Back to school for most means that their beloved time allotted towards reading for pleasure will come as a second priority to finishing all their readings for classes and internships. Personally, my pleasurable reading has fallen victim to this time constraint, and during my last semester of undergraduate school, I am determined to mend that relationship.
When I was in the second grade, in my backyard, lying on top of the greenest grass – I remember looking up from the words of my favorite book, “The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane” by Kate DiCamillo, thinking to myself how I love the way words look on paper. As my gaze would find itself at the bottom of each page, my thumb and middle finger would eagerly be waiting to turn the page. I fell in love with reading when I was so young and excited about the billions of possibilities for someone to put their words onto paper, so I can hear their imagination – to this day I don’t think there is any grander beauty.
I am not seven years old anymore, and since I learned to read for pleasure so long ago, I have spent the following 14 years learning, unlearning, relearning, and trying to understand the world around me. I have spent the last few of those 14 trying to learn, unlearn, relearn, and understand myself as well. In very broad terms, I know one thing that is true and everlasting: I am Latina and I love to read, as much as I love to write. As invested as I am in reading for pleasure again, I have a reading list of authors I have read and who have changed my life and perspective. This list is filled with mystery, adventure, culture, and beauty; I dream of writing as magically as they do, but until then, hopefully, this list of five Latina Authors will introduce more people into our literary world.
I came across Crystal Maldonado’s newest novel, No Filter and Other Lies, online, which is fitting considering that the book explores life within the age of social media —and the lies we tell to ourselves and others. The book is based on a teenage perspective, which I thought was intentionally brilliant, considering the constant “rebranding” (learning and relearning) that teenage girls (especially Latina teens) are encouraged to go through. Social media, growing up, and trying to define yourself are difficult things to deal with simultaneously. Crystal Maldonado makes it easier with her beautiful, adventurous, scandal-ridden stories.
Raised in Miami, Gabriela Garcia is the daughter of immigrants from Cuba and Mexico. Not only is she widely educated, but she is also a long-time feminist and migrant justice organizer who has also worked in music and magazines. Ms. Gabriela Garcia is so inspiring to me, and to all writers who read her work, because of the way in which she articulates her experiences, perspectives, and family’s intergenerational stories to create art in the form of words. Her novel, Of Women and Salt, is a magically vivid frame of legacy.
Something that I believe to be so incredibly important is for people to go back into their communities with their beautifully acquired knowledge, talents, and expertise and encourage the next generation. Naima Coster, of New York City, earned her Masters of Fine Arts at Columbia University and has then been teaching writing for over a decade in community settings, youth programs, and universities. Coster’s debut novel, Halsey Street, is a clear example of how intimate, thought-out, and passionate her art is.
This whole article is full of literary queens, but Julissa Arce wears a crown of pure diamonds with her newest novel, You Sound Like A White Girl: The Case for Rejecting Assimilation. This book has blown up on the Latina writer side of TikTok, and I could not be more grateful that it has, so I was able to have the opportunity to get to know Julissa’s work. Most extraordinarily, her commitment to education and opportunity for all young people led her to co-create the Ascend Educational Fund (AEF), a college scholarship and mentorship program for immigrant students in New York City, regardless of their ethnicity, national origin, or immigration status. Julissa immigrated to the United States from Mexico at the age of 11 and was undocumented for almost 15 years, some of them spent rising to prominence on Wall Street. She made national and international headlines when she revealed that she had achieved the American Dream of wealth and status at Goldman Sachs while undocumented. Now she writes, teaches, and inspires, through honest storytelling.
5. Gloria Anzaldúa
Lastly, but forever and always first in my heart, is my reina, Chicana theorist and activist Gloria Anzaldúa. Gloria is the scholar behind the research and literary gold that is the novel, Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mezita. This book, her countless poems, and her soft-spoken interviews have been at the forefront of all of my Ethnic Studies courses; I give her and my professors that assigned her work all the credit for opening my eyes to who I am – as Latina, Chicana, a writer, an academic, and most crucially, as a community member. There is so much magic, honesty, critical thinking, and ideas that come from her work that will live on through what her readers feel as they explore their very own borderlands.
“Finally, I write because I’m scared of writing, but I’m more scared of not writing”.
This list is compact with the different details about Latina authors that I think everyone should add to their own reading lists. I think the most magical part about writing is telling a story that encompasses the soul of both author and reader, all of these authors accomplish that sparkle so eloquently and intentionally; I hope this list inspires you to find a new book to begin, and as you lay in the greenest grass, flipping through the pages, I hope the way their words feel in your eyes makes you fall in love with reading, as I did all those years ago.