From September 15 to October 15, Robbins Library is joining the rest of the country in celebrating the 50th installment of Hispanic Heritage Month. Although we’d like to think we celebrate diversity every day of the year, this period provides an excellent opportunity to spread awareness and appreciate Hispanic culture. In 2016, the United States had 57.5 million Hispanics, constituting 17.8% of the total population and making up the largest ethnic or racial minority. As our population becomes more and more multi-culturally diverse, we’re happy Arlingtonians can dive into the many contributions made by Hispanic authors available within our very own library walls.
Hispanic Heritage Month, which goes back to 1968, begins each year on September 15, the independence anniversary of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua. Mexico, Chile, and Belize also celebrate their independence days throughout the month. The terms Latinx* and Hispanic can be used interchangeably when referring to these countries, but they don’t necessarily mean the same thing. Latinx refers to a person of Latin American origin or descent. Hispanic, on the other hand, relates to Spain or to Spanish-speaking countries. Even though many individuals consider themselves both, people from countries like Haiti and Brazil may choose to be referred to as Latinx, but not Hispanic (check out this comic by Terry Blas for a more thorough explanation). Latinxs can be considered a multi-racial ethnic group representing 33 different countries in Central and North America, the Caribbean, and South America. Hispanic countries make up 21.
Join us in honoring all the literary contributions made by Hispanic authors. Ask a reference librarian for a recommendation, browse our collection, or take a look at the following list to get started:
The story of my teeth by Valeria Luiselli ; translated by Christina MacSweeney
I was born in Pachuca, the Beautiful Windy City, with four premature teeth and my body completely covered in a very fine coat of fuzz. But I’m grateful for that inauspicious start because ugliness, as my other uncle, Eurípides López Sánchez, was given to saying, is character forming.
Highway is a late-in-life world traveler, yarn spinner, collector, and legendary auctioneer. His most precious possessions are the teeth of the “notorious infamous” like Plato, Petrarch, and Virginia Woolf. Written in collaboration with the workers at a Jumex juice factory, Teeth is an elegant, witty, exhilarating romp through the industrial suburbs of Mexico City and Luiselli’s own literary influences.
The book of unknown Americans : a novel by Cristina Henríquez
When fifteen-year-old Maribel Rivera sustains a terrible injury, the Riveras leave behind a comfortable life in Mexico and risk everything to come to the United States so that Maribel can have the care she needs. Once they arrive, it’s not long before Maribel attracts the attention of Mayor Toro, the son of one of their new neighbors, who sees a kindred spirit in this beautiful, damaged outsider. Their love story sets in motion events that will have profound repercussions for everyone involved. Here Henríquez seamlessly interweaves the story of these star-crossed lovers, and of the Rivera and Toro families, with the testimonials of men and women who have come to the United States from all over Latin America. The Book of Unknown Americans is a stunning novel of hopes and dreams, guilt and love—a book that offers a resonant new definition of what it means to be American.
Every kind of wanting : a novel by Gina Frangello
Every Kind of Wanting explores the complex intersection of three unique families and their bustling efforts to have a “Community Baby.” Miguel could not be more different from his partner Chad, a happy-go-lucky real estate mogul from Chicago’s wealthy North Shore. When Chad’s sister, Gretchen offers the couple an egg, their search for a surrogate leads them to Miguel’s old friend Emily, happily married to an eccentric Irish playwright, Nick, with whom she is raising two boys. Into this web falls Miguel’s sister Lina, a former addict and stripper, who begins a passionate affair with Nick while deciphering the mysteries of her past.
But every action these couples make has unforeseen consequences. As Lina faces her long-hidden demons, and the fragile friendships between Miguel and Chad and Nick and Emily begin to fray as the baby’s birth draws near, a shocking turn of events―and the secret Lina’s been hiding―threaten to break them apart forever.
By turns funny, dark and sexy, Every Kind of Wanting strips bare the layers of the American family today. Tackling issues such as assimilation, the legacy of secrets, the morality of desire, and ultimately who “owns” love, the characters―across all ethnicities, nationalities, and sexualities―are blisteringly alive.
by Shanthi Sekaran
In this astonishing novel, Shanthi Sekaran gives voice to the devotion and anguish of motherhood through two women bound together by their love for one boy. Soli, a young undocumented Mexican woman in Berkeley, CA, finds that motherhood offers her an identity in a world where she’s otherwise invisible. When she is placed in immigrant detention, her son comes under the care of Kavya, an Indian-American wife overwhelmed by her own impossible desire to have a child. As Soli fights for her son, Kavya builds her love on a fault line, her heart wrapped around someone else’s child. Exploring the ways in which dreams and determination can reshape a family, Sekaran transforms real life into a thing of beauty. From rural Oaxaca to Berkeley’s Gourmet Ghetto to the dreamscapes of Silicon Valley, Lucky Boy offers a moving and revelatory look at the evolving landscape of the American dream and the ever-changing borders of love.
The mortifications : a novel by Derek Palacio
In 1980, a rural Cuban family is torn apart during the Mariel Boatlift. Uxbal Encarnación—father, husband, political insurgent—refuses to leave behind the revolutionary ideals and lush tomato farms of his sun-soaked homeland. His wife Soledad takes young Isabel and Ulises hostage and flees with them to America, leaving behind Uxbal for the promise of a better life. But instead of settling with fellow Cuban immigrants in Miami’s familiar heat, Soledad pushes further north into the stark, wintry landscape of Hartford, Connecticut. There, in the long shadow of their estranged patriarch, now just a distant memory, the exiled mother and her children begin a process of growth and transformation.
Each struggles and flourishes in their own way: Isabel, spiritually hungry and desperate for higher purpose, finds herself tethered to death and the dying in uncanny ways. Ulises is bookish and awkwardly tall, like his father, whose memory haunts and shapes the boy’s thoughts and desires. Presiding over them both is Soledad. Once consumed by her love for her husband, she begins a tempestuous new relationship with a Dutch tobacco farmer. But just as the Encarnacións begin to cultivate their strange new way of life, Cuba calls them back. Uxbal is alive, and waiting.
Breathtaking, soulful, and profound, The Mortifications is an intoxicating family saga and a timely, urgent expression of longing for one’s true homeland.
Her body and other parties : stories by Carmen Maria Machado
In Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado blithely demolishes the arbitrary borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. While her work has earned her comparisons to Kren Russell and Kelly Link, she has a voice that is all her own. In this electric and provocative debut, Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.
A wife refuses her husband’s entreaties to remove the green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague slowly consumes humanity. A salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery within the seams of the store’s prom dresses. One woman’s surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted houseguest. And in the bravura novella “Especially Heinous,” Machado reimagines every episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a show we naïvely assumed had shown it all, generating a phantasmagoric police procedural full of doppelgängers, ghosts, and girls with bells for eyes.
Earthy and otherworldly, antic and sexy, queer and caustic, comic and deadly serious, Her Body and Other Parties swings from horrific violence to the most exquisite sentiment. In their explosive originality, these stories enlarge the possibilities of contemporary fiction.
House of Broken Angels by Luis Alberto Urrea
“All we do, mija, is love. Love is the answer. Nothing stops it. Not borders. Not death.”
In his final days, beloved and ailing patriarch Miguel Angel de La Cruz, affectionately called Big Angel, has summoned his entire clan for one last legendary birthday party. But as the party approaches, his mother, nearly one hundred, dies, transforming the weekend into a farewell doubleheader. Among the guests is Big Angel’s half brother, known as Little Angel, who must reckon with the truth that although he shares a father with his siblings, he has not, as a half gringo, shared a life.
Across two bittersweet days in their San Diego neighborhood, the revelers mingle among the palm trees and cacti, celebrating the lives of Big Angel and his mother, and recounting the many inspiring tales that have passed into family lore, the acts both ordinary and heroic that brought these citizens to a fraught and sublime country and allowed them to flourish in the land they have come to call home.
Teeming with brilliance and humor, authentic at every turn, The House of Broken Angels is Luis Alberto Urrea at his best, and cements his reputation as a storyteller of the first rank.
The house of impossible beauties by Joseph Cassara
It’s 1980 in New York City, and nowhere is the city’s glamour and energy better reflected than in the burgeoning Harlem ball scene, where seventeen-year-old Angel first comes into her own. Burned by her traumatic past, Angel is new to the drag world, new to ball culture, and has a yearning inside of her to help create family for those without. When she falls in love with Hector, a beautiful young man who dreams of becoming a professional dancer, the two decide to form the House of Xtravaganza, the first-ever all-Latino house in the Harlem ball circuit. But when Hector dies of AIDS-related complications, Angel must bear the responsibility of tending to their house alone.
As mother of the house, Angel recruits Venus, a whip-fast trans girl who dreams of finding a rich man to take care of her; Juanito, a quiet boy who loves fabrics and design; and Daniel, a butch queen who accidentally saves Venus’s life. The Xtravaganzas must learn to navigate sex work, addiction, and persistent abuse, leaning on each other as bulwarks against a world that resists them. All are ambitious, resilient, and determined to control their own fates, even as they hurtle toward devastating consequences.
Told in a voice that brims with wit, rage, tenderness, and fierce yearning, The House of Impossible Beauties is a tragic story of love, family, and the dynamism of the human spirit.
Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Ingrid Rojas Contreras
Seven-year-old Chula and her older sister Cassandra enjoy carefree lives thanks to their gated community in Bogotá, but the threat of kidnappings, car bombs, and assassinations hover just outside the neighborhood walls, where the godlike drug lord Pablo Escobar continues to elude authorities and capture the attention of the nation.
When their mother hires Petrona, a live-in-maid from the city’s guerrilla-occupied slum, Chula makes it her mission to understand Petrona’s mysterious ways. But Petrona’s unusual behavior belies more than shyness. She is a young woman crumbling under the burden of providing for her family as the rip tide of first love pulls her in the opposite direction. As both girls’ families scramble to maintain stability amidst the rapidly escalating conflict, Petrona and Chula find themselves entangled in a web of secrecy that will force them both to choose between sacrifice and betrayal.
Inspired by the author’s own life, and told through the alternating perspectives of the willful Chula and the achingly hopeful Petrona, Fruit of the Drunken Tree contrasts two very different, but inextricably linked coming-of-age stories. In lush prose, Rojas Contreras has written a powerful testament to the impossible choices women are often forced to make in the face of violence and the unexpected connections that can blossom out of desperation.
The king is always above the people : stories by Daniel Alarcón
Migration. Betrayal. Family secrets. Doomed love. Uncertain futures. In Daniel Alarcón’s hands, these are transformed into deeply human stories with high stakes. In “The Thousands,” people are on the move and forging new paths; hope and heartbreak abound. A man deals with the fallout of his blind relatives’ mysterious deaths and his father’s mental breakdown and incarceration in “The Bridge.” A gang member discovers a way to forgiveness and redemption through the haze of violence and trauma in “The Ballad of Rocky Rontal.” And in the tour de force novella, “The Auroras”, a man severs himself from his old life and seeks to make a new one in a new city, only to find himself seduced and controlled by a powerful woman. Richly drawn, full of unforgettable characters, The King is Always Above the Peoplereveals experiences both unsettling and unknown, and yet eerily familiar in this new world.
*Latinx is a gender-neutral term used in lieu of Latino or Latina. The plural is Latinxs
*Book descriptions were taken from Amazon