Reading Roundup: Six books about Latino culture

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More than ever American readers are seeking books that reflect the communities around them. The national We Need Diverse Books movement, which children’s book authors launched in 2014, has grown to include a demand for multicultural books of all genres. It’s sparked conversations in the literary world about everything from inclusion of diverse characters in books to a lack of diversity in publishing.

Last fall, the Texas Book Festival’s executive director Lois Kim told the Statesman the festival’s goal was to improve diversity. Earlier this month, Matt de la Peña became the first Latino author to win the prestigious John Newbery Medal for literature for his children’s book, “Last Stop on Market Street,” which features African American main characters.

As American readers keep pushing for diversity in literature, Austin360’s Cultura en Austin blog will begin regularly highlighting works by Latino authors and Latino themes.

This roundup, which isn’t a comprehensive list, is based on galleys received in the last couple of months.

“Outside the Margins” Literary Commentaries by Robert Bonazzi

Wings Press, ($18.95), released Oct. 2015
The best of San Antonio Express-News poetry columnist Robert Bonazzi’s work are woven together in “Outside the Margins.” Over the years, his essays and criticisms have been praised by literary giants including Nobel Prize Winner in Literature Octavio Paz. “Thanks to Robert Bonazzi for writing so enthusiastically about the poetry of Latin America, especially for his insightful essay on (Peruvian poet) César Vallejo,” Paz wrote. In this book, Bonazzi focuses on poets and writers from Texas, the Southwest, Mexico and Latin America.
“A Fighting Chance” by Claudia Meléndez Salinas

Piñata Books, Arte Público Press, ($10.95), released Oct. 2015

Cover design by John-Michael Perkins

Cover design by John-Michael Perkins

In her debut novel for young adults, award-winning multimedia journalist Claudia Meléndez Salinas brings us the story of 17-year-old Miguel Ángel. He dreams of becoming a boxing champion one day – it’s the only way his mother and five siblings will be able to leave his gang-ridden neighborhood. But his life gets complicated when he’s faced with temptations that threaten his future.

“Cuando México se (re) apropria de Texas: Ensayos or When Mexico Recaptures Texas: Essays” by Carmen Boullosa

Arte Público Press, ($17.95), released Sept. 2015
Greed, barbarism and feminism. They’re all themes that internationally renowned Mexican novelist and essayist Carmen Boullosa explores in her latest book, which examines the issues that unite and separate Americans and Mexicans from the 19th century to the present. Her collection of 29 thought-provoking essays include subjects such as Occupy Wall Street and the lack of recognition for the work by female artists. The book includes both Boullosa’s Spanish version and the English translation by Nicolás Kanellos.

 

“Texas Mexicans and Postwar Civil Rights” by Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez

University of Texas Press, ($24.95), released in July 2015
As founder and director of the Austin-based Voces Oral History Project (formerly the U.S. Latino & Latina World War II Oral History Project) Maggie Rivas-Rodriguez has helped bring the stories of Latinos throughout the decades to the forefront. Her latest book highlights three little-known advancements in Mexican American civil rights including the launching of the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF).

 

“Their Lives, Their Wills: Women in the Borderlands, 1750-1846” by Amy M. Porter

Texas Tech University Press, ($39.95), released in July 2015
What was life like for women in the borderlands during the 1700 and 1800s? Author Amy M. Porter, an associate professor of history at Texas A&M University-San Antonio took an interesting approach to answering that question by examining the wills of women in the Spanish and Mexican colonial communities of places such as Santa Fe, El Paso and San Antonio. These wills and testaments revealed details about everything from religion and family to economics and culture.

 

“War Against All Puerto Ricans” by Nelson A. Denis

Nation Books, ($28.99), released in April 2015

Courtesy of Nation Books

Courtesy of Nation Books

Author Nelson A. Denis tells the intriguing story of the Puerto Rican independence revolt of 1950, when the Nationalist Party of Puerto Rico launched an unsuccessful armed insurrection against the U.S. Denis dug into de-classified FBI files, congressional testimonies, oral histories and more to bring this little-known history to light.


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