Time for something a little bit different today!
Let’s talk books.
It’s true, this blog leans more toward writing than reading. But that doesn’t mean I’m not obsessed with books. Would I be writing them if I wasn’t?
No. No I would not.
The truth is, I LOVE reading and learning about new books! Reading reviews and discussions fuels my creativity, and I like seeing the subtle changes literature is taking toward becoming inclusive of characters who aren’t all white, cis and able-bodied. We all want to see ourselves represented in some way, to make our voices heard. And some voices are more heard than others. We can either whine about it, or try to fix it. That’s what this post is about.
As the daughter of a Mexican immigrant, I’m growing to appreciate my identity more and more with each passing year. I find ways I can connect with this half of myself, and what better way to do that than through books! However, I’m finding that despite the dozens of book review blogs I follow, when I try to think of books that actually include Mexican characters and culture, I’m at a total loss. I’m actually surprised when I discover some books include Hispanic characters (such as They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera) because it’s never ever mentioned in any book reviews!
I’m not saying that just because a book includes a Mexican character it should be the main focus of the plot, I’m actually quite glad when it’s treated as something not “different”. That’s how it should be! But…when it comes to YA/NA, it IS still different. We’re still in this stage of transition from the default of the white-only protagonist, and as readers and bloggers we are SO excited when we learn about a new book featuring a minority! We show it off! We’re eager to read it and see ourselves represented and we remind each other that the more we read and praise these books, the more publishers will continue to pick up diverse authors and stories.
Except…maybe, when it comes to Mexican protagonists? Because when I look for that hype, that excitement of seeing a Hispanic hero…I won’t lie, it feels pretty non-existant.
But it’s no one else’s responsibility to make me feel validated. So that’s what I’m here to do and to list some YA/NA that feature Mexican characters where that aspect about them isn’t swept under the rug. I’ll be honest, I have not read any of these yet so I can’t attest to how good they may or may not be, but I’ll never know until I give them a try. Let’s get to it!
I AM NOT YOUR PERFECT MEXICAN DAUGHTER
Perfect Mexican daughters do not go away to college. And they do not move out of their parents’ house after high school graduation. Perfect Mexican daughters never abandon their family.
But Julia is not your perfect Mexican daughter. That was Olga’s role.
Then a tragic accident on the busiest street in Chicago leaves Olga dead and Julia left behind to reassemble the shattered pieces of her family. And no one seems to acknowledge that Julia is broken, too. Instead, her mother seems to channel her grief into pointing out every possible way Julia has failed.
But it’s not long before Julia discovers that Olga might not have been as perfect as everyone thought. With the help of her best friend Lorena, and her first kiss, first love, first everything boyfriend Connor, Julia is determined to find out. Was Olga really what she seemed? Or was there more to her sister’s story? And either way, how can Julia even attempt to live up to a seemingly impossible ideal?
NORTH OF HAPPY
Carlos Portillo has always led a privileged and sheltered life. A dual citizen of Mexico and the United States, he lives in Mexico City with his wealthy family, where he attends an elite international school. Always a rule follower and a parent pleaser, Carlos is more than happy to tread the well-worn path in front of him. He has always loved food and cooking, but his parents see it as just a hobby.
When his older brother, Felix—who has dropped out of college to live a life of travel—is tragically killed, Carlos begins hearing his brother’s voice, giving him advice and pushing him to rebel against his father’s plan for him. Worrying about his mental health but knowing the voice is right, Carlos runs away to the United States and manages to secure a job with his favorite celebrity chef. As he works to improve his skills in the kitchen and pursue his dream, he begins to fall for his boss’s daughter—a fact that could end his career before it begins. Finally living for himself, Carlos must decide what’s most important to him and where his true path really lies.
OUT OF DARKNESS
Ashley Hope Perez
New London, Texas. 1937. Naomi Vargas and Wash Fuller know about the lines in East Texas as well as anyone. They know the signs that mark them.
“No Negroes, Mexicans, or dogs.”
They know the people who enforce them.
“They all decided they’d ride out in their sheets and pay Blue a visit.”
But sometimes the attraction between two people is so powerful it breaks through even the most entrenched color lines. And the consequences can be explosive.
“More than grief, more than anger, there is a need. Someone to blame. Someone to make pay.”
The only way to get her family back is to travel to a land in between, as dark as Limbo and as strange as Wonderland…
Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic.
At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo boy she’s not sure she can trust, but who may be Alex’s only chance at saving her family.
So there you have it, 4 amazing sounding books to add to your TBR! I’m not going to lie, just finding these 4 books was a bit more difficult than I anticipated. What I discovered was that many books featuring Mexican rep were more along the lines of memoirs, or rated very poorly, which makes me wonder if they weren’t deemed worthy enough to spend enough time with a proper editor. Maybe I’m projecting, who knows, but I’m thankful for what IS out there!
Personally, I’m quite excited for Labyrinth Lost. Not only is the cover gorgeous (and check out the alternate cover well, so much eye-candy), but it’s been described as a blend of The Raven Cycle, Pan’s Labyrinth and Alice in Wonderland. What more could you ask for!?
So go check these out people. Trust me, there’s a whole other world still waiting to be discovered.
Have you read any books that include Mexican rep? What other types of diverse stories do you think still need to be told? Why aren’t you picking up a copy of Labyrinth Lost this very second!?!?