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.