Latinx literature is devoted to its mothers: Motherlands, mother tongues, and the matriarchs who birth our stories (both real and imagined). What better way to celebrate Latinx Heritage Month than with these recent releases from Latinx/e/a writers that explore the many facets of motherhood? From intergenerational narratives to literary inheritances, these diverse books speak to the legacy of mothers across Latin America, the Caribbean, and the diaspora.
by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
This American Book Award-winning story collection imagines the lives of Indigenous Latina characters living in the fictional town of Saguarita, Colorado. Saguarita is an imagined place, but the psychic landscapes Fajardo-Anstine maps are devastatingly real. Mothers and daughters navigate poverty, racism, domestic violence, and gentrification in these trailblazing tales of the American West.
Edited by Sandra Guzmán
“The book you are holding is in the tradition of the matriarchy,” writes editor Sandra Guzmán, who brings together 140 Latine “daughters” from 50 nations in this expansive anthology. Her selections are as diverse as Latin America itself. This century-spanning collection gathers nonfiction, fiction, and poetry from celebrated authors like Edwidge Danticat, Sandra Cisneros, and Ada Limón, as well as new English translations of historic and contemporary writing.
By Dahlma Llanos-Figueroa
A Woman of Endurance illuminates a part of Caribbean history that should be more widely known: the legacy of the Puerto Rican-Atlantic slave trade. Set in 19th-century colonial Puerto Rico, this historical novel tells the story of Keera, a Yoruba woman who is kidnapped from her home and enslaved at a sugar cane plantation in Puerto Rico. Renamed Pola by her captors, Keera is raped and forced to “breed” babies that are taken from her and sold into slavery. After Keera escapes to another plantation, she builds a new family under the care of the enslaved women. As its title suggests, this is a story about endurance: a mother’s fortitude and the unbreakable strength of community.
By Cynthia Guardado
“All my people have been born from the ashes of volcanoes,” writes Cynthia Guardado in Cenizas (“Ashes”), a collection of poems that documents the intergenerational trauma of the Salvadoran Civil War. Like Guardado, the speaker of the poems is the daughter of Salvadoran immigrants. Guided by maternal figures, the speaker scours the ashes of her personal and cultural histories to reconstruct an identity. Guardado spent a decade researching and writing these poems, traveling between the U.S. and her ancestral homeland, El Salvador.
By Elizabeth Acevedo
Selected for the Good Morning America Book Club, Family Lore is acclaimed YA author Elizabeth Acevedo’s first novel for adults. It follows two generations of the magically-endowed, Dominican-American Marte women. Flor, for example, can predict the exact hour a person will die. When Flor decides to plan her own living wake, her sisters and nieces worry what will happen next. Narrated in a chorus of voices, this polyphonic novel sings of stories that are shared (and sometimes silenced) from one generation to the next.
By Jazmina Barrera; translated by Christina Macsweeney
An earthquake hit Jazmina Barrera’s Mexico City home while she was pregnant with her first child. In Linea Nigra—a reference to the dark line that develops on some mothers’ bellies during pregnancy—Barrera translates that experience into a fragmented narrative about motherhood and art. “Motherhood is an earthquake,” she observes. Woven between passages about Barrera’s experiences with pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding are snippets of literary wisdom from mother writers like Rachel Cusk and Ursula Le Guin, as well as stories from the Mexica people. From these fragments, Barrera constructs a “microchimeric book” born of many mothers.
By Carmen Rita Wong
For the first 31 years of her life, former CNBC host Carmen Rita Wong believed she was the daughter of a Lupe, a Dominican mother, and “Papi Wong,” a Chinese father. Then she finally learned the truth. This riveting memoir follows Wong’s early childhood in Harlem and Chinatown, her parents’ divorce, her mother’s remarriage to a white man, and their family’s subsequent move to suburban New Hampshire, where Wong is pressured to shed her multicultural identities to fit in. After she learns Lupe’s secrets, Wong begins to see her family’s history and her complicated relationship with her mother through fresh eyes.