This page is devoted to giving you lots of great books to keep you busy offline--for a while at least. Whether novels, nonfiction, children's books, or academic resources, there is something for everyone.
Michele Serros, How to Be a Chicana Role Model, or Chicana Falsa: and other Stories of Death, Identity, and Oxnard
Michele's work is a refreshing take on what it means to be Chicana in the 90s. She pokes fun at the sacred cows of Chicano literature--family, movimiento politics, etc.-- at the same time that she offers rich insight into Chicana experience. Originally published with the small, independent Lalo Press, her books have been re-issued in paperback and on cassette by Penguin's Riverhead Books.
Denise Chavez, Face of an Angel
Like her earlier works, Face of an Angel focuses on the lives of southern New Mexican women. The main narrator is Soveida Dosamantes, whom we follow from girlhood to womanhood, yet the book itself includes a series of conversations, mujer a mujer. Chavez's playwriting skill comes out, as in Chapter 5 "Y tu, ?que?" in which the words of a husband and wife appear side by side, each telling their own story, without really speaking to one another. Chavez weaves together her cuentos--those that everyone has heard...those that everyone knows but no one voices. Her characters are alive, with all their prejudices and blind spots. The promotional blurbs on the back cover call the novel uplifting, entertaining, a family saga, and "delicious as a hot New Mexican meal." What they don't mention is that the novel is profoundly disturbing, perhaps because Chavez re-works the "family saga" to show the bitterness, the disappointment, the ignored wounds that fester and kill. Chavez shows some of the ways that girls learn about sexuality--which in this context means heterosexuality--from mothers, from dichos, from men and boys, and from life. Review continues... -- by Catriona Rueda Esquibel
Gloria Anzaldua, Borderlands/La Frontera, 3rd ed.
The bible of Chicana Studies, from Spinster's/Aunt Lute Press in San Francisco. Critical, wonderful, creative work embracing Chicano culture, talking about being raised Chicana in South Texas, but also critical, lambasting the machismo and homophobia within. A vital, challenging, interesting read for both the newcomer, and the intellectual. Includes her well-known poem, Borderlands
Ernesto Galarza, Barrio Boy
Autobiography of a young boy's youth in Mexico and his family's move to the U.S. Has some really funny, insightful scenes about 'those funny Anglos' by the young Galarza. Galarza grew up to be an important Chicano labor organizer, scholar, and activist.
Julia Alvarez, Something to Declare
This Dominicana author's most recent book is an essay collection in which she writes about "her large, boisterous and politically active family; her difficult move to the United States and her attempts to learn a new language; her years of bouncing from teaching job to teaching job, wondering if her fiction would ever see the light of day." Earlier works include her well-known novel, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accent and In the Time of the Butterflies, and Yo. You can also find short pieces she's written online about becoming a writer, and storytelling in her family.
Mona Ruiz, Two Badges
This book is Mona Ruiz' life story of growing up in a working class neighborhood in Santa Ana from her early involvement in local gangs through an abusive relationship/marriage. From near poverty as a single mother, Ruiz went on to become a police officer and detective, working with youth on the streets of Santa Ana. The Independent Presses Editor writes "Ruiz tells her story with the objective eye of a detective who sees both the issues of necessity in joining a gang and the gang system's fatal vision of drugs and war. Informative and inspiring, Ruiz is one who made it out of the gangs, but never abandoned the streets." t means heterosexuality--from mothers, from dichos, from men and boys, and from life.
Ana Castillo, So Far From God
One of your webjefa's favorite books of all time. Technically, this is the story of the trials and tribulations of a New Mexican Chicana family--but it's so much more than that. It's an insightful critique and spoof of institutional Catholicism as well as an homage to Chicana/o spiritual traditions. It's an indictment of state and corporate exploitation of hardworking peoples of color. And it's a loving tribute to women's strengths and women's traditions in this crazy world we live in. Highly recommended....I guarantee you won't be able to put it down 'til you finish it. Vintage Books, 1993. Also check out Ana's many other books....
Ana Castillo, Massacre of the Dreamers
This isn't fiction, but a personal narrative in which Ana spells out some of the issues facing Chicanas and Latinas today, and explores the development of a Xicana feminist critique along lines of race, class, gender, and sexuality . She offers insightful critiques of the Catholic Church as well as Chicano nationalism and socialism. Don't miss her chapter on curanderas and brujeria.....
Emma Perez, Gulf Dreams
Emma's first novel is a challenging look at women, race and desire in a small Texas town. While the racism is blatant, the lives of Chicanas and Chicanos are also structured by sexism, heterosexism and sexual abuse. Perez traces the life of one woman, a girl who falls in love with another girl. The narrator refuses the path laid out for female friendships--comadres who wil see one another through "adolescence, marriage, menopause, death, and even divorce,"--saying instead "I had not come for that. I had come for her kiss." Review continues, --by Catriona Rueda Esquibel
Helena Viramontes, Under the Feet of Jesus
Helena's first novel is a beautiful portrait of a young woman's coming of age on the migrant trail with her family. Penguin (Dutton) Books, 1995. This beautifully crafted novel focuses on the young Estrella's emerging sense of self--as an individual and in relationship to her family and broader communities--as she carefully navigates her family through the harsh world around them.
Gil Cuadros, City of God
An amazing collection of short stories/essays by a gifted young writer. Identity, family, relationships, alienation, homophobia, the search for a space of one's own, and the death of a loved one, all beautifully and painfully articulated by a gifted young writer. Gil was an active member of Los Angeles' gay latino community, and his untimely death at the age of 32 leaves a gaping wound in the city of angels. City Lights Press, San Francisco.
Sandra Cisneros, House on Mango Street
Classic award-winning book by contemporary Chicana author about growing up Chicana in Chicago. Now in Vintage paperback. Poignant coming-of-age novel through the eyes of a young girl. Also see her latest novel, Caramelo, her short story collection, Woman Hollering Creek, which features a contemporary take on the "Llorona" story, and some of my favorite ambivalent depictions of Chicana religious traditions, and two collections of poetry, My Wicked Wicked Ways and Loose Woman.
Tey Diana Rebolledo and Eliana Rivero, eds., Infinite Divisions
This amazing anthology of Chicana literature and poetry provides an intellectual and critical history of Chicana literature in its various forms (poetry, prose, oral history), with one key exception. The editors collected work from over fifty different authors and provide bits of narrative to place the work in historical context. Published by University of Arizona Press, this book may be a bit harder to find, but is definitely worth the trouble. Scholar Catriona Esquibel points out that the collection minimizes the contributions of Chicana lesbians; for more detail, see her book ....
Arturo Islas, Rain God and Migrant Souls
The late Stanford professor writes about growing up in El Paso, Texas. Perceptive portrayal of class and race differences in Mexico and the U.S., one of few to discuss religion within the culture, the treatment of gays and lesbians. Migrant Souls has a hysterical scene about the young Josie crossing the border with her family and a live Christmas turkey....I heard him read it publicly once. A really gifted writer.
Gloria Anzaldua & Cherrie Moraga, This Bridge Called My Back
Revolutionary collection of essays by hetero and lesbian women--Chicanas, African-American, Asian-American and Native American. Poetry, prose, personal narrative all document the experiences of women of color, launching a sobering critique of contemporary capitalist society.
Gloria Anzaldua, Making Face, Making Soul/Haciendo Caras
The follow-up to Bridge, an expanded collection of poetry and prose, theoretical and narrative contributions to the articulation of women-of-color experiences in the United States today. An intense, significant work.
Cherrie Moraga, A Xicana Codex of Changing Consciousness and everything else......
Moraga is an incredibly multifaceted, prolific, gifted Chicana writer, poet, dramatist, and activist. Cherrie's latest work, Xicana Codex, is a collection of her writings from 2000-2010, but also don't miss her early classic, Lo Que Nunca Paso por Mis Labios/Loving in the War Years ,
Cherrie Moraga, Heroes and Saints and Other Plays
Your webjefa really enjoys this collection of her plays, touching on issues of Chicano spirituality, la
familia, farmworker struggles, and gay/lesbian issues. Be sure to read
the title work, Heroes and Saints, a fictionalized account of the unexplained "cancer
cluster" of farmworker children suffering from exposure to pesticides.
Critical, important work in contemporary Chicana/o issues. West End Press,
Benjamin Alire Saenz, Sammy and Juliana in Hollywood
This is a Young Adult book (grades 9-12) that any adult would appreciate. Sammy and Juliana are growing up in the late 60s in a small rural New Mexican town where their neighborhood is ironically called "Hollywood." Your webjefa found the first chapter a bit heavyhanded, but quickly fell in love with the characters, and couldn't put the book down. This is a beautiful coming of age novel that thoughtfully tackles some difficult issues and highlights the strength and resilience of Chicana/o youth. Highly recommended!^back to top
- Lorna Dee Cervantes, Poem for the Young White Man...
- Sandra Cisneros, Old Maids
- Donna Kate Rushin, The Bridge Poem (Donna's an African-American sister who wrote the amazing title poem for the women of color collection, This Bridge Called My Back)
- Ana Castillo, Coffee Break (1979), The Toltec (1988), Women Are Not Roses
(1984), and A November Verse (1984)
Some local poetas
- Xochitl Candelaria, UC Berkeley, Untitled
- Maribel Ledesma, Stanford University, Printed Revolutionary and Priceless
- D.C., Occidental College, Querida Lupita
Other link collections
Catriona's Queer Chicana Fictions Bibliography. A comprehensive collection of Chicana writing, with short commentary on many entries.
Voices From the Gaps features short biographies and bibliographies on various Chicana and Latina writers, as well as other women writers of color.
Winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, Rigoberta Menchu of Guatemala has written two children's books: La nina de Chimel/Girl From Chimel offers a memoir of her Mayan childhood, and The Honey Jar is a collection of twelve Mayan folktales. Grades 4 & up.
Late Chicana scholar/activist Gloria Anzaldua wrote two bilingual children's books: Prietita and the Ghost/Prietita y la Llorona is a unique twist on the Llorona myth and in Friends from the Other Side / Amigos del otro lado, Prietita aids an undocumented friend (both for ages 4-10).
Maya Gonzalez, Colores de Mi Mundo/Colors of my World from Children's Book Press, and I Know the River Loves Me/Yo sé que el río me ama (both ages 4-8). Written and illustrated by the fabulous Maya, who also runs Reflection Press, a progressive educational consulting business.
We recommend all winners of The Tomas Rivera Children's Book Award - given annually by a committee of scholars and parents in memory of the late Chicano scholar Tomas Rivera to the "author/illustrator of the most distinguished book for children and young adults that authentically reflects the lives and experiences of Mexican Americans in the United States."
2011 winner Alex Sanchez, Bait (Young adult, Simon & Schuster)
Carmen Tafolla, What Can You Do With a Paleta? (ages 4-8, Tricycle Press)
Susanna Reich, Jose! Born to Dance, (grades 2-4, Simon & Schuster)
Rudolfo Anaya, My Land Sings: Stories from the Rio Grande (grades 5-9, Morrow Junior Books) and The Farolitos of Christmas (ages 4-8, Hyperion Books). Also for older children, see his Bless Me, Ultima
Bobbi Salinas, The Three Pigs / Los Tres Cerdos: Nacho, Tito and Miguel (grades K-2, Piñata Publications)
This site is not usually an advocate for web businesses, but the Bilingual Books for Kids pages offer a terrific variety of Spanish, English, and bilingual books. Bilingual books are written with Spanish and English side-by-side and "introduce bilingual skills, increase language and learning abilities and positively heighten awareness of many cultures." Check it out...