Across Cultures in YA: Hispanic Heritage
Young Latinos are often navigating between many cultures and expectations as they explore their identity throughout adolescence. These stories and novels capture that journey in ways that are funny, heartbreaking, and authentic. Recommended for grades 7-12.
Amor and Summer Secrets
Product Description: For fifteen-year-old Mariana Ruiz, it's not so much an unexpected vacation as a literal "guilt trip" — her father's way of atoning for ignoring his Puerto Rican roots. The heat is merciless, the food is spicy, and her great aunt and uncle's mountain house teems with relatives, only one of whom — her distant cousin Lilly — speaks English. Bored, and hoping to make up for missing her best friend's star-studded Sweet 16, Mariana offers to help in the planning of Lilly's quinceañera.
Becoming Maria: Love and Chaos in the South Bronx
Set in the 1950s in the Bronx, the story of Emmy award-winning actress and writer Sonia Manzano ("Maria" from Sesame Street) plunges us into the daily lives of a Latino family that is loving and troubled. When readers meet young Sonia, she is a child living amidst the squalor of a boisterous home that is filled with noisy relatives and nosy neighbors. Each day she is glued to the TV screen that blots out the painful realities of her existence and also illuminates the possibilities that lie ahead.
Call Me Maria
Product Description: Maria is a girl caught between two worlds: Puerto Rico, where she was born, and New York, where she now lives in a basement apartment in the barrio. While her mother remains on the island, Maria lives with her father, the super of their building. As she struggles to lose her island accent, Maria does her best to find her place within the unfamiliar culture of the barrio. Finally, with Spanglish ringing in her ears, she finds the poet within herself.
Every girl wants to celebrate her quinceañera, or 15th birthday, right? Not necessarily, as half-Cuban, half-Polish Violet can barely speak Spanish. As the plans move forward, Violet comes to terms with her heritage in this warm and funny novel.
Product Description: All Isa wants is to be a regular American teenager, something her Cuban immigrant mother most definitely does not understand. After almost eighteen years of constant debate over everything from birthdays to boys, Isa has had enough. She's counting down the days until she leaves for college — and can get as far away from Miami (North Cuba) as possible. But the more Isa tries to detach herself from her roots, the more tangled she becomes. Will she ever find the normal American life she dreams of? Or is she destined to become a cubanita after all?
Product Description: Mexico may be her parents' home, but it's certainly not Margie's. She has finally convinced the other kids at school she is one-hundred percent American — just like them. But when her Mexican cousin Lupe visits, the image she's created for herself crumbles. Things aren't easy for Lupe, either. Mexico hadn't felt like home since her father went North to find work. Lupe, as much as Margie, is in need of a friend. Little by little, the girls' individual steps find the rhythm of one shared dance, and they learn what "home" really means.
Product Description: In Wisconsin, Rico could blend in. His light hair and lighter skin wouldn't make him the "dark dude" or the punching bag for the whole neighborhood. Trading Harlem for Wisconsin, though, means giving up on a big part of his identity. And when Rico no longer has to prove that he's Latino, he almost stops being one — except there are some things that can't be left behind.
Emily Goldberg Learns to Salsa
"When high-school senior Emily Goldberg leaves her New York suburban home to attend her grandmother's funeral in Puerto Rico, it's her first meeting with her mother's extended family…Emily stays in Puerto Rico for the summer to help Mom reconnect with what she left behind, and discovers a new world…Ostow draws on her own half-Jewish, half-Puerto Rican roots to tell a moving story that has a solid plotline and plenty of family secrets — past and present — as it opens up issues of tradition, feminism, friendship, and loyalty." — Booklist
Product Description: Milly Kaufman is an ordinary American teenager living in Vermont — until she meets Pablo, a new student at her high school. His exotic accent, strange fashion sense, and intense interest in Milly force her to confront her identity as an adopted child from Pablo's native country. As their relationship grows, Milly decides to undertake a courageous journey to her homeland and, along the way, discovers that the story of her birth is intertwined with the story of a country recovering from a brutal history.
I Wanna Be Your Shoebox
Product Description: Because Yumi Ruíz-Hirsch has grandparents from Japan, Cuba, and Brooklyn, her mother calls her a poster child for the twenty-first century. Yumi would laugh if only her life wasn't getting as complicated as her heritage. Yumi wishes everything could stay the same. But as she listens to her grandfather tell his story, she learns that nobody ever asks you if you're ready for life to happen.
It's Not About the Accent
Product Description: Sick and tired of her life in small-town Ohio, college-bound Caroline Darcy is determined to start fresh…as a new person. And that means following in the footsteps of her late Nana Ellie — her witty and vibrant Cuban great-grandmother with a glamorous, well-traveled past. The only person who doesn't seem impressed by her Latina facade is Peter, a quiet, sweet Cuban guy from Miami. But when "Carolina" finds herself in a dangerous situation, it's Peter who comes to her rescue — and leads her on a real adventure to discover the truth about Nana Ellie and her family.
Just Like Us
Product Description: Just Like Us tells the story of four high school students whose parents entered this country illegally from Mexico. We meet the girls on the eve of their senior prom in Denver, Colorado. All four of the girls have grown up in the United States, and all four want to live the American dream, but only two have documents. Just Like Us is a coming-of-age story about girlhood, friendship, and identity — what it means to steal an identity, what it means to have a public identity, what it means to inherit an identity from parents.
Laughing Out Loud, I Fly
Product Description: Juan Felipe Herrera writes in both Spanish and English about the joy and laughter and sometimes the confusion of growing up in an upside-down, jumbled-up world-between two cultures, two homes. Skillfully crafted, joyful, and fun, the poems are paired with whimsical black and white drawings by Karen Barbour.
Lupe Wong Won’t Dance
Lupe Wong is going to be the first female pitcher in the Major Leagues. She’s also championed causes her whole young life. Some worthy…like expanding the options for race on school tests beyond just a few bubbles. And some not so much…like complaining to the BBC about the length between Doctor Who seasons. Lupe needs an A in all her classes in order to meet her favorite pitcher, Fu Li Hernandez, who’s Chinacan/Mexinese just like her. So when the horror that is square dancing rears its head in gym? Obviously she’s not gonna let that slide.
Danny is tall and skinny. Even though he’s not built, his arms are long enough to give his pitch a power so fierce any college scout would sign him on the spot. But at his private school, they don’t expect much else from him. Danny is brown. Half-Mexican brown. And growing up in San Diego that close to the border means everyone else knows exactly who he is before he even opens his mouth. Before they find out he can’t speak Spanish, and before they realize his mom has blond hair and blue eyes, they’ve got him pegged. But it works the other way too.
Red Hot Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Being Young and Latino in the United States
A collection of poems from an array of seasoned poets and young Latino authors describing their experiences in the United States. These poems depict the reality and hardships some young Latinos have experienced in their search for identity, as well as the joy of family gatherings surrounded by food, customs, and culture. Introduction by Oscar Hijuelos.
Song of the Water Saints
Product Description: This debut novel explores the dreams and struggles of three generations of Dominican women. Graciela, born on the outskirts of Santo Domingo at the turn of the century, is a headstrong adventuress who comes of age during the U.S. occupation. Mercedes, abandoned by Graciela at thirteen, turns to religion for solace and, after managing to keep a shop alive during the Trujillo dictatorship, emigrates to New York with her husband and granddaughter, Leila. Leila inherits her great-grandmother Graciela's passion-driven recklessness.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
"Ghetto nerd," outcast, and anime-loving Oscar Wao is the latest in a long line of doomed generations to suffer the dreaded fuku curse of his native Dominican Republic. With humor and talent as his weapons, he perseveres, knowing "you can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in."
The Jumping Tree
Product Description: These lively stories follow Rey Castaneda from sixth through eighth grade in Nuevo Penitas, Texas. As Rey begins to cross the border from childhood into manhood, he turns from jokes and games to sense the meaning of work, love, poverty, and grief, and what it means to be a proud Chicano — moments that sometimes propel him to show feelings un hombre should never express. It's a new territory where Rey longs to follow the example his hardworking, loving father has set for him.
The Revolution of Evelyn Serrano
There are two secrets Evelyn Serrano is keeping from her Mami and Papi: her true feelings about growing up in her Spanish Harlem neighborhood, and her attitude about Abuela, her sassy grandmother who's come from Puerto Rico to live with them. Then, like an urgent ticking clock, events erupt that change everything. The Young Lords, a Puerto Rican activist group, dump garbage in the street and set it on fire, igniting a powerful protest. When Abuela steps in to take charge, Evelyn is thrust into the action. Tempers flare, loyalties are tested.
The Tequila Worm
Sofia is a Mexican-American living in Texas. When she is accepted to a prestigious, predominantly white boarding school, she learns how to meld her Mexican-American roots with her new life. The author includes lots of detail about Mexican culture and heritage.
What Can't Wait
Product Description: Marisa's parents came to Houston from Mexico. They work hard, and they expect Marisa to help her familia. Marisa hears something else from her calc teacher. She should study harder, ace the AP test, and get into engineering school in Austin. Caught between the expectations of two different worlds, Marisa isn't sure what she wants — other than a life where she doesn't end each day thanking God it's over.
When I Was Puerto Rican
Product Description: Esmeralda Santiago's story begins in rural Puerto Rico, where her childhood was full of both tenderness and domestic strife, tropical sounds and sights as well as poverty. When her mother, Mami, a force of nature, takes off to New York with her seven (soon to be eleven) children, Esmeralda as the oldest must learn new rules, a new language, and eventually take on a new identity.
Yes! We Are Latinos
Product Description: Juanita lives in New York and is Mexican. Felipe lives in Chicago and is Panamanian, Venezuelan, and black. Michiko lives in Los Angeles and is Peruvian and Japanese. Each of them is also Latino. Thirteen young Latinos and Latinas living in America are introduced in this book celebrating the rich diversity of the Latino and Latina experience in the United States through free-verse fictional narratives.
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