Reminder: You can find my entire 2022 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. Also some books I had to buy via other retailers such as Hay House Publishing or Amazon, which I’m not affiliated with.
Well, it’s a new year and so many books to be read. This year my reading goals are:
- Read a total of 30 books this year. (I read a total of 34 last year surpassing my total of 12 by more than half. Check out my 2021 list).
- Read at least 6 self-development books. This includes spiritual, self-help, leadership, money goals, anything that helps me grow and wise up.
You’ll continue to see a lot of books by Latinx authors. You never realize how much representation was lacking until you start reading and you connect on a deep level. If interested you should join us, we review books on Instagram and sometimes the writers join us.
You’ll also see a new trend. I’ve joined a Climate Change book club as well, it’s not an official group or anything. It’s just a bunch of us who are interested in learning, but don’t necessarily want to solely read white papers or Journals on our current environmental crisis. We read books where climate is the main character if not the backdrop. We also read poems or articles, and we get together and discuss the issue. It’s been fun so far, we have people from all over the globe join us sometimes. If interested let me know.
As usual my reading will be diverse. I hope you enjoy and feel free to let me know what you think of each read.
“Big Chicas Don’t Cry” by Annette Chavez Macias, You have to read this book! Done, that’s it…fine, I’ll tell you why. Before I continue, this book will not be out until September 2022 but you can pre-order now. I was lucky enough to get the Advance Reader’s copy (ARC) from the author ( I kind of puckered my lips there…y sas!”. When I say lucky, I really do mean lucky because I won it in a contest she did online. I read it in one sitting, which I knew was going to happen because of the cover (look at it). You know what I mean, right? The cover fills you in on what type of read this will be, a long one or short one, it lets me know if I should read it on a school night or not. Now to what’s inside the cover, it follows the story of the Garcia cousins, Mari, Erica, Selena, and Gracie. You start with them as young girls and then you flash forward to them as adults, coping with life, work, and all the lessons they bring. Macias beautifully narrates the traditions of the Garcia familia. It’s such an intimate look that you transform into an honorary Garcia, which means you get upset when someone doesn’t eat the food (Pizza? Read it and you’ll know who I’m talking about) or can’t help get salty when a cousin doesn’t attend the festivities, because of all the corazon that goes into it. That’s how you know its good, when you start getting offended and start crying when what you knew was going to happen-happens. The bond between cousins was beautifully written, including the blurry lines of family dynamics, its misconceptions, miscommunications, white and not so white lies that we tell to spare feelings that later come back to haunt us. What we keep to ourselves and what we share, and what comes to light no matter how hard you try to hide it from your familia. I must also give you a warning: you will be craving some delicious Mexican food as you read this book, which I think Macias incorporates perfectly. As Latinx, food and family are intertwined, you can’t have one without the other. So, yes the food is as important as the cousins, every tradition has a food assigned to it, as does every emotion, and most likely every memory. If you read “L.A. Weather” and loved the relationship amongst the Alvarado sisters, then this book is definitely for you.
“For Brown Girls with Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts: A Love Letter to Women of Color” by Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez. If the name sounds familiar it’s because you’ve seen her on Latina Rebels, which is a platform she founded. Or on NPR, Cosmo, or Teen Vogue, she’s out there and she’s here to stay. This is one of those books that I purchased a while ago when it just came out to support my fellow Centro Americana but hadn’t read yet. Since March is considered Women’s Month I decided that was the perfect time to read this book. I was blown away immediately. I mean she hits us with: “I do not write for white people; there are an endless number of books written for them. I write for BIWOC, I write for immigrants, I write for those of us who have been harmed by toxic theologies, I write for those of us whose hearts were first broken by our dads, I write so that you can feel seen and held. But this book is not for everyone. No book should be, despite how much white people will advocate for their universal appeal.” Y’all this is on page 3, she is letting us know what type of ride this is going to be. Now, if you get mad or uncomfortable reading these few lines, then stop. This book is definitely not for you. But if you read that and got curious, smiled, and got excited then this book is definitely for you. I couldn’t help but get excited, I was laying in bed thinking “Yes, about damn time!” I wish I had this book growing up, now in my 40’s there’s many things that she writes that I can without a doubt say “yes, she is correct ” but it took me trial and error to get to that answer. Because we were taught there was no other way, no other way outside of the white way.
Prisca is also on point when she says I will feel seen, because I did. Particularly when she writes about our accents, even though I was born in the US, English is my second language and I have an accent. I didn’t realize this until I was made aware of it when I stepped into the corporate world which was predominantly white. After that, I shied away from public speaking, it’s something I carry with me always. I’ve gotten better, but I’m never the one to volunteer to speak in public. Another point is when she talks about religion and the toxic masculinity that it thrives in. There’s a reason why I’m no longer a practicing Catholic, and she beautifully describes it in these pages. There’s just so much knowledge in this book, things that many of us have lived through but never considered or had a name for. There were other instances that just made me reconsider what I had been taught growing up, made me realize that certain things were not okay and gave my discomfort a name. This is a book that every Brown girl and womx in your life should read. It will be your guide as you make that transition from childhood to adulthood, assisting you in naming things as you navigate academia or white society so that you are not caught off guard. It will validate that little voice in your head telling you “this is not right” and quiet the one saying “no seas dramatica”. This will forever be the book I recommend to any of the young people around me, and a book I’m sure I will pick up when I need a reminder of my badassery.
“Things I Could Never Thank You For” by Kayla Nedza. This was a Litlatina book club pick, for the month of March. Kayla shares her story of coming to terms with who she is as she takes us on her journey through womanhood as she copes with her mother’s passing. There’s many insightful moments that many of us latinas can relate to, standing out in white spaces, adjusting to what is normal for society vs. what is traditionally and culturally acceptable as normal outside of whiteness. She also gives us a sneak peek into the upside of being chosen by a mother and the downside of being chosen by a man. It was a good read, but I felt that there were many gaps in the story. It is written as a collection of short stories where we jump through different stages of her life, but I always felt that we were missing something. There was that constant feeling of holding back throughout the book. As if she was unsure if we would want to know more about that situation or the outcome, which girl I did. I really wanted to know more, I wanted to go back and relive each moment and emotion with her. But it didn’t happen, I was given the bus ticket but left stranded at the bus depot. Maybe it’s the first-time writer jitters? She did self-publish so maybe she wasn’t sure how much of herself to put out there, how much would be accepted, how much we wanted to know. I do feel the need to say that I was coming down from the “Olga Dies Dreaming” high, and y’all know how I felt about that one. So, maybe that was what I was hoping to get from this one too? Maybe I’m asking for complexity when there really isn’t any? She has shared that she will continue to write, hopefully about reaching out to her birth mother. I would love to hear more about that. She also has a podcast, might check that out as well as that might help shed some light to those missing pieces in her book. If you want a heartwarming quick read book this is the one for you. In the meantime I leave you with my favorite quote from the book, because I too feel the same way when I wear red.
“Wearing red is self-love. It’s a representation of the unconditional love I have for myself, my beauty, and my worth. Even with the world profoundly opposing my desire to wear a bold lip, I wear it anyway because I feel empowered, confident, and uplifted. A red lip helps me walk a little bit taller and sit more erect. I take up a lot of space, and it puts people on edge.”Kayla Nedza, “Things I could never thank you for”
“A Fire Story” by Brian Fies. This was a pick for my Climate Change book club, it was also my first time reading a graphic novel. I was surprised that it was in fact a graphic novel. Proof that I should pay attention more to what I put in my cart; nonetheless, I really enjoyed it. I read it in one sitting. Fies is a writer and a cartoonist, in this novel he portrays the story of how he and his wife lost their house during the 2017 Northern California fires. Ding! That’s why it was selected for our book club. This fire was referred to as the Northern California firestorm because it was a series of 250 fires that started burning across California, 21 became major fires that burned about 245,000 acres. These fires included the Tubbs fire, which was recorded as the most destructive fire in California history, that is until 2018 came in.
Fies’ home was caught in the Tubbs fire, it was completely burned down. It was during this time that he created “A Fire Story” which was a webcomic to share his experience. It was picked up by some networks and he made an animated short that got picked up by PBS, and the rest is history. The novel is interesting though, because he changed it up a bit. He added additional information, he shares the narrative of three other folx that also lost their homes and some of the issues that they also faced. Including issues with FEMA all due to ineptitude and not taking into consideration how housing, especially for renters works in California. You also have ineptitude by the city in regards to their warning systems, the inequity felt by others that lived in low-income housing. As well as how there’s always someone trying to make a buck, even when (or especially when) people are mourning a devastating loss.
There were moments that made me stop to think what I would grab in a fire, am I prepared? What would I miss? He in all transparency shares this with the reader, as well as how he felt at the sight of others being happy while he was mourning the loss of his house and his belongings. At one point, I also teared up because it just felt all too real. I was in Northern California during this time, I was not close to the fires luckily but we were close enough to get the smell and the ash. However, I remember we also had a fire start close to our home and we received a warning. I remember being scared and wondering if I should just leave before things get worse. Luckily the fire didn’t jump and they were able to stop it within a couple hours of receiving the first warning. Now I can imagine the families that didn’t receive this warning, people as in Fies story that got up because they smelled something and thought it was just the wind carrying the smell from the already existing fires miles away. Only to look out the window and feel the heat from the flames. It wasn’t the wind, it was mother nature letting you know it wasn’t going to ward off the fire much longer-run! As you can obviously tell, I really enjoyed the novel. I think the art worked with the narrative, it gave you a visual of the disaster that occured. It’s sad that Fire Season is real in California and it doesn’t seem to be going away anytime soon, on the contrary it’s actually extending its stay as the years go by and we ignore the warnings.
“The Fastest Way to Fall” by Denise Williams. This book! So, I started following some contemporary romance latinx writers on twitter, that’s how I discovered “Amor Actually” and this book. I clicked and read the sinopsis and immediately added it to my Wish List. Then when I was shopping for my February book club pick, I decided I wanted to give myself a romance book for Valentine’s Day. Now tell me what’s not to love: a thicc girl reading about a thicc girl discovering her strength and being lusted over by someone who society would never pair us with? Sign me up! I read this book in two nights, not lying. I loved it, something about Britta’s journey on body acceptance and her new found love for working out really inspired me. Her path was a lot like mine when I started running years ago, it was something I never thought I could do because of my weight, and I actually ended up running a 5k while five months pregnant. I can’t lie, I’m a sucker for stories like this one, because I can relate. I loved the “I’m being active or trying to eat healthier because I want to be strong vs. skinny”rhetoric throughout the book. So many people don’t understand that, they think it’s what we tell ourselves because we can’t lose weight. Moving on, Williams does such a great job of letting the reader get both sides. You feel as if you are watching them in a movie. One chapter is based on Britta’s perspective, and the next you get Wes’ reaction to what just happened. Aww, Wes, I love how he wasn’t the typical jock, not once did we hear him fight himself saying “Wait, I don’t go for big girls. What’s happening?!” No, he was hung up on something else and it wasn’t her size. Thank YOU, Denise! There’s a scene in there that I was thinking about this morning because I need to get me some new spanx for a dress I want to wear. As I thought of this scene, I realized that Williams didn’t make it so over the top. Didn’t make a big thing about it, didn’t have the guy freaking out about it, or making jokes about it. It’s what you hope to hear in those scenarios. It just made the character of Wes more likable, her weight and her size were not an issue for him, but they were to her. Because a girl like Britta doesn’t get a guy like Wes…but I’m so glad that in this narrative she did. Thank You Denise Williams for letting us fat girls be sexy, strong, and desirable in your stories. This is the book when you want to read a feel good love story. Britta’s love was not dependent on the guy, but he was a wonderful bonus!
Must Admit that I have both “How To Fail at Flirting” and “Do You Take This Man” on my wishlist, the latter comes out this Fall. Williams actually provides you a little preview of her new book in this book, bonus you somewhat already know a character from that book because she is one of Britta’s closest friends. Just like Jasmine Guillory does in her books.
“Olga Dies Dreaming” by Xochitl Gonzalez. So not sure how I did it but I finished this book in three days, well two and a half-to be exact. This book had me reading until past 3 am on a school night, during the day I just couldn’t wait for the evening to come to start reading again. This book was just amazing. There’s just so many themes to go on and you can relate to them because life doesn’t stick to just one genre, life throws everything your way: drama and horror, most of the time all at once. One of the main themes of this book that has my raving about this book to whoever is willing (and not willing) to hear about it, is that Gonzalez does what Milton did in “Paradise Lost” she villainizes the one person that most latinx writers usually don’t-nuestra madre. Let me explain, in most stories the mother or abuela are the worst person you’ve ever met, but towards the end they take you back to their tragic past or horrible ordeal that they survived. Now you understand their behavior, you can in a way forgive their trespasses against our main character. In this book, Gonzalez doesn’t do that. She doesn’t even try. The mother was the one character that I couldn’t stand, she left me reeling (oh yes, it inspired a blog post). The fact that I loathe Blanca (the mother) so much, is praise to how beautifully Gonzalez wrote and created her.
In this book we meet Olga and her perfectly dysfunctional Puerto Rican family in NY. Her father was lost to drugs and AIDS, her mother abandoned Olga and her brother Prieto for the cause. Olga, a wedding planner for the high and mighty of NY-the very people her mother hates and therefore makes her a failure to her mother. But, not Prieto who is out there in the world taking on the good fight by being a politician, until he is blackmailed because like any other politician we know he has skeletons too. He makes some wrong moves, moves that go against his righteous mother’s cause; therefore, now also officially making him a failure. My question is a failure according to whom? She wasn’t even around, so obviously not to her parenting skills, but to her political views. As you can tell Blanca, the mother, is on my shit list. She’s this family’s gray cloud, doesn’t want to be involved, but at the same time doesn’t let them live. She’s a heavy ass cloak that doesn’t keep you warm but weighs you down. It suffocates you, and as you think you are about to take it off, it grips you even tighter. Until eventually you become so tired of fighting that you start believing that you need this damn cloak, even if it does weigh you down.
“… Olga was surprised that it endeared him to her. She wanted to know the size and shape of the hole that had been left in his heart that required so many objects to fill it. She found herself envious that he had identified something to pack it with.”Xochitl Gonzalez, “Olga Dies Dreaming”
It’s not just about motherhood, parenthood, solitude, immigration, Pride for your people, self-acceptance, but also about love. In the middle of this hurricane of emotions, there’s a real life hurricane that brings so many things to light for Prieto and Olga, even though an entire island is left in darkness during hurricane Maria. Prieto realizes that his mother never loved the idea of being a mother or had any love for her children. He realizes that he’s been hiding something that was only hidden to himself and not from those that really loved him. Olga, realizes she is living with trauma from being abandoned, she realizes that having someone genuinely love you is not necessarily a bad thing, and love doesn’t have to hurt. It’s a rollercoaster of emotions, I cried, I yelled in anger (always about Blanca), I laughed, and I also saw family dynamics that are so familiar, the good and the bad. We are humans capable of being both; thus, our lives can also have both. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, and we shouldn’t stop living, but it’s about learning to thrive after the hurt has been identified. Amazing book a must read, I believe this is the book I will be giving out this year to folx. I always have a book that hits me so much that I buy it as gifts for everyone throughout the whole year. I think I have found this year’s pick.
“Weather” by Jenny Offill. This is the third book from my Climate Crisis book club, the first one I haven’t finished, and the second pick-I gave up on. I just couldn’t continue; to be honest, I will most likely be donating it because I don’t think I will ever try to pick it up again. Unlike this one, this one I will. If you are in the mood to read something different in style and entertaining this book is it. Some folx in our club didn’t appreciate the style the book was written in, but I definitely did. I mean, how else would you write a book about a librarian? I personally believe that librarians are anything but ordinary, they know too damn much to be stale and boring. Some might choose to be, now that’s a book in itself. Offill gives the main characters in this book just enough depth to make you invested in their outcome. Offill introduces us to Lizzie, a librarian at a university who has some very interesting characters around her. She’s a mom, a wife to a husband that seems rather bland, a sister to a drug addicted brother trying to get his shit together. She also has a side hustle answering mail for “Hell or High Water” a podcast of a previous mentor Sylvia, who unravels into the extreme doomsday ideology-until she’s completely off the grid. We picked this book because it touched on climate change and some of the extreme actions folx are taking to survive when we can no longer hide from the catastrophe we have brought on. Could that be the tie in for the name? I don’t know, but what I did offer up as a possibility was that the name came could do more with the different storms Lizzie had brewing around her. She had moments of hope, her brother getting his shit together, some sunshine for a bit. But then she slowly starts to see him unravel back into his chaos. Lizzie herself is of a sunny disposition when she first starts answering the podcast’s letters, full of hope and sunshine. Towards the end, she’s nothing but gloom as she starts seeing the end as evident. There’s a professor that she sees often at the library who seems to be battling his own storm, but we never know what happens to him. There seems to be a romance brewing, but like the COP26 conference doesn’t go or do anything. I must also admit that Lizzie reminded me of one of my best friends, who also happens to be a librarian. Lizzie’s matter of fact responses made me hear her voice when I read her, it was my friend playing Lizzie, and I can’t help but wonder if that’s what made me like this book even more. I also wondered if I too should be planning my doomstead, I’m still not sure who I would want to include.
“How do you know all of this?”
“I’m a fucken librarian.”Jenny Offill, “Weather”
“L.A. Weather” by María Amparo Escandón. This was the first pick of the year for my Litina Book club. You all have no idea how amazing it felt to finally read a book based in my native LA, even if it was in the Valley. Aside from my obvious bias solely on that, the bias is well founded in the narrative. Escandón dives deep into the lives of Keila and Oscar Alvarado; a Mexican-American family, and their three daughters. A marriage that is on the breaking point due to the secrets that we keep. Their daughters, Claudia, Olivia and Patricia are blindsided by the potential of their parents breaking up, only to realize that they have also been blind to the turmoil occurring in their own lives. They each come to a realization that breaks them, but at the same time makes them stronger, and unifies them. Which is something that typically happens in a Latino family, a wedding, an illness, a death, a birth, tragedy, all things that bring families together. But they also shed light on our own internal conflicts. Escandón takes us on a beautiful ride that weaves in and out amongst each character, each playing a part that affects the other directly or indirectly. An immigrant mother’s desire to adapt to the American way of life, a daughter forcing her parents to stay together even though her marriage is in shambles. Another realizing that wanting more in a marriage is okay. Another realizes that letting go of the material is a lot less costlier than losing her peace. But the main character here is in fact the LA Weather, but we are not sure why. We wonder if Oscar is in fact going crazy, at one point I wondered if he had a stroke that went unnoticed. Why do we continue to keep secrets from another, even though they are breaking our families apart? Why are daughters and mother relationships always complex, but so necessary? Keila was one of my favorite characters in this book. A lot of the time it seemed that her daughters wanted to push her aside, but she refused to be set aside. She reminded them and us that a woman should never give up being a woman with her own identity and sexuality even if she is a mother, wife, and grandmother. It was a great read to start my year off right.