IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Ten notable Latino books of 2021

Latino authors gave us fantastic novels, memoirs, short stories and poetry. Here's a list of must-read books, including suggestions by Latino authors and bookstore owners.
Patricia Engel's "Infinite Country," Martin Espada's "Floaters: Poems," and Sandra Cisneros' "Martita, I Remember You."
Patricia Engel's "Infinite Country," Martin Espada's "Floaters: Poems" and Sandra Cisneros' "Martita, I Remember You."Avid Reader Press, W.W. Norton & Company, Vintage

From memoirs and short stories to an award-winning poetry collection, these books by Latino authors transported us to different places and made us reflect, smile, cry and gain a deeper understanding of identity, family, love and loss.

‘My Broken Language: A Memoir,’ by Quiara Alegría Hudes

In this emotional memoir, Hudes, a Pulitzer Prize winner, reflects on her own story, peeling back layers of her identity and upbringing. “I had to take off so much armor to sit and write this book and express what does it mean to be half-white, what does it mean to be half-brown?” Hudes said in an interview with NBC News. The memoir concentrates on Latina girlhood and womanhood while redefining what we view as representation.

‘Infinite Country: A Novel,’ by Patricia Engel

Full of twists and turns, Engels’ novel follows the close bonds a Colombian family holds through three generations as they face immigration and the complex set of challenges that come with it. The longing and love of own's homeland, the effects of assimilation and a family’s separation across continents and borders are beautifully portrayed through the lens of parents and children. In an interview with NBC News, the award-winning Engel raises the question, “How does a family remain a family through distance and time and uncertainty and ever-changing immigration laws?”

‘Floaters: Poems,’ by Martín Espada

Espada, a winner of the prestigious National Book Award, writes a series of poems humanizing the dehumanized, a consistent theme throughout the book. The title is from his poem inspired by the searing image in the news of the intertwined bodies of Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his toddler daughter, Valeria, who drowned in the waters of the Rio Grande trying to cross the border into the U.S. Many of Espada's poems are odes to Latino artists and activists who were mentors to Espada — and left an indelible mark on the community.

‘Martita, I Remember You,’ by Sandra Cisneros

"Cisneros sets this incredibly touching novel in the era before technology, when a young Latina’s trip to Europe was full of wonder but also dangers without the quick access to a lifeline,” the author, poet and scholar Rigoberto González says about the acclaimed, award-winning novelist's latest book. “Corina’s story is about the challenges of living out a dream without the comforts of money, the pangs of homesickness, and the precarious connections with strangers who become friends and then strangers again.”

‘Gentefication,’ by Antonio de Jesús López

“This inventive book of poems takes a meaningful look at the ways higher education demands Latinos assimilate, particularly through the displacement of one’s cultural identity and language,” González said about the debut collection of López, 27, whose experiences growing up in Palo Alto, California, in the shadow of Silicon Valley inspired him to run for office as East Palo Alto’s youngest City Council member.

“Is the path toward success and belonging in a professional world worth the silencing of those voices that remind us of home, our faith, and our values?” González said about López’s book. “Are the deficiencies not within us, but within those places that won’t make room for our complex lives and experiences?”

‘The Soul of a Woman,’ by Isabel Allende

In a book that is part memoir and part treatise, Allende, an award-winning Chilean author, writes about the challenges that come with being a progressive feminist in a male-dominated book publishing world, revealing harsh inequalities that exploit women. Hoping to uplift and inspire the younger generations of women, Allende told the Los Angeles Times in an interview with González: “I want to light the torches of our daughters and granddaughters with mine. They will have to live for us, as we lived for our mothers, and carry on the work we didn’t have time to finish.”

‘For Brown Girls with Sharp Edges & Tender Hearts,’ by Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodríguez

Rodríguez, the founder of Latina Rebels, an online platform publishing bilingual content on social media, writes about how Latinas can reclaim their identity and be their true authentic selves. “A tool guide for Latinx folk to address the common issues we go through, like colorism, imposter syndrome,” said Karen Ugarte, the bookstore manager of Tía Chucha in Sylmar, California. “Using her own voice and experiences, the author empowers us with tools and language to be a driving force for social change,” Ugarte said.

In an interview in October, Rodríguez said: “I wanted to share what I learned at college and graduate school with everyone. This information shouldn’t be so inaccessible, so women of color can see what we are up against in our daily lives.”

‘The Rock Eaters: Stories,’ by Brenda Peynado

Chosen as an NPR Best Book of 2021 and one of the New York Public Library's 10 best books for adults in 2021, Peynado’s debut collection of short stories uses elements of science fiction and fantasy to reflect across a range of issues, including class differences, xenophobia and immigration. At the heart of each story, she emphasizes the question: “What does it mean to be other? What does it mean to love in a world determined to keep us apart?”

“What I most admire is the moral imagination of these stories,” the acclaimed author Julia Alvarez said in a blurb of the book. “Peynado is a writer willing to cross literary borders: magical realism, fable, parable, fiction, nonfiction — she erases those limiting storytelling parameters and her stories soar.”

‘Eat the Mouth That Feeds You,’ by Carribean Fragoza

In a visceral and terrifying debut collection of short stories that detail the Latino experience in Southern California, Fragoza, a fiction writer who grew up in South El Monte, California, guides readers through the perspective of Latinas and how they navigate supernatural stories that take place on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border. “Immersing us into a liminal world that Fragoza mastered beautifully in each short story, ‘Eat the Mouth That Feeds You’ is one that is hard to keep on our shelves," said Sarah Rafael García, an author and the founder of LibroMobile Bookstore in Santa Ana, California.

‘Bright Star,’ by Yuyi Morales

Described as "the perfect gift for every child," this New York Times Best Children's Book of the Year mixes powerful imagery and words to describe a fawn's journey through a treacherous landscape that is full of potential. In her first book since her New York Times bestseller "Dreamers," Morales, an award-winning author and illustrator, writes in a soothing yet powerful tone to empower readers. The book’s art was created using digital paintings infused with photographs from the Sonoran Desert, sketches and hand-embroidered lettering.

Follow NBC Latino on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.