Journeys in YA: Hispanic Heritage
Young people take all kinds of journeys for all kinds of reasons. Loyalty, curiosity, love, peer pressure, and vengeance are some of the reasons that our travelers set out in these stories of exploration and adventure, which inevitably leave them with big questions about who they are and who they want to be. Recommended for grades 7-12.
A Sunburned Prayer
Eloy loves his grandmother, who is dying of cancer, because she alone makes him feel special. If he can make a 17-mile walk to the shrine of the Santauria de Chimayo on Good Friday, surely she will not die. Talbert manages to make compelling a novel consisting mainly of interior monologues: Eloy's feelings — his fears and his anger with and love for his family — occupy him as he walks through the hot New Mexican countryside. By the journey's end, Eloy's understanding of God, death, and dogs (a stray joins the pilgrimage) has matured more than one day's worth. — Booklist
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.
LaLa learns the stories of her Awful Grandmother and weaves them into a colorful family history. The "caramelo," a striped shawl begun by her Great-Grandmother, symbolizes their traditions.
"Twelve-year-old Rosa remembers only a few things about the home she shared with her loving parents in a Mayan village before she was kidnapped at the age of four. Since then, she has traveled with Uncle, an abusive con artist. After being convinced by a fortune-teller that Rosa will make him rich, Uncle embarks on an obsessive treasure hunt, forcing Rosa to join in his scams for food and money. Rosa hates Uncle's dishonesty and anger, and she feels trapped…The taut, chilling suspense and search for riches will keep readers flying through the pages.
Echoes of Grace
In Eagle Pass, Texas, Grace struggles to understand the echoes she inherited from her mother — visions which often distort her reality. One morning, as her sister, Mercy, rushes off to work, a disturbing echo takes hold of Grace, and within moments, tragedy strikes. Attending community college for the first time, talking to the boy next door, and working toward her goals all help Grace recover, but her estrangement from Mercy takes a deep toll.
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.
Milagros: Girl from Away
Milagros de le Torre hasn’t had an easy life: ever since her father sailed away with pirates she’s been teased at school, and her family struggles to make ends meet. Still, Milagros loves her small island in the Caribbean, and she finds comfort in those who recognize her special gifts. But everything changes when marauders destroy Milagros’s island and with it, most of the inhabitants. Milagros manages to escape in a rowboat where she drifts out to sea with no direction, save for the mysterious manta rays that guide her to land.
Sofi Mendoza's Guide to Getting Lost in Mexico
Product Description: Even though Sofi Mendoza was born in Mexico, she's spent most of her life in California. But when Sofi and her friends sneak off for a weekend in Tijuana, she gets in real trouble. To Sofi's shock, the border patrol says that her green card is counterfeit. Until her parents can sort out the paperwork and legal issues, Sofi is stuck in Mexico. In the meantime, Sofi's parents arrange for her to stay with long-lost relatives in rural Baja. Through the unexpected crash course in her heritage, Sofi comes to appreciate that she has a home on both sides of the border.
Solimar: The Sword of the Monarchs
Ever since Solimar was a little girl, she has gone to the ouamel forest bordering her kingdom to observe the monarch butterflies during their migration, but always from a safe distance. Now, on the brink of her quinceañera and her official coronation, Solimar crosses the dangerous creek to sit among the butterflies. There, a mysterious event gives her a gift and a burden — the responsibility to protect the young and weak butterflies with her magical rebozo, or silk shawl. Solimar is committed to fulfilling her role, and has a plan that might have worked.
Summer of the Mariposas
Product Description: When Odilia and her four sisters find a dead body in the swimming hole, they embark on a hero's journey to return the dead man to his family in Mexico. But returning home to Texas turns into an odyssey that would rival Homer's original tale. With the supernatural aid of ghostly La Llorona, Odilia and her little sisters travel a road of tribulation to their long-lost grandmother's house. Along the way, they must outsmart a witch and her Evil Trinity.
The Everything I Have Lost
12-year-old Julia keeps a diary about her life growing up in Juárez, Mexico. Life in Juárez is strange. People say it's the murder capital of the world. Dad’s gone a lot. They can’t play outside because it isn’t safe. Drug cartels rule the streets. Cars and people disappear, leaving behind pet cats. Then Dad disappears and Julia and her brother go live with her aunt in El Paso. What’s happened to her Dad? Julia wonders. Is he going to disappear forever? A coming-of-age story set in today’s Juárez.
The Girl Who Could Silence the Wind
Sixteen-year-old Sonia Ocampo was born on the night of the worst storm Tres Montes had ever seen. And when the winds mercifully stopped, an unshakable belief in the girl’s protective powers began. Sonia knows she has no special powers, but how can she disappoint those who look to her for solace? When she gets a chance to travel to the city and work in the home of a wealthy woman, she seizes it. But when news arrives that her beloved brother has disappeared while looking for work, she learns to her sorrow that she can never truly leave the past or her family behind.
The Last Summer of the Death Warriors
Product Description: When Pancho arrives at St. Anthony's Home, he knows his time there will be short: If his plans succeed, he'll soon be arrested for the murder of his sister's killer. But then he's assigned to help D.Q., whose brain cancer has slowed neither his spirit nor his mouth. D.Q. tells Pancho all about his "Death Warrior's Manifesto," which will help him to live out his last days fully — ideally, he says, with the love of the beautiful Marisol. As Pancho tracks down his sister's murderer, he finds himself falling under the influence of D.Q. and Marisol, who is everything D.Q.
The Notebook Series #1: The Indigo Notebook
Product Description: Zeeta's life with her free-spirited mother, Layla, is anything but normal. Every year Layla picks another country she wants to live in. This summer they're in Ecuador, and Zeeta is determined to convince her mother to settle down. There, Zeeta meets Wendell. She learns that he was born nearby, but adopted by an American family. His one wish is to find his birth parents, and Zeeta agrees to help him.
We Were Here
Product Description: When it happened, Miguel was sent to Juvi. The judge gave him a year in a group home — said he had to write in a journal so some counselor could try to figure out how he thinks. But Miguel didn't bet on meeting Rondell or Mong or on any of what happened after they broke out. He only thought about Mexico and getting to the border to where he could start over. Life usually doesn't work out how you think it will, though. And most of the time, running away is the quickest path right back to what you're running from.
We Weren't Looking to Be Found
Dani comes from the richest, most famous Black family in Texas and has everything a girl could want. So why does she keep using drugs and engaging in other self-destructive behavior? Camila’s Colombian American family doesn’t have much, but she knows exactly what she wants out of life and works hard to get it. So why does she keep failing, and why does she self-harm every time she does? When Dani and Camila find themselves rooming together at Peach Tree Hills, a treatment facility in beautiful rural Georgia, they initially think they’ll never get along ― and they’ll never get better.
What the Moon Saw
"Out of the blue, 14-year-old Clara Luna receives a letter from her grandparents inviting her to spend the summer with them in Mexico. She has never met her father's parents and he has not seen them since he left his homeland more than 20 years ago. Wary of visiting people she doesn't know and yet frustrated and restless with her life at home, Clara embarks on the two-day journey to the remote village of Yucuyoo.
Why Does the Coqui Sing?
Product Description: So far, the move "home" from Chicago to Puerto Rico is not sitting right with Luz. Mami and Luz's new stepfather act as if they've arrived in the promised land, but the rundown section of San Juan where the family is living temporarily is hardly paradise. Luz misses her old life terribly. Only when she visits her grandfather Tata's farm, with the songs of little frogs called coqui everywhere, does Puerto Rico's magic touch her. Only when Luz hears Tata's kind and wise words does she begin to believe that everything might turn out all right.
With a Star in My Hand: Rubén Darío, Poetry Hero
As a little boy, Rubén Darío loved to listen to his great uncle, a man who told tall tales in a booming, larger-than-life voice. Rubén quickly learned the magic of storytelling, and discovered the rapture and beauty of verse. He began to improvise his own poetic forms so he could capture the entire world in his words.
See more great related resources and videos in our Multicultural Literature section!