Hispanic Heritage Month starts next Tuesday and I’ve decided I will take this month to read more intentionally, so today I wanted to talk about the five theme, ten day reading challenge happening around the world and online, called Latinx-a-thon. Since I can’t read fast enough to complete five books in ten days, I’ll be adding two bonus themes and spreading it out over the month. Consider trying the challenge with me! The themes and the books I’ll be reading are:
1. Voices: Read a book written by an Indigenous or Black Latinx author
Indigenous and Black Latin American people face oppression, lack of representation and opportunity, and struggles similar to nonwhite people in the US. As such, the first challenge is to read an Indigenous or Black Latinx author. I chose The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo, a young adult novel that follows a girl in Harlem as she discovers slam poetry as a way to sort out her feelings about her family, religion, and community. I started with this book because it focuses on the Black Latinx experience in the US, and because the genre is similar to many of my favorite books.
2. Latinidad: Read a book written by an intersectional Latinx author
This challenge puts a spotlight on authors that are disabled, queer, or have another identity that intersects with their Latinx heritage in a way that creates interwoven oppression. For this I chose Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado, a queer and feminist short story collection with magical realism, horror, comedy, and an eerie spin on familiar ideas. I chose this first because I enjoy - but rarely read - short story collections and because the centerpiece of the collection is a surreal retelling of every Law and Order: SVU episode. We’ll see if I can read this without getting the theme song stuck in my head.
3. Roots: Read a translated book or a book prominently featuring more than one language
This challenge was straightforward, but there were so many good books to chose from! I added about twenty to my to-be-read list and chose The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez to read, which follows Columbia during the 1960s followed by the rise of Pablo Escobar and the drug trade, but focuses on how it impacted everyday Columbians then and now rather than having the main focus be on the drug trade and resulting wars. Vásquez is described as one of the best South American writers and this book has won multiple awards, so it seemed like a great introduction to translated works and Columbian culture.
4. Heritage: Read a book written by an author from a non-Spanish speaking Latin American country
Other than Spanish, Latin American people speak languages including Portuguese, Quechua, English, or Guarani. I chose the young adult Portuguese novel The Head of the Saint by Socorro Acioli, about an orphan boy down on his luck who accidentally becomes famous when he crawls inside a Saint Anthony statue and begins answering prayers of those that visit it. This book it is full of humor, mischief, and magic. A great thing to read after a heavy last topic!
5. Book Club: Read By Any Means Necessary by Candice Montgomery
This was the easiest category of all, since I didn’t have to make any choices! By Any Means Necessary by Candice Montgomery is a young adult book that addresses queer romances, gentrification, and family bonds. The main character must juggle college, new crushes, and preventing his uncle’s bee farm from being foreclosed on. This book is right up my alley, and I’m surprised I hadn’t heard of it before!
6. Bonus: Read a biography or memoir from a Latinx author
I rarely read nonfiction, so this bonus section was for me to learn about a life of a Latinx person and get outside my genre comfort zone. I chose Children of the Land by poet and author Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, a memoir about his childhood and growing up in the United States as an undocumented immigrant. In a time when immigration has increasingly made headlines, I wanted to read about individual experiences.
7. Bonus: Reread a book I’ve read before from a Latinx author
Lastly, I wanted to end by looking back at something I’ve read before. I know I’ve gotten more out of the classics I read in high school when I reread them as an adult, and I want to know if this would be the same. I chose Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan, a historical fiction, middle grade read that follows a Mexican girl from a wealthy family as her and her mother are forced to flee to a labor camp in the Great Depression era United States. I chose this because I expect it will have themes I understood somewhat as a child, but will have a better understanding of now.
Want to join me and participate in Latinx-a-thon? Check out any of the books I mentioned, or consider choosing some from this list!
Curious about why the challenge uses Latinx, not Latino? Check out this article explaining the different gender neutral ways to refer to Latin American people.
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