Hispanic heritage month is a 30 day celebration from September 15 to October 15, during which Americans celebrate the histories, cultures and contributions of their ancestors who hailed from Spain, Mexico and other regions of Central and South America. The term ‘Hispanic’ is used to refer to a person who was a citizen or whose ancestors were a citizen of Cuba, Puerto Rico, Mexico, South or Central America. The national Hispanic heritage month includes seven independence days and a period of observing and acknowledging one’s cultural representation.
Literature is a brilliant medium to learn about and understand the life and experiences of Latin Americans. Often perceived as a monolithic community, the Hispanics have a rich heritage of varied identities, experiences and cultural practices. Let’s take a look at five must-reads for national Hispanic heritage month.
A great book that you must read during the National Hispanic heritage month, is Elizabeth Acevedo’s ‘The Poet X’. It revolves around the life of Xiomara, who is a fifteen year old teen. Xiomara Batista, also called ‘X’ or ‘Xio’ has a troubled existence. Poetry is her medium of expression but her religious mother is one of the several antagonistic forces in her life. Xiomara loves her brother Xavier despite being made to feel inferior by constantly being compared to him. This novel is a powerful tale told in the form of poetry.
Erika Sanchez forges a heart touching yet poignant story through the character of Julia. Julia is not the perfect ideal stereotypical Mexican daughter. She goes away to college and does not live with her parents. While her sister Olga is the perfect epitome of how a Mexican daughter is- the one who would never abandon her family. When an unfortunate accident leaves Olga dead, the herculean task of gluing her family back together falls on Julia. While Julia strives to live up to the ideal of a Mexican daughter, she is constantly pulled down by her mother’s remarks on how she is a failure. The exploration of Julia’s identity within her family, makes this one a stunning National Hispanic heritage month read.
A devastating yet transforming read, ‘Fruit of the Drunken Tree’ is set in the violent atmosphere of 1990s Colombia. It unfolds the life of Chula, who lives in the gated community of Bogota. But outside the walls of her world, bombings, killings, kidnappings and other life threats await her and the people of her community. After a maid named Petrona, hired by Chula’s mother, starts working for their family, Chula grows suspicious of Petrona. Ingrid Contreras is one of the Hispanic American authors absolutely worth-reading. Told via the characters of Chula and Petrona, the story is inspired from Ingrid’s own life.
Another on the list of National Hispanic heritage month novels, is Allende’s ‘The House of the Spirits’ that was written by her as a letter to her grandfather. This later was expanded by the author into a manuscript. Allende’s novel draws inspiration from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’. The novel revolves around the Trueba family and spans over its four generations. It is set amidst the politically turbulent and post-colonial Chile and through two protagonists, Esteban and Alba, the readers get to know the del Valle family. ‘The House of the Spirits’ is one of Allende’s critically acclaimed works.
One of the most popular and acclaimed Hispanic multi-generational stories both in world literature as well as Hispanic storytelling, Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s ‘One Hundred Years of Solitude’ is a representative novel with the elements of magical realism. Unique in its narrative style, it is the story of seven generations of the Buendia family, whose ancestors founded the town of Macondo. The Buendia family members unabashedly depict the human nature and represent the themes of time, fate and magic in the story. This is one of those novels that should absolutely be on your reading list.
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