Books to Read in Honor of Hispanic Heritage Month

Collage depicting featured books. Original Artwork by: Belinda Miguel

Collage depicting featured books. Original Artwork by: Belinda Miguel

National Hispanic Heritage Month is a time of celebration that spans from September 15 – October 15. Even though Hispanic Heritage Month has passed, it is still important to commemorate a month that celebrates the various cultures and people of Latin America; it is also important to showcase the diversity of different cultures in our literature. Listed below are a few books written by Hispanic authors to read in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month.



A perfect Mexican daughter does not run away to college, does not look for a home after graduating from high school, and does not abandon her family. But Julia isn’t your typical Mexican daughter; that was Olga’s role, her older sister. When a tragic accident occurs on Chicago’s busiest street, killing Olga, Julia is left to resemble the shattered pieces of her family. Julia is devastated by her sister’s death, but her mother does not seem to notice; instead, in order to cope with her grief, she compares Julia to Olga, pointing out everything Julia has failed at that Olga did not. This caused Julia to find the truth about who her sister truly was. Was Olga actually who she seemed to be? Throughout the story, the novel addresses the topic of depression due to the fact that the loss of Julia’s sister’s death causes the family to fall into misery.

In an interview with NBC News, Ericka L. Sanchez says ,“It’s important to talk about mental health. I’m tired of the stigma. People need to see it as a part of health in general. If you’re not mentally well, you’re not physically well. People think [depression] is a character flaw when it’s a mental illness that needs treatment.” She adds that her main goal was to “address the issue of mental health and to speak to young girls in particular. This is a common story that isn’t a part of mainstream literature or media. I want to help change this.”

Ashley Ornelas, a student at Huntington Beach high school says, “As a Mexican-American, I was able to connect with this novel as it explores situations and emotions that I have personally experienced.” Ornelas continues to say “even if you’re not of Hispanic origin, you will definitely be able to relate with Julia, the protagonist of the novel.  I recommend reading this book because it allows you to look at the lives of people from different places and makes the reader feel different emotions throughout the novel,” Ornelas adds.


2. Clap When You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo

This story is based on the true story of Flight AA587, which crashed in New York City two months after 9/11. It was heading to the Dominican Republic, and 250 people died on board. Two young sisters (Yahaira and Camino) live totally opposite lives from each other, Yahaira lives in New York while Camino lives in the Dominican Republic. Yahaira has always lived that ‘perfect life’ with her father, Camino rarely gets to see her father because she lives in the Dominican Republic. Separated by distance, neither of them is aware of their existence. It is not until the plane their father was on crashes, Camino and Yahira’s lives are upended and have put them on a path of discovery to find one another. Along their path of reunification, both Yahira and Camino find discoveries about the families that put them on differences. Each protagonist grieves the life of their larger-than-life father and tries to unravel the tangled web of lies he kept for more than twenty years.

In an interview with the publication Shondaland, Elizabeth Acevedo says, “I see young adult literature as an opportunity to show young people scenarios that might be familiar, but also ones that are rarely spoken of; I can pull certain taboos into the light.” Acevedo adds that “while conversations about secret families, or siblings you don’t know exist, might be something you hear through the grapevine, I wanted to focus the story on the questions of blood and kin that aren’t often explored in an accessible way for teens.”

Tyler Durrant, a student at Huntington Beach High School says, “I really enjoyed reading this book because it is based on a true event that took place, it also explores different topics that are rarely discussed to teens; I recommend reading this book because it allows one to see how this disastrous event separated and destroyed the families of those who lost loved ones.”


3. Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan

A young privileged girl named Esperanza grows up to live a wealthy lifestyle with her family on a ranch in Mexico. Unfortunately, this lavish life that Esperanza has is instantly taken away from her when her father dies. Now Esperanza and her mother are forced to flee to California and settle in a camp farm where she faces the struggles of labor work and the lower-class society who she unwillingly becomes a part of. Due to her struggles she complains and wants her old life back,  Esperanza is not ready to face the scuffle of labor, finance, and acceptance. When their new life is threatened Esperanza must go above and beyond and not let her circumstances affect her, as this could depend on her mother’s and herself’s life.

In an interview with the publication Scholastic, Pam Muñoz Ryan says, “The book was inspired by some actual events, the results of [her] research, and [her] own imagination.  The book is based loosely on [her] grandmother’s immigration and parallels her story,” Munoz adds. She continues to say “the reason for my grandmother’s experiences in the novel was to help teach non-Latinos about the Mexican immigration experience.”

Hayley Durrant, a student at HBHS says, “While reading this novel it made me acknowledge the life and struggles that people around the world face on a day to day life, it made me realize how important it is to cherish the love and sacrifice for family and friends.” 


4. Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez

A young girl Camila Hassan lives a double life; at home, she is a careful daughter who is expected to conform to her mother’s strict standards. On the soccer field, she is a competitive, aggressive, and skilled athlete who is willing to put in the effort to help her team qualify for the South American tournament. When her dreams come true, she may be able to see just how far her abilities can take her. But the road ahead of her isn’t going to be easy. The one problem she faces is her parents’ rejection of her fútbol passion. As a young girl in a Hispanic household, her parents didn’t see their daughter playing a sport meant for boys. Will Camila listen to her parents or will she fight for her dreams?

In an interview with The Children’s Book Club, Yamile Saied Méndez says she wrote this book “for all the young people who have great dreams and talents, but society keeps stopping them because of outdated ideas of what is attainable because of their gender, social status, or skin color.” She continues to say that she “hopes that readers from all backgrounds go into it hoping to get a glimpse into another’s world and that they may be surprised to see a part of themselves in this novel.”

Mariela Miguel, a student from Huntington Beach High School says, “As part of the Hispanic community, I can relate to this novel because I have faced similar things that Camila the protagonist’s faces throughout this novel.” She adds that “it is great to see a Hispanic girl as the protagonist doing things that society thinks girls can’t do because of their gender, this novel proves to society that anyone is able to do anything regardless of their gender.”

These young adult fiction books are definitely worth reading because they immerse readers in a world full of different cultures and perspectives. If you want to get a quick read in,  you may also want to check out some of these poems written by Hispanic authors that are also worthwhile: