Happy Cinco de Mayo! Time to celebrate the Mexican army’s 1862 victory over France at the Battle of Puebla. While it’s tempting to drink margaritas and call it a day, here at Quirk Books we prefer an alternate mode of celebration: the celebration of Chicano literature. We’ve put together a list of five Mexican American authors you could be reading right now.
If you haven’t read Sandra Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street, get yourself to the library or your local bookstore as soon as possible. This coming-of-age novel centered on Esperanza Cordero and the family home she’s determined to leave. This novel toes experiments with vignette and poetic forms, painting a picture of the Latino neighborhood in Chicago in a way that’ll make you fall in love with the same place Esperanza is determined to abandon. If you’ve devoured Cisneros’ first novel and are eager to read more, check out Cisneros’ 2002 novel Caramelo.
Kirstin Valdez Quade
Kirstin Valdez Quade’s debut Night at the Fiestas is a fantastic short story collection to pick up for the warm weather we’re experiencing. Set largely in New Mexico, this collection gives voice to Mexican-American characters of varying levels of Catholic devoutness. “The Five Wounds” is an especially strong punch to the gut, leaving the reader with a resounding “Why?” rattling in their head. Quade’s short story collection was honored by the National Book Foundation as one of 2014’s 5 under 35 honorees – an award she received before the book was even published! We can’t wait to see what she comes out with next.
Valeria Luiselli’s novel Faces in the Crowd was honored by the National Book Foundation as a 5 under 35 honoree alongside Kirstin Valdez Quade and the two women couldn’t be in better company. Part Dept. of Speculation style, part Zadie Smith humor, and one hundred percent Luiselli inventiveness, Faces in the Crowd is one of those novels best read in one sitting. If you’re done reading this fantastic first novel and are looking for something else to sink your teeth into (pun intended), check out The Story of My Teeth.
Benjamin Alire Saenz
Here at Quirk, we love Benjamin Alire Saenz’s Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe – and it’s not just because Lin-Manuel Miranda narrated the audiobook. (Though that doesn’t hurt!) It’s because once Aristotle and Dante sneak into your life, you never want them to leave. These characters are incredibly real, their choices intentional and deliberate even when they feel out of the blue. But don’t just take our word for it. Since it’s publication in 2013, Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe has been recognized by the Michael L. Printz Award, the Pura Belpre Author Award, and the Stonewall Book Award. If short stories are more your speed, check out Everything Begins and Ends at the Kentucky Club, which won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction in 2013.
Matt de la Pena
Winner of the 2016 Newberry Medal for the picture book Last Stop on Market Street, Matt de la Pena is a prolific young adult author. Our personal favorite is Mexican WhiteBoy, de la Pena’s novel about a half-Mexican, half-white teenager with a killer fastball. Danny lives with his white mother, convinced that his own whiteness forced his father to return to Mexico. This coming-of-age novel explores everything from baseball to what it means to be mixed race. If apocalyptic novels are more your thing, check out The Living.