Essentials Working List: Latino/a and Caribbean

The most difficult challenge of creating a list of Latino literature is the danger of creating a single voice, of failing to dispel the belief that all Latinos are Mexican and that all Latinos, simply because they share a language, also share a culture. English is not the same in Australia and Canada and Spanish is not the same in Argentina and Cuba, nor is the food, history or holidays. A single story will also omit the strong ties between European, Native and African peoples in truly American stories. I can’t say this list does a dynamic job of developing those differences but it does introduce readers to outstanding Latino/a authors and to the history and culture of many different places. Yes, Edwidge Dandicat is here. Where else would she go?  Lists are problematic but they begin conversations, open our minds to other possibilities and give readers a place to start.

Allende’s Island Beneath the Sea happens to be set in Haiti. An interview was recently rebroadcast in NPR and provides a nice backstory for the book. I love it when she talks about magical realism and how this term is over used to define all Latino Literature, similar to how ‘urban literature’ has become synonymous with African American literature. Sometimes we need the backstories, dictionaries and history lessons to understand stories from others, but they stretch who we are, don’t they?

These lists aren’t final yet so please feel free to comment.

“We should acknowledge differences, we should greet differences, until difference makes no difference anymore.”Dr. Adela Allen

Bless Me Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya
Krik! Krak!; Breath, Eyes, Memory by Edwidge Dandicat
Zoot Suit and Other Plays by Luis Valdez
Mexican White Boy by Matt de la Pena
Marcelo in the Real World by Francisco X. Stork
Perfect Chemistry; Return to Paradise; Rules of Attraction by Simone Elkeles
Gringolandia by Lyn Miller-Lachmann
Baseball in April; Buried Onions by Gary Soto
Always Running by Luis Rodriguez
House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
Sofi Medoza’s Guide to Getting Lost in Mexico;  Estrella’s Quinceañera by Malín Alegría
Poetry Speaks Who I Am; Twenty Love Poems; Song of Despair by Pablo Neruda
Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood by Benjamin Alire Saenz
Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez
Island Beneath the Sea by Isabel Allende
Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America by Juan Gonazales
Norton Anthology of Latino Literature by Ilan Stavans, Edna Acosta-Belé
Hunger of Memory by Richard Rodriguez
The Surrender Tree: Poems of Cuba’s Struggle for Freedom by Margarita Engle
Latino Visions: Contemporary Chicano, Puerto Rican, and Cuban American Artists by James D. Cockcroft, Jane Canning


3 thoughts on “Essentials Working List: Latino/a and Caribbean

  1. Thank you for including Gringolandia on your list. While magic realism has come to be identified with Latin American literature (and you rightly criticize the tendency to define all Latin American literature as magic realist), testimonial works also have an important place in the literary tradition. Perhaps the best-known work of testimonial literature is Nobel Laureate Rigoberta Menchu’s autobiographical I, Rigoberta Menchu: An Indian Woman in Guatemala, but there are several accounts (memoir and memoir-based fiction) of the Dirty Wars in Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay that I drew on in writing Gringolandia.

Comments are closed.