I first discovered Latino literature when I was a teenager in high school taking a multicultural lit class. The experience was life changing for me. Since then so many more books by and about Latinos have been written and published for young adults. Here are just a few of our favorite Latino literature titles for teens. What titles would you add to our list?
Psst! Any of these would be ideal reads for our YA Challenge!
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a major selection of new and previously published poems chosen by Pat Mora herself with young-adult readers in mind. Using the cactus plant as her guiding metaphor for our existence, she presents more than sixty poems grouped variously into “Blooms,” “Thorns,” and “Roots.” Each section opens with a graceful line drawing from artist Anthony Accardo, and the whole is prefaced by a whimsical and intimate introduction, “Dear Fellow Writter.”
Names on a Map: A Novel
by Benjamin Alire Saenz
The Espejo family of El Paso, Texas, is like so many others in America in 1967, trying to make sense of a rapidly escalating war they feel does not concern them. But when the eldest son, Gustavo, a complex and errant rebel, receives a certified letter ordering him to report to basic training, he chooses to flee instead to Mexico. Retreating back to the land of his grandfather—a foreign country to which he is no longer culturally connected—Gustavo sets into motion a series of events that will have catastrophic consequences on the fragile bonds holding the family together.
My Name is Cool: 18 Stories from a Cuban-Irish-American Storyteller
by Antonio Sacre
Born in Boston to a Cuban father and an Irish-American mother, Antonio Sacre is one of the fewleprecanos on the national speaking circuit. Using his own personal history and telling the stories that audiences across the nation have found so captivating and wonderful, this award-winning storyteller and author weaves the Spanish language, Cuban and Mexican customs, and Irish humor into an unforgettable book of humor, inspiration, tradition, and family.
by Skila Brown
Carlos knows that when the soldiers arrive with warnings about the Communist rebels, it is time to be a man and defend the village, keep everyone safe. But Mama tells him not yet — he’s still her quiet moonfaced boy. The soldiers laugh at the villagers, and before they move on, a neighbor is found dangling from a tree, a sign on his neck: Communist. Mama tells Carlos to run and hide, then try to find her. . . . Numb and alone, he must join a band of guerillas as they trek to the top of the mountain where Carlos’s abuela lives. Will he be in time, and brave enough, to warn them about the soldiers? What will he do then? A novel in verse inspired by actual events during Guatemala’s civil war, Caminar is the moving story of a boy who loses nearly everything before discovering who he really is.
The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind
by Meg Medina
Sixteen-year-old Sonia Ocampo was born on the night of the worst storm Tres Montes had ever seen. And when the winds mercifully stopped, an unshakable belief in the girl’s protective powers began. All her life, Sonia has been asked to pray for sick mothers or missing sons, as worried parents and friends press silver milagros in her hands. Sonia knows she has no special powers, but how can she disappoint those who look to her for solace? Still, her conscience is heavy, so when she gets a chance to travel to the city and work in the home of a wealthy woman, she seizes it. At first, Sonia feels freedom in being treated like all the other girls. But when news arrives that her beloved brother has disappeared while looking for work, she learns to her sorrow that she can never truly leave the past or her family behind.
Under the Mesquite
by Guadalupe Garcia Mccall
Lupita, a budding actor and poet in a close-knit Mexican American immigrant family, comes of age as she struggles with adult responsibilities during her mother’s battle with cancer in this young adult novel in verse.
When Lupita learns Mami has cancer, she is terrified by the possibility of losing her mother, the anchor of her close-knit family. Suddenly, being a high school student, starring in a play, and dealing with friends who don’t always understand, become less important than doing whatever she can to save Mami’s life.
While her father cares for Mami at an out-of-town clinic, Lupita takes charge of her seven younger siblings. As Lupita struggles to keep the family afloat, she takes refuge in the shade of a mesquite tree, where she escapes the chaos at home to write. Forced to face her limitations in the midst of overwhelming changes and losses, Lupita rediscovers her voice and finds healing in the power of words.
by Pam Munoz Ryan
Esperanza thought she’d always live with her family on their ranch in Mexico–she’d always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home, and servants. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California during the Great Depression, and to settle in a camp for Mexican farm workers. Esperanza isn’t ready for the hard labor, financial struggles, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When their new life is threatened, Esperanza must find a way to rise above her difficult circumstances–Mama’s life, and her own, depend on it.
The Circuit: Stories from the Life of a Migrant Child
by Francisco Jiménez
“The Circuit,” the story of young Panchito and his trumpet, is one of the most widely anthologized stories in Chicano literature. At long last, Jimenez offers more about the wise, sensitive little boy who has grown into a role model for subsequent generations of immigrants.
These independent but intertwined stories follow the family through their circuit, from picking cotton and strawberries to topping carrots–and back agai–over a number of years. As it moves from one labor camp to the next, the little family of four grows into ten. Impermanence and poverty define their lives. But with faith, hope, and back-breaking work, the family endures.
Baseball in April and Other Stories
by Gary Soto
The Mexican American author Gary Soto draws on his own experience of growing up in California’s Central Valley in this finely crafted collection of eleven short stories that reveal big themes in the small events of daily life. Crooked teeth, ponytailed girls, embarrassing grandfathers, imposter Barbies, annoying brothers, Little League tryouts, and karate lessons weave the colorful fabric of Soto’s world. The smart, tough, vulnerable kids in these stories are Latino, but their dreams and desires belong to all of us.
Silver People: Voices from the Panama Canal
by Margarita Engle
One hundred years ago, the world celebrated the opening of the Panama Canal, which connected the world’s two largest oceans and signaled America’s emergence as a global superpower. It was a miracle, this path of water where a mountain had stood—and creating a miracle is no easy thing. Thousands lost their lives, and those who survived worked under the harshest conditions for only a few silver coins a day.
From the young “silver people” whose back-breaking labor built the Canal to the denizens of the endangered rainforest itself, this is the story of one of the largest and most difficult engineering projects ever undertaken, as only Newbery Honor-winning author Margarita Engle could tell it.