As a Latinx person who loves books, this week’s book news has been an ugly reminder of the blatant whiteness of the publishing industry. Latinx and Hispanic people make up only 3% of the industry. It’s no wonder that even when a Latinx-centered story is acquired (in a seven-figure book deal! With a clearly huge publicity budget!), harmful stereotypes and patronizing (dehumanizing, even) language remained intact after all the editing. Frankly, I’d rather not read a book that appropriates a community’s trauma to make white people feel pity.
This is a moment for the publishing industry to learn from, to listen to voices that aren’t heavily populated within their walls. Maybe start hiring more voices from marginalized communities.
I started researching Latinx novels releasing this year, and I hope to see even more in the years to come. I want my reading to reflect the kaleidoscope of stories the world has to offer and books that challenge the status quo. One day I hope it will be easier to find those books everywhere. Please add titles in the comments if you know of 2020 releases not listed here. The Book Slut would love to do our part in amplifying Latinx voices.
And while we wait for these books, I highly recommend the books on TBS writer Marian Perales' list of Chicanx classics.
Children of the Land by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo
I first heard about this upcoming release from fellow TBS writer Karen Salgado, and her coverage of it on her Instagram certainly piqued my interest. Castillo, a celebrated poet, wrote this memoir about his life as an undocumented child immigrant from Mexico living in California. Writing about topics like generational trauma and toxic masculinity, the book seems like a passionate and honest account I look forward to reading and learning from.
Harper releasing on January 28th. Pre-order it here.
Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor | Translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes
I’ve heard of Melchor previously, from friends who’ve read her work in Spanish, but this is her first novel to be translated into English. Apparently based on a real murder in a rural Mexican town, Melchor’s fictional account begins with a group of kids finding the corpse of a local witch. I am intrigued and ready to consume.
Fitzcarraldo releasing in the UK on February 19th. Pre-order it here.
New Directions releasing in the US on March 31st. Pre-order it here.
Text Publishing releasing in Australia on March 3rd. Pre-order it here.
Afterlife by Julia Alvarez
A confession: I’ve never read Alvarez! And I own at least five of her books! Even my mother gave me my first one! I THINK I NEED TO RECTIFY THAT THIS YEAR! And so into her backlist I shall go, as well as this new one, about a book-loving writer who’s dealing with grief when she encounters an undocumented teenager. I’m very intrigued by this premise in Alvarez’s hands.
The Book of Anna by Carmen Boullosa | Translated from the Spanish by Samantha Schnee
Anna Karenina is one of my favorite novels of all time. Mexican writer Boullosa has written a novel from the perspective of Anna’s son in the years after her tragic fate, and with an eye toward the imminent Russian revolution. The publisher calls it a “polyphonic and subversive tale,” and I’m ready for Boullosa’s take on classic territory.
Coffeehouse Press releasing on April 14th (US). Pre-order it here.
April 30th (UK) Preorder here.
Cockfight by María Fernanda Ampuero | Translated from the Spanish by Frances Riddle
María Fernanda Ampuero is a writer and journalist in Ecuador, and this is her debut short story collection, recently translated into English. I am particularly interested lately in new Latinx voices, and this collection is described as an “intimate and unflinching portrait of twenty-first-century Latin America.” Sadly, I don’t think I’ve read any works by Ecuadorians in the past. I look forward to rectifying that.
Running by Natalia Sylvester
Natalia Sylvester’s last novel, Everyone Knows You Go Home, was a moving portrait of a marriage and the various ways the immigrant experience can affect families. It was such a genuine, heartfelt book that I was excited to hear about Running, a YA novel about a Cuban American teenager whose father is running for President. Given certain books that wish to share Latinx stories while also being apolitical, I’m especially interested in how Sylvester’s voice will shine through in today’s atmosphere.
Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo
Acevedo has been writing some of the absolute best YA I’ve read in recent years--I remember listening to her read her debut novel The Poet X in audiobook and immediately calling my mother to tell her about this book that reminded me of our relationship. Last summer her sophomore effort With the Fire on High featured another depiction of a realistic teenager facing problems, and not characterized by stereotypes. Acevedo has so much respect for her characters. Clap When You Land concerns the grief of teenage sisters who learn about each other after their father’s untimely death.
Quill Tree Books releasing on May 5th. Pre-order it here.
Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin | Translated From the Spanish by Megan McDowell
Have you read this Argentinian writer’s Fever Dream?! Have you had the concept of the rescue distance—also cited in Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive—in the back of your mind for the last two years since you’ve read it and allowed it to seep into your everyday life that you believe maybe that horrifying slim little novel actually is still with you, all the time? JUST ME? Her newest novel is described by the publisher as a “visionary novel about our interconnected present, about the collision of horror and humanity.” SO I GUESS I BETTER GEAR UP AGAIN. ::sweats nervously::
Oneworld releasing in the UK on April 16th. Pre-order it here.
On Lighthouses by Jazmina Barrera | Translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney
I was a little befuddled when I read the description of this book which included Barrera attempting to ‘collect’ lighthouses, but when I looked up an excerpt and read this line:
“There are experiences that are lived in a historical present for as long as their memory is evoked, with the full knowledge that the memory will be revisited in the future.”
YES, I'M ALL IN NOW. (Plus, I’ve loved MacSweeney’s translated works of Luiselli in the past.)
A Silent Fury by Yuri Herrera | Translated from the Spanish by Lisa Dillman
I remember hearing about Mexican novelist Herrera’s first novel to be translated into English, Signs Preceding the End of the World, but I am just now intent on reading it and ordered myself a copy a few days ago. In doing so, I came upon word that he has this new book out later this year, based on true events that occurred in March 1920—a hundred years ago!—in which a US company may have been guilty of murder when 87 people died in a mining incident.
Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
What looks like will be in the vein of all the great gothic suspense novels—a mysterious letter, an isolated mansion in the countryside, family secrets—I am ready for Moreno-Garcia’s Mexican-set novel RIGHT NOW. I read her previous novel Signal to Noise, a YA book about a Mexican teenager’s love of music, and I can’t wait to see what she does in the mystery format.
~AND NOW FOR SOME POETRY~
I don’t read a whole lot of poetry, but I need to read more and I loved seeking out these Latinx poets and look forward to their collections.
Postcolonial Love Poem by Natalie Diaz
I remember being introduced to Diaz by, of all places, the Lenny Letter newsletter in 2016. I loved her poem “Manhattan is a Lenape Word,” in which she wrote:
Even a watch must be wound.
How can a century or a heart turn
if nobody asks, Where have all
the natives gone?
Graywolf Press describes her newest collection as “an anthem of desire against erasure.”
A Sinking Ship is Still a Ship by Ariel Francisco
Imagining the Florida coastline, specifically his native Miami, succumbing to the effects of climate change, Francisco’s poems are described as “hilarious and melancholy.” Some of the excerpts I read made me laugh, but also linger—a feeling that I, as a poetry-reading novice, have come to learn is my favorite part of reading the form.
Thresholes by Lara Mimosa Montes
At first intrigued by how many times I had to make sure I was spelling the title right, the way her collection is described left me salivating to read it: “In elegiac and fervent language, Lara Mimosa Montes writes across the thresholds of fracture, trauma, violence, and identity. Thresholes is both a doorway and an absence, a road map and a remembering.” I’m in.
Body of Render by Felicia Zamora
Zamora’s collection sounds like it will address part of the reason the dearth of Latinx voices in publishing is such dire situation at the moment: “What does it mean to be an underrepresented individual in a country where the most powerful seat in the land unashamedly perpetuates racist, misogynistic, homophobic, and classist behaviors?” When that other supposedly apolitical book was released earlier this week, I often wondered how one could tell the story of an immigrant without being political. I look forward to Zamora’s voice in this landscape.