Latinx Book Recs for Latinx Heritage Month 2021

This list is a bit late but I wanted to make sure that I put a list out for you all of some of the Latinx books that I have enjoyed this past year. This is only a few of the Latinx books that are out there and I want to make sure that we are not only reading Latinx books this month but throughout the year.

Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp 

I’m Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter meets Emergency Contact in this stunning story of first love, familial expectations, the power of food, and finding where you belong.

Penelope Prado has always dreamed of opening her own pastelería next to her father’s restaurant, Nacho’s Tacos. But her mom and dad have different plans—leaving Pen to choose between disappointing her traditional Mexican American parents or following her own path. When she confesses a secret she’s been keeping, her world is sent into a tailspin. But then she meets a cute new hire at Nacho’s who sees through her hard exterior and asks the questions she’s been too afraid to ask herself.

Xander Amaro has been searching for home since he was a little boy. For him, a job at Nacho’s is an opportunity for just that—a chance at a normal life, to settle in at his abuelo’s, and to find the father who left him behind. But when both the restaurant and Xander’s immigrant status are threatened, he will do whatever it takes to protect his newfound family and himself.

Together, Pen and Xander must navigate first love and discovering where they belong in order to save the place they all call home.

This stunning and poignant novel from debut author Laekan Zea Kemp explores identity, found families and the power of food, all nestled within a courageous and intensely loyal Chicanx community.

Fifteen Hundred Miles from the Sun by Jonny Garza Villa 

A poignant, funny, openhearted novel about coming out, first love, and being your one and only best and true self.

Julián Luna has a plan for his life: Graduate. Get into UCLA. And have the chance to move away from Corpus Christi, Texas, and the suffocating expectations of others that have forced Jules into an inauthentic life.

Then in one reckless moment, with one impulsive tweet, his plans for a low-key nine months are thrown—literally—out the closet. The downside: the whole world knows, and Jules has to prepare for rejection. The upside: Jules now has the opportunity to be his real self.

Then Mat, a cute, empathetic Twitter crush from Los Angeles, slides into Jules’s DMs. Jules can tell him anything. Mat makes the world seem conquerable. But when Jules’s fears about coming out come true, the person he needs most is fifteen hundred miles away. Jules has to face them alone.

Jules accidentally propelled himself into the life he’s always dreamed of. And now that he’s in control of it, what he does next is up to him.

Fat Chance, Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado 

Coming of age as a Fat brown girl in a white Connecticut suburb is hard.
Harder when your whole life is on fire, though.

Charlie Vega is a lot of things. Smart. Funny. Artistic. Ambitious. Fat.

People sometimes have a problem with that last one. Especially her mom. Charlie wants a good relationship with her body, but it’s hard, and her mom leaving a billion weight loss shakes on her dresser doesn’t help. The world and everyone in it have ideas about what she should look like: thinner, lighter, slimmer-faced, straighter-haired. Be smaller. Be whiter. Be quieter.

But there’s one person who’s always in Charlie’s corner: her best friend Amelia. Slim. Popular. Athletic. Totally dope. So when Charlie starts a tentative relationship with cute classmate Brian, the first worthwhile guy to notice her, everything is perfect until she learns one thing–he asked Amelia out first. So is she his second choice or what? Does he even really see her? UGHHH. Everything is now officially a MESS.

A sensitive, funny, and painful coming-of-age story with a wry voice and tons of chisme, Fat Chance, Charlie Vega tackles our relationships to our parents, our bodies, our cultures, and ourselves.

How Moon Fuentez Fell in Love with the Universe by Raquel Vasquez Gilliland 

The Hating Game meets I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter in this irresistible romance starring a Mexican American teen who discovers love and profound truths about the universe when she spends her summer on a road trip across the country.

When her twin sister reaches social media stardom, Moon Fuentez accepts her fate as the ugly, unwanted sister hidden in the background, destined to be nothing more than her sister’s camerawoman. But this summer, Moon also takes a job as the “merch girl” on a tour bus full of beautiful influencers and her fate begins to shift in the best way possible.

Most notable is her bunkmate and new nemesis, Santiago Phillips, who is grumpy, combative, and also the hottest guy Moon has ever seen.

Moon is certain she hates Santiago and that he hates her back. But as chance and destiny (and maybe, probably, close proximity) bring the two of them in each other’s perpetual paths, Moon starts to wonder if that’s really true. She even starts to question her destiny as the unnoticed, unloved wallflower she always thought she was.

Could this summer change Moon’s life as she knows it?

Living Beyond Borders: Stories About Growing Up Mexican in America by Margarita Longoria

Twenty stand-alone short stories, essays, poems, and more from celebrated and award-winning authors make up this YA anthology that explores the Mexican American experience. With works by Francisco X. Stork, Guadalupe Garcia McCall, David Bowles, Rubén Degollado, e.E. Charlton-Trujillo, Diana López, Xavier Garza, Trinidad Gonzales, Alex Temblador, Aida Salazar, Lupe Ruiz-Flores, Sylvia Sanchez Garza, Dominic Carrillo, Angela Cervantes, Carolyn Dee Flores, René Saldaña Jr., Laura Perez, Justine Narro, Daniel García Ordáz, and Anna Meriano.

In this mixed-media collection of short stories, personal essays, poetry, and comics, this celebrated group of authors share the borders they have crossed, the struggles they have pushed through, and the two cultures they continue to navigate as Mexican American. Living Beyond Borders is at once an eye-opening, heart-wrenching, and hopeful love letter from the Mexican American community to today’s young readers. 

When We Make It by Elisabet Velasquez Book Review

Book Description

An unforgettable young adult debut novel-in-verse that redefines what it means to make it, touching on themes of mental illness, sexual assault, food insecurity and gentrification, in the Nuyorican literary tradition of Nicholasa Mohr and the work of contemporary writer Elizabeth Acevedo.

Sarai is a first-generation Puerto Rican eighth grader who can see with clarity the truth, pain, and beauty of the world both inside and outside her Bushwick apartment. Together with her older sister Estrella, she navigates the strain of family traumas and the systemic pressures of toxic masculinity and housing insecurity in a rapidly gentrifying Brooklyn. Sarai questions the society around her, her Boricua identity, and the life she lives with determination and an open heart, learning to celebrate herself in a way that she has been denied.

When We Make It is a love letter to girls who were taught to believe they would not make it at all. The verse is evocative and insightful, and readers are sure to be swept into Sarai’s world and rooting for her long after they close the book.

Review

Thank You to Penguin Random House for the advanced copy of this book as well as the finished copy so that I am able to review.

Thoughts and Themes: I really enjoy reading books in verse because of how different the stories go and how much emotion can be packed in. I like how Sarai is questioning so many of the things around her in this book and her place amongst everything and everyone.

I really liked how this story took you around the places Sarai was living in but also introduced you to her culture. I liked getting introduced to her culture through each verse and learning more about her and her family.

Characters: In this book you get introduced to several characters through their interactions with Sarai. You get to meet her mother, sister, and some of the other adults who briefly are in her life. While each character is introduced to you briefly, I think you get a good image of the role that everyone plays in Sarai’s life.

I really liked getting to know Sarai through the whole book and how she thinks of the world and of others. I also liked getting to see the relationship that Sarai has with her sister throughout this book. I thought it was great to see how she doesn’t want to be anything like her sister but she also really respects her sister. I liked that we get to see both Sarai and her sister’s relationship with their mother but also how far away their mother is from them emotionally.

Writing Style: This book is written in prose and I really liked that choice. I liked how none of the pieces were long and it gave you the sense of how Sarai was always going from one place to the next physically or emotionally. There were so many pieces that I really enjoyed in this book and it was just great to be able to explore Sarai’s world through poetry.

Author Information

ELISABET VELASQUEZ is a Brooklyn Born Boricua.

She is a mother of two.

Her poems are an exploration of her life. 

Velasquez has performed at Lincoln Center Out Of Doors, Pregones Theatre, Bushwick Starr Theatre, The Bowery Poetry Club, Brooklyn Museum, Museum Of Natural History, The Nuyorican Poets Cafe, Rutgers University, Williams College, Adelphi University, Pace University, Princeton University, James Madison University, Harvard University and The Amber Rose Slut Walk 2017. 

Her work has been featured on  TIDALNBC, Now This, Huffington Post, Latina Magazine, Vibe Magazine, Muzzle MagazineCentro Voces. She is a VONA Alum, 2017 Poets House Fellow. She is the winner of Button Poetry’s 2017 Poetry Video Contest. She is a 2019 Frost Place Fellow. Her work is forthcoming in the anthology : WHAT SAVES US Poems of Empathy and Outrage In The Age Of Trump edited by Martin Espada.

In The Heights (2021) Movie Review

Movie Description

Streaming on: HBO Max

Length: 2 hours and 23 minutes

Directed by: Jon M Chu

Genres: Drama, Music, Musical

Writers: Quiara Alegría Hudes…(screenplay by) 

Quiara Alegría Hudes (based on the musical stage play, book by) Lin-Manuel Miranda

(based on the musical stage play, concept by)

Starring:  Anthony Ramos, Corey Hawkins, Leslie Grace 

The scent of a cafecito caliente hangs in the air just outside of the 181st Street subway stop. The likeable, magnetic bodega owner Usnavi saves every penny from his daily grind as he hopes, imagines and sings about a better life.

The Mary Shelley Club by Goldy Moldavsky Book Tour Post

I am so excited to get a chance to be a part of this book tour hosted by Colored Pages Bookish Tours Make sure you check out the rest of the posts that are a part of this tour by looking at the schedule for the tour found here. 

Author Information

Goldy Moldavsky was born in Lima, Peru, and grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where she lives with her family. She is the New York Times–bestselling author of Kill the Boy Band and No Good Deed. Some of her influences include Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the esteemed works of John Irving, and the Mexican telenovelas she grew up watching with her mother.

You can find Goldy at:  

Website ~ Goodreads ~ Twitter ~ Instagram

Book Description

Title: The Mary Shelley Club

Author: Goldy Moldavsky 

Publisher: Henry Holt Books For Young Readers

Publication Date: April 13th, 2021 

Genres: Young Adult Thriller

Synopsis:

New York Times-bestselling author Goldy Moldavsky delivers a deliciously twisty YA thriller that’s Scream meets Karen McManus about a mysterious club with an obsession for horror.

When it comes to horror movies, the rules are clear:

x Avoid abandoned buildings, warehouses, and cabins at all times.

x Stay together: don’t split up, not even just to “check something out.”

x If there’s a murderer on the loose, do not make out with anyone.

If only surviving in real life were this easy…

New girl Rachel Chavez turns to horror movies for comfort, preferring stabby serial killers and homicidal dolls to the bored rich kids of Manhattan Prep…and to certain memories she’d preferred to keep buried.

Then Rachel is recruited by the Mary Shelley Club, a mysterious society of students who orchestrate Fear Tests, elaborate pranks inspired by urban legends and movie tropes. At first, Rachel embraces the power that comes with reckless pranking. But as the Fear Tests escalate, the competition turns deadly, and it’s clear Rachel is playing a game she can’t afford to lose.

You can find this book at:

Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Book Depository ~ Barnes & Noble ~ IndieBound ~ Indigo ~ BAM!

Review

Thank you to NetGalley, Colored Pages Tour, and the publisher for an advanced copy of the book so that I could participate in this book tour.

Thoughts and Themes: The minute that I started reading this book it was one that I could not put down. Lately I’ve really been into the Young Adult Horror genre and I don’t know if it’s because of the weather or just because I hadn’t read much before so I didn’t know how much I would love it. This book stole my heart right from the start and then it broke it into a million pieces by the end which is why it got 5 stars.

First, it is taking all of me to just not keyboard smash for this review because I am still in all my feelings because of this book. I do not remember the last time that I stayed up just to finish a book because I wanted to and not because I waited until the last minute to read it. I really just want to ramble on about this book but what I want to ramble on about is the twists that occur at the end of the book and for that I will wait.

I saw so many reviews stating that they saw the twist coming and either I saw it but didn’t want to believe it like our main character or I was that oblivious to it. That really was part of why I loved the book, I enjoyed that I was being strung along just like the main character was. I liked the aspect that as a reader I was just as fooled as she was and that was why the ending hurt as much as it did. I felt just as heartbroken as she did when everything was revealed.

The way that this story ends really makes you think about the rest of the story and made me want to go back and re-read to see if I could make more connections now that I know everything. The ending also left me wanting more because I need to know what happens now or is it just up to our interpretation.

Characters: This is honestly my favorite part of the book and also the saddest. These characters are the reason I wish I had a physical copy so I could throw the book across the room but throwing myself had to do because I couldn’t harm my kindle. These characters are just lovable right from the start and I am so disappointed in them by the end of the story but I can’t tell you why without ruining this book.

There are several characters that you get introduced to right from the start. Rachel, Bram, Freddie, Thayer, and Felicity who make up the members of the Mary Shelley Club. Then you meet the side characters who play a role in this story, Lux who is Bram’s girlfriend and Saundra, Rachel’s best friend.

I really liked that we got a Latinx main character and liked reading the difference between her and the others at the school. I liked that we got to see how she felt that she was living in a different world because of her social economic status and we see her connect with Freddie because of this.

I liked the way that Rachel develops a relationship with each member of the Mary Shelley Club and how though they have one goal in mind they all have distinct personalities. I thought that it was great to learn more about each character as time went on and what I really wanted to know is their motives behind being in this club. I wanted to know what was keeping them there and what they were so scared of because we only got to see Rachel’s initiation into the club.

I want to discuss my favorite character with you all and I will but I just can’t tell you who it is without ruining the ending. I enjoyed the development of this character and their relationship with others, and seeing the manipulation throughout this whole story. I found the character lovable right from when you meet them so I was really heart broken by how things had to end up. I was rooting for them the whole time and was hoping for a different ending while knowing it had to end this way.

Writing Style: This story is told in first person through the perspective of Rachel, our main character. There are moments that the story switches to third person during a fear test so that we are able to see what that character sees at that time. I really enjoyed the fear tests and how they were included into the story. I liked that they made you feel like you were that character going through the fear tests. Each of those fear tests were moments in the story that scared me even if I knew it was all a game.

Fat Chance Charlie Vega by Crystal Maldonado Book Tour Post

I am so excited to get a chance to be a part of this book tour hosted by HearOurVoicesBookTours . Make sure you check out the rest of the posts that are a part of this tour by looking at the schedule for the tour found here. 

Author Information

Crystal Maldonado is a young adult author with a lot of feelings. Her debut novel, FAT CHANCE, CHARLIE VEGA (Holiday House), will be released on Feb. 2, 2021.

By day, she is a social media manager working in higher ed, and by night, a writer who loves Beyoncé, shopping, the internet, and being extra.

She lives in western Massachusetts with her husband, daughter, and dog. 

You can find Crystal Maldonado at:

Twitter ~ Instagram ~ Website ~ Goodreads

Book Description

Publisher: Penguin Random House

Release Date: February 2, 2021

Genre: YA Fiction

Book Info:

Coming of age as a Fat brown girl in a white Connecticut suburb is hard.

Harder when your whole life is on fire, though.

Charlie Vega is a lot of things. Smart. Funny. Artistic. Ambitious. Fat.

People sometimes have a problem with that last one. Especially her mom. Charlie wants a good relationship with her body, but it’s hard, and her mom leaving a billion weight loss shakes on her dresser doesn’t help. The world and everyone in it have ideas about what she should look like: thinner, lighter, slimmer-faced, straighter-haired. Be smaller. Be whiter. Be quieter.

But there’s one person who’s always in Charlie’s corner: her best friend Amelia. Slim. Popular. Athletic. Totally dope. So when Charlie starts a tentative relationship with cute classmate Brian, the first worthwhile guy to notice her, everything is perfect until she learns one thing–he asked Amelia out first. So is she his second choice or what? Does he even really see her? UGHHH. Everything is now officially a MESS.

A sensitive, funny, and painful coming-of-age story with a wry voice and tons of chisme, Fat Chance, Charlie Vega tackles our relationships to our parents, our bodies, our cultures, and ourselves.

You Can Find this Book at:

Goodreads ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble  ~ Bookshop.org

Review

Thoughts and Themes: I normally write my reviews as I read the book so that I don’t forget anything about them. I did this one differently though because I didn’t want to put it down even to take notes. I just highlighted all the important things in my kindle and most of my notes are exclamation marks or emojis.

There are so many themes that are explored throughout this book, weight issues, anxiety, self-esteem, jealousy, and friendship. I really enjoyed the way that each of these themes are tackled and how we get each of these themes through multiple characters.

I liked that this book focuses on weight issues and we have a fat main character who isn’t trying to change herself. I like that rather than lose weight through the course of this story or give in to what society and her mother wants, Charlie learns to love herself and immerse herself in the body positivity community online.

I also like the conversations that Charlie has with Amelia, and with Brian. I think we get to see a lot of her in those conversations and this is where we see her insecurities. I liked how we see those insecurities and we see both Amelia and Brian try to lift her but also struggle with the way she talks about herself.

I just want and need more happy ending for Latinxs, and stories that are just full of joy for us.

Characters: Throughout this story you are introduced to a wide range of characters who I really enjoyed. There is just one character that is really hard to love but in the end I like what they did with the character.

I really liked the complexity of Charlie and Amelia’s friendship and how Charlie waited so long to tell Amelia how she felt. I also like the way Charlie just assumed that Amelia had no problems because everyone thinks she’s beautiful. Their relationship reminded me of the relationship that I have with my best friend but thankfully we were never into the same people.

I had a hard time with Charlie’s mother because of how she treated Charlie due to the way she saw herself and the internalized fatphobia. It was hard to like her even at the closing of the story but what I did enjoy is that things didn’t magically get fixed between them. I liked that the mother and daughter relationship was complicated from start to finish because it felt real.

I really enjoyed the relationship between Charlie and Brian, with my favorite part being that the whole story wasn’t revolving around this. I loved that the book points out how important it is to find ways to love yourself and not only because someone else loves you. I thought it was nice to see the progression of their relationship and see the difficulties that they face due to Charlie’s insecurities.

Writing Style: This story is told in the first person through Charlie’s perspective which I love. I liked that through this whole story we are in Charlie’s mind and seeing what she thinks about everything happening around her and to her. I thought it was great that we didn’t get to know how Brian felt about Charlie’s actions or even how Amelia felt unless they shared with Charlie. I think because you are only getting her perspective it allows you to feel for her each time something goes wrong.

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas Book Review

Author Information

Aiden Thomas is a YA author with an MFA in Creative Writing. Originally from Oakland, California, they now make their home in Portland, OR. As a queer, trans, latinx, Aiden advocates strongly for diverse representation in all media. Aiden’s special talents include: quoting The Office, useless trivia, Jenga, finishing sentences with “is my FAVORITE”, and killing spiders. Aiden is notorious for not being able to guess the endings of books and movies, and organizes their bookshelves by color.

Book Description

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

Review

Thank You to The Clever Reader for ensuring this book got into the hands of an own voices reviewer by passing along this book to me so that I could get a chance to read and review it early.

There are so many things to love about this book right from the start of it, well actually more like right from reading the blurb about it. I loved this book right from knowing the protagonist was a gay, Latinx, transgender guy. Books that have so many of my identities in one character are rare to find so I was just happy to be able to see myself in something that I was reading.

One of my favorite parts of this book is the conflict that Yadriel has with the love he has for his family and their unwillingness to accept him as a brujo. There is a portion where Julian questions who Yadriel is trying to be enough for and I put down the book to cry my eyes out at this. My family is so important to me and I feel like I hide so much of myself or make adjustments to who I am to be enough for them without questioning if I am now not being enough for myself. It is such a hard feeling to put into words but that scene just captured so many feelings in a few words.

I love the world building and the character development in this book. Each scene was well crafted and I could picture things as they were happening. The characters all had vivid descriptions of them and they all were easily identifiable. I loved how Yads changes through the course of the book as he learns to love not only someone else but himself as well. I thought that was such an important aspect that this book shows and really was the most important part to this book.

Dia De Muertos is not something that I am entirely familiar with as American culture was what was emphasized for me growing up so I don’t know the traditions of where my parents are from. I love getting to read about this holiday though because each book has a different way of describing it even though it comes down to being about celebrate our loved ones who have passed.

Books can usually make me tear up but not full on cry but this book had to be put down because of the tears. There is so much emotions packed into the last few pages of this book and I just couldn’t get enough. Not only are the last few pages packed with emotions but you get one twist right after another which I really enjoyed.

I really hope that you all go out and read this book that means so much to me. You can pre-order this book at:

Eso Won Books ~ Amazon ~ Barnes & Noble ~ The Book Depository ~ Kobo ~ Google

To check out an interview with the author, Aiden Thomas, learn more about them and their debut novel, click here.

Cemetery Boys- Blog Tour Stop- Author Interview

Author Information

Aiden Thomas is a YA author with an MFA in Creative Writing. Originally from Oakland, California, they now make their home in Portland, OR. As a queer, trans, latinx, Aiden advocates strongly for diverse representation in all media. Aiden’s special talents include: quoting The Office, Harry Potter trivia, Jenga, finishing sentences with “is my FAVORITE”, and killing spiders. Aiden is notorious for not being able to guess the endings of books and movies, and organizes their bookshelves by color.

Their debut novel, CEMETERY BOYS, will be published June 9th, 2020.

You can find Aiden Thomas at:

  1. Website
  2. Twitter
  3. Instagram

Book Description

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

Author Interview

Thank you to Hear Our Voices Book Tour for the opportunity to host the author interview on my page. I’m very excited to share with you all what I learned from the author and more reasons why you need to get this book now. Another big thank you to Aiden Thomas for the opportunity to get to know more about them and their debut novel.Well let’s not wait any longer and jump right into the Q & A portion of this interview.

For those who are meeting you for the first time what would you say are 3 “Good To Know” Facts About You?

  1. I’m a Cancer sun, Leo rising! (I don’t actually know anything about astrology but whenever I tell folks they go, “that makes so much sense!” so I guess it’s important for getting to know me!)
  2. I’m 5’11”! For some reason, people always expect me to be short but I’m actually pretty dang tall in person!
  3. I’m totally obsessed with the anime Haikyuu!! and spend most of my time on Twitter looking at fanart. 

What would you say are your 5 favorite books – and why? 

  1. “The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller because it has the most beautiful prose I have ever read!
  2. “Labyrinth Lost” by Zoraida Cordova because that was the first time I saw my culture reflected in a book. It’s because of The Brooklyn Bruja series that I realized I could write a book like “Cemetery Boys!”
  3. “When the Moon Was Ours” by Anna-Marie MeLemore because it was the first time I read a book with a trans character (and the book itself is so beautiful).
  4. “The Hunger Games” by Suzanne Collins because the pacing and action is so good! I must’ve read that series close to a dozen times at this point.
  5. “I Hear the Sunspot” by Yuki Fumino which is technically a manga series, BUT it holds a very special and important piece of my heart! It’s a gay romance and one of the main characters is deaf. It’s the first time I saw deaf/H.O.H. representation in a book and it’s done so well! I recommend it to literally everyone.

Would you say that any of those books/authors inspired you to become a writer? If so, how? If not, what did inspire you to become a writer? 
They’ve all inspired parts of my writing, but I’ve wanted to be a writer since I was in elementary school! I’ve always had really vivid dreams, especially nightmares, so when I was little as we had to do journaling for class, I’d write them down like a story. Then as I grew up, reading great
books made me want to write great books, so that’s what led me down the path of pursuing it as a life passion!

Tell us a little bit about Cemetery Boys and your inspiration behind the story? 
“Cemetery Boys” is a contemporary paranormal fantasy about a trans boy named Yadriel who is trying to prove to his family he’s a brujo. He decides, in order to do that, he’s going to summon the spirit of his cousin, Miguel, who died under mysterious circumstances and release him to the
afterlife. Unfortunately, he ends up summoning the spirit of Julian Diaz, the resident bad boy of his high school. The two have to work together to find out what happened to Yadriel’s cousin and what happened to Julian’s friends the night he was killed. As they go about trying to solve
these mysteries, Yadriel ends up developing feelings for Julian and that complicates everything. The inspiration for the premise actually came from a writing prompt I saw while scrolling through Tumblr! It said, “What would you do if you summoned a ghost and you couldn’t get rid of it?” and
instead of the creepy scenarios that other folks were coming up with, my mind immediately went to, “And what if he was CUTE??” I also really wanted to write a book with a trans main character where it was less about being trans, or figuring out his identity. I wanted it to be a fun adventure
where the main character just so happened to be trans.

Your story is set in East Los Angeles and takes place around the Day of the Dead. Why did you choose that as the setting for your book?
I was born and raised in California and I decided to have “Cemetery Boys” take place there because the city is really a central place where so many different Latinx communities come together. I wanted to reflect that in the brujx — how they all have this magical Mesoamerican lineage, but they also come from different Latinx countries and pieces of those cultures are
celebrated and make up the brujx community. I chose everything to center around Dia de Muertos because it’s my favorite holiday, but also because it all revolves around death and the afterlife, which perfectly aligned with the premise!

What was something about Cemetery Boys that you struggled to write or come up with?
I’d say the research part of writing “Cemetery Boys” was surprisingly challenging. The Latinx diaspora made it really difficult for me to have definitive research. I wanted to incorporate different Mesoamerican cultures — Aztec, Maya and Inca — to really establish that brujx were
around before and during the establishment of these cultures, that they have an ancient magic. The problem is that, due to colonization, indigenous Mesoamerican traditions and mythos have been destroyed or erased. Physical remnants of our history were widely destroyed, so we have
to rely on oral tradition and try to decipher the few artefacts we do have access to, most of which have been stolen from us and put into museums. I was surprised by how difficult it really was to find research, but, if nothing else, it did give me room to be creative and make my own mythos for my brujx. And, luckily, there’s no shortage of death gods in Mesoamerican myths!

What would you say was the most surprising thing that you learned while writing your novel? 
Honestly, learning the ropes of the publishing industry was a big crash course! I had no idea what publishing was like before I sold my first book to Swoon Reads/Macmillan. I didn’t even have a Twitter! So writing “Cemetery Boys” taught me a lot about what publishing is. I’m also constantly surprised by how wonderful and supportive the writing community has been.

What do you hope your readers take away from reading Cemetery Boys? 
I really hope readers will find connection and feel seen when they read “Cemetery Boys”. I wanted to create a story for readers to connect with Yadriel on universal truths that are basic to the human experience, things like struggling to fit in, feeling accepted for who you are, and being loved. A lot of queer teens experience their first sense of belonging or affirmation with queer bloggers, YouTubers, Tiktokers and, of course, characters in books — like Yadriel. Even if they can’t talk to them personally, seeing people with their identities, seeing themselves reflected in books, or internet stars telling them they’re valid gives them a sense of community and comfort. I really hope Yadriel can be that for some folks.

What is your next project? What have you been working on recently?
Right now I’m kind of dabbling in a bunch of different stuff! My second book is already ready to be published so I’ve been taking time to explore my writing and different genres I’m interested in. I’ve been working on a trans romcom, as well as a Maya myth retelling, and I’ve also got a dark fantasy idea that has to do with kids cursed by Aztec death gods! I’m going to have a lot of fun figuring out what my next book will be!

What advice do you have for aspiring writers?
FINISH YOUR FIRST DRAFT! I feel like writers always ask for advice when it comes to improving their story, but you have to get that rough draft down before you can make it better. The hardest part is finishing that manuscript, and you can query or get published until you have a completed draft to work on!

Check out the rest of the stops on this book tour here.

Pre-Order this book now at:

Amazon | Barnes & Noble | The Book Depository | Kobo | Google

Release Date: September 01, 2020

Don’t Ask Me Where I’m From Book Review

Summary: First-generation American LatinX Liliana Cruz does what it takes to fit in at her new nearly all-white school. But when family secrets spill out and racism at school ramps up, she must decide what she believes in and take a stand.

Fifteen-year-old Liliana is fine, thank you very much. It’s fine that her best friend, Jade, is all caught up in her new boyfriend lately. It’s fine that her inner-city high school is disorganized and underfunded. It’s fine that her father took off again—okay, maybe that isn’t fine, but what is Liliana supposed to do? She’s fifteen! Being left with her increasingly crazy mom? Fine. Her heathen little brothers? Fine, fine, fine. But it turns out Dad did leave one thing behind besides her crazy family. Before he left, he signed Liliana up for a school desegregation program called METCO. And she’s been accepted.

Being accepted into METCO, however, isn’t the same as being accepted at her new school. In her old school, Liliana—half-Guatemalan and half-Salvadorian—was part of the majority where almost everyone was a person of color. But now at Westburg, where almost everyone is white, the struggles of being a minority are unavoidable. It becomes clear that the only way to survive is to lighten up—whiten up. And if Dad signed her up for this program, he wouldn’t have just wanted Liliana to survive, he would have wanted her to thrive. So what if Liliana is now going by Lili? So what if she’s acting like she thinks she’s better than her old friends? It’s not a big deal. It’s fine.

But then she discovers the gutting truth about her father: He’s not on one of his side trips. And it isn’t that he doesn’t want to come home…he can’t. He’s undocumented and he’s been deported back to Guatemala. Soon, nothing is fine, and Lili has to make a choice: She’s done trying to make her white classmates and teachers feel more comfortable. Done changing who she is, denying her culture and where she came from. They want to know where she’s from, what she’s about? Liliana is ready to tell them.

Thoughts and Themes: First off thank you so much to The Heart of a Book Blogger for sending this book my way and putting it on my radar. This is a book that I had heard about briefly but that was it. I’m so glad that I read it because it is on my list of top books for 2020. That being said I have so much to say about this book and I don’t think this review will even begin to cover how seen this book made me feel.

There were so many moments in this book in which I connected to Liliana. This is a book that I so much wish was around when I was a high schooler feeling so out of place in my school for advanced studies program, or when I transferred to a predominantly white private college from community College. I felt so out of place amongst the others but I never had words to express why and how do you talk to your parents about it when they think this is to give you a better chance later.

Something this book made me think about was how my degree gave me opportunities but I’m in the same neighborhood. The bus ride that Liliana takes every morning reminds me of the ride I take daily to work and where I can see things change as if I’m visiting another world. A world that reminds me that I’m only a visitor there, my time in it is temporary and then I’ll go back to my reality.

I loved the portion in which the connection between the story and the title happen. It reminds me of what I want to respond sometimes when people ask where I’m from. It reminded me of what it feels like to say “um from here” , and then clarify “but my parents are from Mexico and El Salvador” and then to have people insist that it couldn’t be possible.

I love the complexity of this book and everything that it discusses. I like the different topics that are brought up such as: immigration, segregation, social economic class, racism, etc. I think Jennifer De Leon does a great job at introducing these topics throughout the story and having the characters learn through different interactions with each other.

I think that the book wrapped up great and I like how it points out that the racism at the school isn’t fixed but its a start. I thought that it was important that the book recognized one event wasn’t going to solve everything and things wouldn’t change overnight. I enjoyed how one event started a dialog and how that event started change not just for the school but in the way Liliana viewed her community and other METCO kids.

Characters: Throughout this book you get introduced to many different characters and I loved that each of them was unique. Each character had a role in the story and the interactions that they have with Liliana help in her development.

I liked that you got to see both people from her city, people in the METCO program, and people at her new school. It was great to see so many different characters with different life experiences.

I really enjoyed Liliana’s relationship with her mom, her family and her best friend, Jade. It was nice to see how her mom thought of Jade as family and the difference in how she treated Jade and Liliana’s white friends.

Writing Style: This story is told in first person, all in Liliana’s perspective. I thought it was great to see how she was experiencing everything rather than to have multiple views. It was nice to see how her view affected the story and how she changed through different events. I also thought it was good because it left little room for sympathy towards anyone else.

You can get this book at Eso Won Books or look for it at your local library.

We Are not From Here ARC Book Review

GoodReads Summary: A ripped-from-the-headlines novel of desperation, escape, and survival across the U.S.-Mexico border.

Pulga has his dreams.
Chico has his grief.
Pequeña has her pride.

And these three teens have one another. But none of them have illusions about the town they’ve grown up in and the dangers that surround them. Even with the love of family, threats lurk around every corner. And when those threats become all too real, the trio knows they have no choice but to run: from their country, from their families, from their beloved home.
Crossing from Guatemala through Mexico, they follow the route of La Bestia, the perilous train system that might deliver them to a better life–if they are lucky enough to survive the journey. With nothing but the bags on their backs and desperation drumming through their hearts, Pulga, Chico, and Pequeña know there is no turning back, despite the unknown that awaits them. And the darkness that seems to follow wherever they go.
In this powerful story inspired by current events, the plight of migrants at the U.S. southern border is brought to painful, poignant, vivid life. An epic journey of danger, resilience, heartache, and hope. 

Thank you to Netgalley and Penguin Young Readers Group for the advanced copy of the book in exchange for my review.

I’ve only ever thought of the U.S. as my home. My parents are from Mexico and El Salvador but my mom came here when she was a toddler. My dad remembers El Salvador as he came here when he was older. I read books like this one not only to learn but also to reflect and really think about the privilege that I have being born in the U.S., having parents who speak English, and having parents who became U.S. citizens when I was a kid. I do not know the experience of migrants from any country, I know my parents experience and even that I find limited. The only way for me to learn more is through listening to others and it is important that I stop and listen.

Overall Thoughts: I really enjoy how Pulga, Pequena, and Chico are keeping secrets from each other and their family. What i liked about their secrets is that the same person is at the root of these secrets and all of their problems.

Something else that I like about this book is the pacing and how long these days seem. I think that as you read you get a sense of how long this time feels for the characters as they live these things.

I think that it is important that this book shows the reality of immigration and the many challenges that come with it. It was important to see three different scenarios as to what can happen throughout that journey and they included the addition of Pequena being female and what that meant for her. I don’t want to spoil the ending but I felt that so much of that is impactful and important to think about when we hear stories of immigration. I thought it was important that it also relayed the reasons why people were fleeing their countries and what kept them moving forward.

Part One: This book starts off with introducing you to the three main characters of this story. It does this by going back and forth between Pulga and Pequena’s point of view. In this portion of the book you find out a little about each character’s circumstances and why they need to leave their home town.

I really like how this book slowly introduces you to the characters and builds their back story. I like that you get to see the relationships that they have with each other and with people they are leaving behind.

Part Two: This part tells the majority of these kids story as they go from Guatemala to Mexico. This tells of the people they encounter and the things they do for a chance to get to the United States. Through this section you see more about each character and learn their fears about staying or leaving the place they live in.

I kept reading about La Bestia in this book and never really looked into it until I asked my mom about it. She searched it on Google and then spoke to me about a news segment she saw I n which this train was covered. I thought it was important to look into this and see what the reality is for people trying to migrate into the United States.

I have heard both my mom and dad’s story of how they got to the United States and they have very different stories from each other. Fascinating and interesting aren’t the right words but I do think it is important to see the differences in ways immigrants come to the United States. I thought it was good to reflect and think about my privilege in being born in the U.S and never having to really fear being sent to a place where my life was in danger.

I really like how each scene is described and how you can feel the characters emotion coming through each word. I like how you are still learning about the ties they have to the place they are trying to escape.

Part Three: This is where the tears begin and everything gets even more emotional if that’s even possible. I don’t want to include too many details as that would make this spoilery.

I enjoy how you get to see each scene play out as these kids get further in their journey to the U.S. I thought it was good to see the reality of these trips and how dangerous it can get for everyone. There were moments in which I stopped to take everything in and to read real people’s immigration stories as I had not done that in the past.

The only stories I really know are the ones in books or my parent’s stories but even they say that they had it a lot easier. I think its important to listen and learn about the range of immigration stories people have and how coming from different places differs.

Part Four: I think its important that we see this kids never being allowed to grieve. There is no time for them to mourn anything they leave behind and this shows the dangers if they were to give themselves that space. I think it was important to note all of Pulga’s contradicting feelings and the blame he places on himself. I thought it was important to give him the space to mourn his loses in the privacy of his thoughts and how that showed him becoming a different person to those around him, especially Pequena.

I also like how you can feel their pain through each moment in this section of the book. I thought it was important that each minute seemed to drag on just as their days were going on forever.

I recommend this book to anyone looking for a good book to read. Be prepared for tears though.

You can get this book at Eso Won books or look for it at your local library.

LGBTQ+ Books by Latinx Authors

They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera 

On September 5, a little after midnight, Death-Cast calls Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emeterio to give them some bad news: They’re going to die today.

Mateo and Rufus are total strangers, but, for different reasons, they’re both looking to make a new friend on their End Day. The good news: There’s an app for that. It’s called the Last Friend, and through it, Rufus and Mateo are about to meet up for one last great adventure—to live a lifetime in a single day.

Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera 

Juliet Milagros Palante is leaving the Bronx and headed to Portland, Oregon. She just came out to her family and isn’t sure if her mom will ever speak to her again. But Juliet has a plan, sort of, one that’s going to help her figure out this whole “Puerto Rican lesbian” thing. She’s interning with the author of her favorite book: Harlowe Brisbane, the ultimate authority on feminism, women’s bodies, and other gay-sounding stuff.

Will Juliet be able to figure out her life over the course of one magical summer? Is that even possible? Or is she running away from all the problems that seem too big to handle?

With more questions than answers, Juliet takes on Portland, Harlowe, and most importantly, herself.

The Grief Keeper by Alexandra Villasante 

Seventeen-year-old Marisol has always dreamed of being American, learning what Americans and the US are like from television and Mrs. Rosen, an elderly expat who had employed Marisol’s mother as a maid. When she pictured an American life for herself, she dreamed of a life like Aimee and Amber’s, the title characters of her favorite American TV show. She never pictured fleeing her home in El Salvador under threat of death and stealing across the US border as “an illegal”, but after her brother is murdered and her younger sister, Gabi’s, life is also placed in equal jeopardy, she has no choice, especially because she knows everything is her fault. If she had never fallen for the charms of a beautiful girl named Liliana, Pablo might still be alive, her mother wouldn’t be in hiding and she and Gabi wouldn’t have been caught crossing the border.

But they have been caught and their asylum request will most certainly be denied. With truly no options remaining, Marisol jumps at an unusual opportunity to stay in the United States. She’s asked to become a grief keeper, taking the grief of another into her own body to save a life. It’s a risky, experimental study, but if it means Marisol can keep her sister safe, she will risk anything. She just never imagined one of the risks would be falling in love, a love that may even be powerful enough to finally help her face her own crushing grief.

The Grief Keeper is a tender tale that explores the heartbreak and consequences of when both love and human beings are branded illegal.

Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova 

I was chosen by the Deos. Even gods make mistakes.

Alex is a bruja, the most powerful witch in a generation…and she hates magic. At her Deathday celebration, Alex performs a spell to rid herself of her power. But it backfires. Her whole family vanishes into thin air, leaving her alone with Nova, a brujo she can’t trust, but who may be Alex’s only chance at saving her family.

When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore 

To everyone who knows them, best friends Miel and Sam are as strange as they are inseparable. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrist, and rumors say that she spilled out of a water tower when she was five. Sam is known for the moons he paints and hangs in the trees, and for how little anyone knows about his life before he and his mother moved to town. But as odd as everyone considers Miel and Sam, even they stay away from the Bonner girls, four beautiful sisters rumored to be witches. Now they want the roses that grow from Miel’s skin, convinced that their scent can make anyone fall in love. And they’re willing to use every secret Miel has fought to protect to make sure she gives them up. 

Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado

In Her Body and Other Parties, Carmen Maria Machado blithely demolishes the arbitrary borders between psychological realism and science fiction, comedy and horror, fantasy and fabulism. While her work has earned her comparisons to Karen Russell and Kelly Link, she has a voice that is all her own. In this electric and provocative debut, Machado bends genre to shape startling narratives that map the realities of women’s lives and the violence visited upon their bodies.

A wife refuses her husband’s entreaties to remove the green ribbon from around her neck. A woman recounts her sexual encounters as a plague slowly consumes humanity. A salesclerk in a mall makes a horrifying discovery within the seams of the store’s prom dresses. One woman’s surgery-induced weight loss results in an unwanted houseguest. And in the bravura novella Especially Heinous, Machado reimagines every episode of Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, a show we naively assumed had shown it all, generating a phantasmagoric police procedural full of doppelgangers, ghosts, and girls with bells for eyes.

Earthy and otherworldly, antic and sexy, queer and caustic, comic and deadly serious, Her Body and Other Parties swings from horrific violence to the most exquisite sentiment. In their explosive originality, these stories enlarge the possibilities of contemporary fiction. 

Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria E. Anzaldúa, Sonia Saldívar-Hull  (Introduction)

Anzaldua, a Chicana native of Texas, explores in prose and poetry the murky, precarious existence of those living on the frontier between cultures and languages. Writing in a lyrical mixture of Spanish and English that is her unique heritage, she meditates on the condition of Chicanos in Anglo culture, women in Hispanic culture, and lesbians in the straight world. Her essays and poems range over broad territory, moving from the plight of undocumented migrant workers to memories of her grandmother, from Aztec religion to the agony of writing. Anzaldua is a rebellious and willful talent who recognizes that life on the border, “life in the shadows,” is vital territory for both literature and civilization. Venting her anger on all oppressors of people who are culturally or sexually different, the author has produced a powerful document that belongs in all collections with emphasis on Hispanic American or feminist issues.