6 Book Recommendations for Latinx Heritage Month

Today marks the first day of Latinx/e heritage month! The month runs through September 15th to October 15th. Most independence days for Latin American countries happen between this timeline. To be more specific, today’s festivities (however you celebrate) begin with Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras and Nicaragua’s independence from Spain.

My hope for this month’s celebrations is for the Latinx/e community to center Black and Indigenous voices, who are often pushed out of view during this month. Afterall, the essence of Latin American culture begins with Black and Indigenous people who have built our customs, developed the Spanish language, and formed our food traditions.

Here is my list for this year’s Latinx Heritage Month!

1. We Are Owed

We Are Owed by Ariana Brown just came out this summer! I have been very excited to read this book, and am hoping to finally get to it this month (my list of books is so long at the moment). Ariana’s book examines, “Black relationality in Mexican and Mexican American spaces“. Ariana Brown is a Black Queer Mexican poet currently residing in San Antonio, TX. Read more about Ariana here.

2. When My Brother Was an Aztec

By Natalie Diaz. Natalie was born in Needles, California in the Fort Mojave Indian Village. This book highlights Mojave life through the perspective of one family with the focus of a Brother who’s addiction influences the family’s dynamic. Read more about Natalie here.

3. Intergalactic Travels: poems from a fugitive alien

By Alan Pelaez Lopez. Alan is an AfroIndigenous poet from Oaxaca, MĂ©xico. Intergalatic Travels: poems from a fugitive alein, is a book of poetry book of multimedia poems that assesses the experiences of growing up undocumented in the U.S. as an “alien”. Read more about Alan here.

4. Nepantla: An Anthology Dedicated to Queer Poets of Color

This anthology of queer poets of color developed by Christopher Soto has a range of poems to sift through- if you’re looking for more poets to your radar check out this anthology. Christopher Soto is a Salvadoran poet based in Los Angeles, California. Read more about Christopher here.

5. My Mother Was a Freedom Fighter

By Aja Monet. Aja is Afro Latina poet, storyteller, and organizer from Brooklyn, NY. My mother Was a Freedom Fighter is an “ode to mothers, daughters, and sisters—the tiny gods who fight to change the world”. Read more about Aja here.

6. Vital Signs

By Juan Delgado. Juan is a Mexican American poet from San Bernardino, CA. Vital Signs is a walk through Juan’s hometown (San Bernardino) and holds a story of a city that became forgotten – a city often presented as a city of high crime and poverty. Read more about Juan here.


What I’ve Been Reading…

IMG_2288This past month I began reading Bhanu Kapil’s, How To Wash a Heart and could not stop crying. I tend to be a slow reader, so I read a few poems every night, and sometimes the poems I read in one night I re-read again and again. As a huge fan of Kapil’s work, I enjoy processing what Kapil’s mind offers [me] the reader.

This book of poetry was born out of a photo in a news article Bhanu Kapil had seen – a white couple in Berkeley, CA hosting an immigrant guest. In How to Wash a Heart, Kapil writes about a relationship between a host and a guest. What is expressed by the host to the guest is not always what is true, it’s an act, a performance of hospitality, which is what I believe Kapil reveals through this host/guest relationship.

While I have been reading this book, I’ve been brought to some serious tears with one poem in particular. Although, my interpretation of this poem is not at all close to the idea that inspired this book. It came from thinking about my relationship with my parents growing up. This host/guest relationship in the book makes so much sense to me when I think about my childhood and how I existed in a space that was meant to be mine…but at the same time was not. Now that I think of it, was a relationship where power affected the dynamics in the house, power was dependent on how comfortable the way one might feel when moving/existing around in space.

Here are a few lines from that poem,

It’s exhausting to be a guest

In somebody else’s house


Even though the host invites

The guest to say

Whatever it is they want to say,

The guest knows that host logic

Is variable.

Prick me.

And I will cut off the energy

To your life.

I grew up in an immigrant household, that constantly reminded me that the space I existed in was only mine because my father allowed it. At any moment, it could be taken away. If I think about my father’s logic, this host logic, threatening to take away my basic needs – it seemed to come from a place of fear. Fear of what? I’m not so sure. It could be the fear a father has of his children growing up too fast, fear of abandonment, fear of not being able to live through your children the way you want to, fear and shame of not fulfilling this because of the risk that was taken to come to a new country…? Either way, this violent power dynamic forced onto me as a young person made it hard to feel free to even laugh or to cry or exist in a space devoid of any deep emotion.

I’m not sure if this was Kapil’s intention for readers – to look back on their trauma – but it brought me back to that power dynamic. I continue to stay inspired by Bhanu Kapil’s work and will have new things to write about after reading this collection of poems.