions and actions brought you to where you are now, and what would happen if you would have done things differently. But it leaves you asking the most important questions, do we really only get one chance at love? Do we get a do-over if it’s the right person, wrong time? What if your lived experiences are exactly what you needed to be together, even if they are traumatic? Not sure, but Williams makes it a lot of fun trying to figure it all out.
“Tiger Stripes” by Hannah Renae. I will be honest this one was a little tough to read, on so many levels-yet I would still recommend it. Especially if someone you know is struggling with addiction or has a loved one that is battling with addiction. Each word has nothing but vulnerability, which makes you look past some of the gaps in the story. I appreciate the fact that at a young age, both in life and in sobriety Hannah decided to share her story. It’s not easy and for some it could be traumatic so early in recovery to relive some of the trauma for a larger audience. Especially outside of your meeting and safe space. I applaud her for that, it takes ovaries to do that.
However, you can tell that this was her first book. So many questions are left unanswered and many things are not explained. You jump from scenario to the next, hoping that an answer will come in a later chapter but it never does.
I will also admit that it was a hard read for me, because as I’ve shared in other reviews I’m a daughter of an addict. Through Hannah I was able to see some of the selfishness that is needed for sobriety; however, hers was a little twisted. Sobriety is something you do for yourself, for Hannah, it was more about getting sober for someone else-Henry, her partner. Not for her, not for her son. Which really didn’t rub me the right way, maybe because I’m a mother to a son almost the same age as hers in the story. Or maybe because I’ve had a mother choose a man or a bottle over me. Most importantly, because I know that getting sober for someone else, never works. I also couldn’t help but wonder if Henry was receiving some type of counseling, because what he was doing was also not healthy for either of them. As someone who grew up in AA, I’ve learned that the addict can easily sicken those around them. Which is why there’s Alanon for my family members and alateen for the kids of addicts. Henry’s need to stay, and watch her kill herself was hard to swallow. There’s a weird thing going on with Hannah’s mother and father, but she doesn’t explain that all. Many things were left openended, with no explanation whatsoever. I also feel the need to advise you that there’s a mention of suicide, so if that’s a trigger it might not be the book for you. Again, a hard read due to both the writing and the topic.
“Ashes of Izalco” by Claribel Algría and Darwin J. Flakoll. This was a book that I had found years back on Amazon, for some reason it popped up as something that I might be interested in. I saw the name and realized that it was about El Salvador. Izalco is a town outside of the capital, San Salvador. Finally years passed and I got it, I read it and at first I was a bit confused by the story, not sure where it was going. But the more I read, the more I started realizing it was not just a forbidden love story, it’s a love story in the midst of the biggest massacre the country has seen. Alegría describes what many women of that time (story based in 1932), might have felt, big ideas and dreams larger than the life and town they are restrained to because of cultural and patriarchal norms. However, as Alegría narrates the musings in town life despair, she also critiques the norms and politicians of that time through her narrative.
I later realized that Alegría was a known Nicaraguan-Salvadoran author, who had been a renowned author in Central America. The majority of her works took to fighting for human rights, and critiquing the governments that made away with them. DJ Flakoll was her partner and they wrote many books together. Alegría was raised in Santa Ana, where her mother was from, after her father was exiled from Nicaragua for publicly criticizing the government, as they were pro-Sandinistas. Which makes this story a little more intimate since the story takes place in Santa Ana. It’s a very good read, but be aware, not for the faint of heart. As it does cover a massacre, a genocide that is still being questioned in our country along with that of El Mozote.
“Hunting for Izotes” by harold terezón. One of my best friend’s got this book for my son’s book collection. But I decide to read it, the title sounded interesting. I’m sure it will be a while before he is able to follow poetry anyway, so I don’t think he will mind. For a long time the word “Izote” stood out to me, I wasn’t sure why but I felt that it meant something and I simply couldn’t figure it out. But then I read his first poem “Hunting Izotes” and the lines
Flower of the soul”
Then I remembered that Izote is the national flower of El Salvador, which we also eat. Well, not me, I tried but couldn’t. But the rest of the family loves it. It’s also the flower that we see throughout Los Angeles, in parks, lawns, and I too wonder, as my mother did when she just arrived “do they know they can eat that?” terezón does a great job of weaving both his American and Salvadoran culture in each piece. He put into words what many of us do in our daily lives. I can’t wait to be able to read this book with my son, as I’m sure it will have a completely different impact on him as a second generation Salvadoran-American.
“The Massacre at El Mozote” by Mark Danner. I can’t rave enough about this book, this book was a gift to me years ago. I’m not sure why I put it aside and never picked it up, but maybe it wasn’t time. This year in honor of Salvadoran Independence Day on September 15th I wanted to write and showcase Salvadoran authors and stories of El Salvador. So, of course this book was a must. It took me a while to read, not because it was a hard read, but because the topic was hard to read. Danner goes to great lengths to shed some light into the massacre that took place in El Mozote, and how the US along with the Salvadoran government tried to cover it up. How they tried to destroy the careers of the US journalists that brought this to light, all because the US did not want Americans to know how involved it was in one of the bloodiest wars Latin American has seen. It’s hard, hard to swallow when you know the Salvadoran government will still not confirm that this massacre even took place. Danner holds no punches in this literary masterpiece. He narrates the brutality of it all: weapons used, the manner in which young and old, men and women were tortured and murdered. Again, hard. Danner includes an entire section in the back of the work where you can find and read official records. This was such a great read I made sure that one of my elders read it, my mother said she couldn’t handle it. I respect that, it’s a loaded read. My biggest regret is learning that Danner is a professor at UC Berkeley, wish I would’ve known while I was attending to have taken a class with him.
I was deeply inspired and moved by this book that I wrote a post about it, “My Unplanned Journey” . Take a look if you please.
“Unforgetting: A Memoir of Family, Migration, Gangs, and Revolution in the Americas” by Roberto Lovato. This book was mind blowing, I’m a bit lost of words on what to say or not to say because it was thrilling and intimate. Lovato takes on a journal that originally started with wanting to know more about his Father’s family, at the end he ends up finding himself through the hardships of a country that is still trying to find its place in democracy and peace. Lovato intertwines family history with the country’s history, which many of our stories do. The social-political climate of a country affects more than just the people living in that time, it affects generations to come. History allows you to understand why certain decisions were made, and why certain things remain lost in the past, a secret only known to the secret maker and the country that watched them leave. I just enjoyed this book so much, I was able to relate in some ways; the disappointment in a movement/party that you thought was going to change things for the better. Witnessing the start of Salvadoran gangs, he witnessed it on this side of the border and I on the other, in El Salvador. I will say that the only thing I didn’t like; which is minor, was the translation of the Spanish throughout the book. I know why it was done, but I don’t agree with it. Like Victoria Alonso said in the “Eternals” premiere “…que aprendan” but definitely a must read.
“Daughters of the Stone” by Dahlna Llanos-Figueroa. I read this book from cover to cover, in less than 72 hours. I just couldn’t put it down, it was so good. This story follows the story of five generations of Puerto Rican women, from slavery to modern day survival as an Afro-Latina trying to figure out the secrets that keep her mother distant from her grandmother. This book was riveting, every unfoldment of family secrets and trauma makes you consider your reaction, while questioning some of the behaviours in your own family. What is it about our family that we think we know, but can’t really nail down the truth because old wounds and ego get in the way of the truth? Llanos-Figueroa leaves us wanting to know more, about ourselves, about our families, what stories have yet to be told and which were made up to protect a secret, a misconception, or a lie? Llanos reiterates what many Latinx and Black authors do in their works, they push you, beg you even, others demand you to tell your story. If you won’t, who will? It will be lost forever. This book is so good, that I’ve brought a few copies to give away.
“The people believed that if they lost their stories they would lose their path, their way of knowing themselves. They believed that if you forgot where you came from, you wouldn’t understand where you came from, you wouldn’t understand where you were or where you were going.”–Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa
“Badass Habits: Cultivate The Awareness, Boundaries, and Daily Upgrades You Need To Make The Stick” by Jen Sincero. Okay, by now you all should know that I love Jen Sincero, she’s the bestselling author of “You Are A Badass” which I love as well. She comes at you with this no nonsense attitude, that seems to work for me. It feels real and relatable, she’s speaking from experience, not just from what she believes people should do-but instead by what worked for her. What helped her get out of her own way, which is exactly what some of us need to do. I know I do. I’m trying to incorporate a little bit of everything in my readings, including self-development and habits are something I’m having trouble with. Not my unproductive ones, I’m acing those! Having issues with incorporating and sticking with new ones, that’s my major trouble zone. Sincero has us start with one habit and we build on practices for 22 days that should help us stick with it. Well, I’m happy to report that it took me longer than 22 days and a lot less to undue that habit it took me so long to create. However, I’m not giving up and each day I start again and build up from there just as she taught me in the book. Here’s the kicker, she knew we were going to mess up and undue our good habit or pick up our old habit. Which is why she has you write out all of the mental blocks that keep you from sticking with your habit. These serve as a starting point, go back and identify these blocks and review what plan you set up to counteract this mental block, and start again. Which is better than making me feel I’ve fucked up and should just give up. Some habits are easier than others, and some are harder to let go of. She acknowledges that, with examples of her own struggles and with short stories of clients or relations that have dealt with the same issue. Definitely a book I will be going back to and one I would recommend to anyone trying to stop an old habit or start a new one.
“Lobizona” and “Cazadora” by Romina Garber. You guys, like whoa! Honestly, I totally forgot I was reading YA literature. The issues are deep, relatable, and so current that you can’t help falling in love with every word written. These books are a page turner, you can’t stop reading. The best part, they actually demonstrate to both readers and publishers that latinx can be romanticized like sparkly Edward and friends. For those older readers such as myself, you probably felt (and feel guilty) reading “Twilight” but with these you don’t, because the issues are so relatable to Latinx and Black readers. Issues of immigration, belonging, cultural norms, colorism, feminism, the burden of deciding what feels right for you vs. what is expected of you by society and family. I’m not going to lie, there was a point in “Cazadora” that made me ugly cry, it was that good. You can read one, you don’t have to read both, Garber does a great job at summarizing “Lobizona” in “Cazadora” that you don’t feel like you missed out on anything. But my question to you is: why would you not want to read both? Believe me, if you read “Cazadora” alone, you will kick yourself because you will want to have spent more time getting to know the characters more. Just read both, it’s so worth it.
“Wild Tongues Can’t Be Tamed: 15 Voices from the Latinx Diaspora” Edited by Saraciea J. Fennell. You might remember this book because there was a lot of excitement surrounding this book. After reading this book, I can easily say that I completely understand that excitement. This book was great, it pulled you in every direction: race, colorism, gender, family traditions, classism, along with a few other -isms. But no matter the direction it guided you to, you were always left in deep thought and couldn’t help feeling seen. To be honest, my book has so many paragraphs with exclamation points and notes in the margins. I enjoyed reading from different authors, some I had just been introduced to, while others were new. Each author had their different perspective, different style, different interpretation, it was wonderful! You never knew what you were going to read; however, you knew it was going to be great. If you only get to read one book, read this one! You will not be sorry.
“Think Again: The Power of Knowing What You Don’t Know” by Adam Grant. This might seem a little out of place, but I do like to read non-fiction every now and again. I really try to read books that will help my personal development; however, that looks like: self-help, spiritual, leadership, etc. Surprisingly, this book popped up on my feed after writing my post on my “Unknowing” . I don’t believe in coincidences, so I decided to get it. It was a very interesting read, it’s a bit embarrassing to admit but I was able to recognize some of the behaviors that keep me from learning from others. “We won’t have much luck changing other people’s minds if we refuse to change ours. We can demonstrate openness by acknowledging where we agree with our critics and even what we’ve learned from them.” Interesting, right? How many times have we refused to be open to a different idea simply because we don’t like the messenger? How many times have we refused to hear someone out simply because we believe we are right? Or have been doing something we learned a while back that is backed by scientific data for a very long time, we believe we are the keepers of the right way. Grant shares real life examples, including a challenging client that didn’t agree with the solutions Grant had come up with. Grant had to reluctantly take a seat to try to understand where his client was coming from. They didn’t see eye to eye, but he was able to meet him halfways after hearing out the client and realizing what was the best way to reach his client.
Since I work in policy I really do think that everything I learned here will come in handy. Let’s face it, having a difference of opinion with someone can be challenging when you are trying to have a conversation. Can you imagine how that looks when you are trying to push for policy or trying to change someone’s opinion so they vote differently? I’m not saying we will be able to solve the injustices in the world after reading this, but it might make our day to day a lot easier. Everyone has something to teach you, you just have to quiet down your ego.
“Managing the Mother Load: A Guide to Creating More Ease, Space, and Grace in Motherhood” by Rebekah Borucki. Ironically it took a little over two years to finish this book. I believe I was halfway through the first time around, when I picked it up the second time I started all over again and really engaged with some of the exercises. It inspired a post, but I never published it. Again, the irony is not lost on me. It was a good read. I respect Borucki’s vulnerability in sharing a lot of intimate moments of her motherhood journey. However, even with that I personally couldn’t relate. There were a few exercises that I skipped because they didn’t apply to me. I see the intention behind this book, it has some really great pointers-but I don’t think it was written with single mothers in mind. I can’t really delegate some of my duties because I’m the head of the household. I’m not able to go out and do yoga, I rarely get a moment alone because I share a room with my kiddo and I work from home. If lucky, I get one day out of the month to do something on my own: a concert, a comedy show, movies, drinks. I meet up with friends early in the morning on weekends for a walk or hike before my son wakes up, because I don’t want to burden my family members since they help during the week with childcare. It’s just not the same. I’m not complaining about being a mom, I decided to go about this on my own, and I still support this decision. I’m simply highlighting some of the reasons why not everything in this book was applicable. However, I believe that is the case in every book, isn’t it? I will say this, now don’t think of me to be a horrible person-just a mom trying not to give my son too much material for therapy when he’s older. Back to my point, what I did connect to was hearing another mother struggle with everything this motherhood journey brings you. Even if you are a yoga and meditation guide, writing books on self-care and managing the motherload-you still struggle. It brings me relief and let’s me know that I am not alone-even when I feel alone.
“Amor Actually: A Holiday Romance Anthology” this book brought some sizzle to my holiday season. It was A-M-A-Z-I-N-G, with extra ZING! Where do I begin…here’s the premise: You all remember “Love Actually” the modern day holiday classic. Well, in this book seven latinx authors have taken some of the characters and scenarios and spiced them up a bit, actually quite a damn bit. They’ve made some queer and made them all brown. As in the movie, they connect at the end. You have the Christmas school event, porn actors, the celebrity, does this all ring a bell? I believe I read the book in two sittings. I didn’t watch any Christmas Hallmark movies this year, but this was a great substitute-I don’t think we will ever see any Hallmark movies like this but maybe HBO? When I got it, I told my Guncle about it and told him I would share once I was done. However, there was no way I would share this with my 60+ year old uncle. Trust me I believe old people have sexuality, more power to them, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable being the one handing this book to them. However, to you my dear anonymous reader I do. Read it and enjoy it. ¡A celebrar la noche buena!