Hispanic Heritage Month: 6 Books to Add to Your Classroom LibraryMichael M. Guevara
Back in college, an older Latino gentleman asked me, “When you have kids one day, are you going to raise them as Mexican or white?” The question threw me for bit because of how out of the blue it was, but I answered, “I’ll probably raise my kids the same way I was raised.” He immediately responded, “Oh, so white.”
In You Sound Like a White Girl: A Case for Rejecting Assimilation, Julissa Arce recounts a similar story when a boy she had a crush on in high school said to her, “You sound like a white girl.” Initially, Arce took the comment as a compliment but later came to understand that conveying racist ideals meant “to tame her, change her, and make her small.”
In this unapologetically aggressive work of contemporary nonfiction, Arce argues against the notion, goal, the standard practice of generations of Brown Americans to assimilate into white culture. Part narrative, part historical reflection, and part cultural treatise, Arce pushes against the lie of whiteness, the lie of English, and the lie of success. Arce wants an America “that challenges the status quo.” She wants an America “that revises its story to fully tell our shared history, facing the ugliness of the past, admitting the sins of founding, and creating I truer democracy.”
None of that will happen with assimilation, but reading You Sound Like a White Girl might be a perfect place to start.
Pedro & Daniel by Federico Erebia
Growing up with brothers usually means pain, torture, and things getting broken. All of these are central to the stirring narrative of Pedro & Daniel but not in the way you expect. Weaving Mexican dichos (little proverbs or wise sayings) throughout the narrative, Erebia recounts the indefatigable bond between Pedro and Daniel, two Mexican American brothers growing up in the 1970s in Ohio. They live through the physical and mental abuse from their mother who hates that Pedro looks like his dark-skinned father, that Daniel plays with dolls, and that neither boy plays sports, nor behaves the way she and the machismo Mexican culture believes boys should.
Both heartwarming and heart-wrenching, Pedro & Daniel unfolds as a love story between brothers who rely on each other to survive until the very end where no dicho, no prayer, and no amount of love or advanced education can do anything to delay the inevitable.
How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe by Raquel Vasquez Gilliand
In a world of social media influencers where the whims and waffling of the few dictate the leanings of the masses, Moon Fuentez doesn’t fit it. But her sister Star does. And yes, those are their names. Originally, they were meant to be Luna and Estrella, but after getting shamed for swearing in Spanish during labor, their mother insisted on the English translation of the words.
Star is beautiful and thin and everything that Moon is not, and their mother has no qualms about treating Star as the favored child. She even goes as far as to believe Moon carries La Raiz or The Curse with her. And why not treat Star as the favored child? With their father no longer in the picture, which is about so much more than one might think, Star with her social media influencer collaborations, endorsements, and promotions is the breadwinner for the family.
So when Star is picked to tour with a group of other influencers with one of the largest social media moguls in the industry, she can’t say no to the opportunity—and neither can Moon as Star’s photographer and merch rep.
But not everyone is enamored by the image of perfection. And life is not always as perfect as the pictures on social media portray. Dived by suitors, a switch in social media popularity, and the realization that their mother’s love is beyond conditional for both of them, How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe is a mix of mysticism, media, enemies to lovers, and sisters by birth to sisters by choice.
The Injustice Never Leaves You: Anti-Mexican Violence in Texas by Monica Muñoz Martinez
History belongs to the victors, and you can’t forget what you never learned—or were never taught—almost perfectly sums up the running narrative of The Injustice Never Leaves You: Anti-Mexican Violence in Texas. Almost.
It only almost sums up the narrative because this work of “historical reconstruction” gives names, faces, and context to the lives of very real people from a proud culture and place who were robbed not only of their land and lives but also their futures.
Between the years 1910-1920, the famed Texas Rangers, heralded to this day for their law enforcement prowess, essentially operated outside the law free from oversight and consequence to murder and lynch hundreds of ethnic Mexicans—despite their status as American citizens.
Replete with description, difficult details, and the nuance of context brought to life through historical records and personal testimony, Muñoz Martinez shines an uncomfortable light on the storied traditions and historical heroes who survived the vestiges of time at the expense of those who did not.
Secret of the Moon Conch by David Bowles and Guadalupe Garcia McCall
As the popular adage goes, people come into each other’s lives for a reason—that may be even more true when those people are separated by 500 years. In Secret of the Moon Conch, Sitlali has no family left in Mexico after the death of her Abuela. With her living conditions no longer safe because gangs have taken over her town and targeted her, Sitlali must try and cross the border into the United States and find the father she barely remembers. Out on the beach with her friends for one last night together before fleeing Mexico, Sitlali finds a conch with ancient markings on it that she decides to keep as a memento of Mexico.
Five hundred years earlier, Calitzo, desperate to save his people from colonization by Spanish invaders takes his mother’s sacred conch and hurls it into the ocean as a plea to the gods. Neither Sitlali or Calitzo understand the magic the conch holds because even though they are separated by hundreds of years, the conch creates a connection between the two of them that just may end up saving both of them.
Secret of the Moon Conch not only blends together two lives separated by time and history, it also blends sweeping storytelling with epic action. It melds the modern conflict of immigration with the often forgotten and overlooked history of the indigenous people of Mexico—along with a literal love story for the ages.
This book is triumph, tragedy, and tradition mixed with the magic of soul and spirit embodied by a rich culture undaunted by time and borders.
Mexikid: A Graphic Memoir by Pedro Martín
Family road trips often resurface as the banter that fuels the conversation at family gatherings, but when the road trip is a 2,000-mile excursion from California to Jalisco, Mexico with 11 family members caravanning in multiple vehicles and a Chieftain Winnebago to pick up their widowed Abuelito to come and live with them in their house built for five, it makes for the pages of a delightfully poignant and humorous graphic novel memoir.
In Mexikid, Pedro Martín wonderfully recounts his childhood experience of living between two worlds—their world in Mexico and their world in the United States. Throughout the pages that drip with angst, agony, and the humor of adolescence and being the seventh of nine children, Martín unfolds a narrative that is completely relatable but also his unique experience. Filled with the ridiculousness of brothers: “You can punch someone through a pillow really hard, call them a ‘FAT HEAD’ all day long but still love them enough to share a soda with them.” “I’m kidding! Who shares a soda? Gross!” Mexikid also resonates with difficult truths: “It was hard to hear stories about your parents being scared for their lives. Being so poor they had to run away to a faraway place in order to make money…AT SIXTEEN!” (Martín 47, 192).
Mexikid is a fun, fast read that young and old will find delightful and worth a grito or two.