In Honor of Orlando: 10 Books That Celebrate Queer Latinx Identity

(Article originally posted on Up ‘Til Midnight; reblogged and edited in light of recent events)

If you logged into Twitter yesterday even for 1 minute or followed the news at all, you heard the tragic news about the mass shooting that happened in Orlando, Florida.

Hearing about the 49 people who were killed and the dozens more who were injured in this senseless act of violence deeply affected me and millions of others. I became emotionally invested in the tragedy and was moved to tears several times throughout the day as new information was revealed. The love and support people showed to the LGBTQ+ community also moved me and showed me a small ray of hope amidst the horror. 

One thing we cannot forget about the incident in Orlando is that this atrocity was committed against the Queer Latinx community in a place of refuge. (Read the article, Why We Say Latinx, if you have any questions about the term.) As we continue our discussions surrounding the Orlando shooting, we cannot neglect to mention that Queer Latinxs and Queer people of color were targeted specifically. This distinction matters.

There are many ways to support the victims and their families. But as a reader, one small thing you can do is to read the stories of the community most gravely affected by this tragedy. Many people say they will keep their “thoughts and prayers” with the victims. Well, this is one way you can do that. Read Queer Latinx narratives to understand our struggles.

I read the stories of Queer Latinxs because these narratives resonate with me most personally. That’s why coming up with this list came so naturally. I encourage you to read at least one of these books in honor of Orlando. 

This list is first and foremost dedicated to all the Latinxs who want to read stories that reflect their world, but may not know where to look or where to start. These stories have been written and will continue to be written because our stories and lives matter. 

Most importantly, this list is also dedicated to:

  • Edward Sotomayor Jr.
  • Stanley Almodovar
  • Juan Ramon Guerrero
  • Eric Ivan Ortiz-Rivera
  • Peter O. Gonzalez-Cruz
  • Luis Omar Ocasio-Capo
  • Luis S. Vielma

And all the other innocent people who lost their lives on June 12, 2106 at the Pulse night club.

All book titles are linked to Goodreads and descriptions are taken from there as well.


Mundo Cruel by Luis Negron

 

Mundo Cruel – by Luis Negrón
Luis Negrón’s debut collection reveals the intimate world of a small community in Puerto Rico joined together by its transgressive sexuality. The writing straddles the shifting line between pure, unadorned storytelling and satire, exploring the sometimes hilarious and sometimes heartbreaking nature of survival in a decidedly cruel world.”

 

Chulito by charles rice gonzalez

 

Chulito – by Charles Rice Gonzalez

Set against a vibrant South Bronx neighborhood and the queer youth culture of Manhattan’s piers, Chulito is a coming-out, coming-of-age love story of a sexy, tough, hip hop–loving, young Latino man and the colorful characters in his vibrant neighborhood.”

 

Life is wonderful, people are terrific by meliza banales

Life Is Wonderful, People Are Terrific – by Meliza Bañales

From the forests, beaches, and Xicano community of Santa Cruz to the smokey punk bars, strip clubs, and Queer-girl culture of San Francisco, these are the stories of being young, drunk, punk and Xicana in Northern California in the 90’s. Missy Fuego is an eighteen-year-old Xicana, the first in her family to leave home and accept a scholarship at a prestigious yet hippie university tucked away in the Redwood forests of the Santa Cruz mountains in 1996.”

 

Juliet takes a breath by gabby rivera

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.”

 

Mariposas

Mariposas: An Anthology of Modern Queer Latino Poetry – by Emanuel Xavier

Just as blood courses through our queer Latino veins, so does a complex and sometimes contradictory history. The words captured in this volume of poetry perfectly capture a moment in time in which we all are in flux and yet still very much grounded in the moment.”

 

 

City of night by john rechyCity of Night – by John Rechy

Bold and inventive in his account of the urban underworld of male prostitution, Rechy is equally unflinching in his portrayal of one hustling “Youngman” and his restless search for self-knowledge. As the narrator careens from El Paso to Times Square, from Pershing Square to the French Quarter, we get an unforgettable look at a neon-lit life on the edge.”

 

 

Empanada: a lesbiana story en probaditas by Anel Flores

Empanada: A Lesbiana Story en Probaditas – by Anel Flores

The voices in Empanada’s kitchen will definitely not be shy! Each probadita is told from the bustling space of the kitchen and heavily spiced with hurt and yearning, lust, desire, passion and bliss. Each bite of Empanada will take you on a journey through the heart of Paloma, a young lesbiana learning to maneuver her loving heart through a culture of judgment.”

 

Farewell to the sea by reinaldo arenasFarewell to the Sea – by Reinaldo Arenas

In this brilliant, apocalyptic vision of Castro’s Cuba, we meet a young couple who leave the dreariness of Havana and spend six days at a small seaside retreat, where they hope to recapture the desire and carefree spirit that once united them. In a stunning juxtaposition of narrative voices, the wife recounts the grim reality of her marriage, the demands of motherhood, and her loss of freedom, innocence, and hope; while her husband, a disillusioned poet and disenchanted revolutionary, recalls his political struggles and laments the artistic and homosexual freedom that has been denied him.”

 

Kiss of the spider woman by Manuel PuigKiss of the Spider Woman – by Manuel Puig

Sometimes they talk all night long. In the still darkness of their cell, Molina re-weaves the glittering and fragile stories of the film he loves, and the cynical Valentin listens. Valentin believes in the just cause which makes all suffering bearable; Molina believes in the magic of love which makes all else endurable. Each has always been alone, and always – especially now – in danger of betrayal. But in cell 7 each surrenders to the other something of himself that he has never surrendered before.”

 

When we were outlaws by Jeanne Cordova

 

When We Were Outlaws –  by Jeanne Cordova

A sweeping memoir, a raw and intimate chronicle of a young activist torn between conflicting personal longings and political goals. When We Were Outlaws offers a rare view of the life of a radical lesbian during the early cultural struggle for gay rights, Women’s Liberation, and the New Left of the 1970s.”

 


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38 thoughts on “In Honor of Orlando: 10 Books That Celebrate Queer Latinx Identity

    1. Thank you. We really do. Sunday was one of the worst days for me this year, and I wasn’t even personally affected. I can’t even imagine what the victim’s families must be experiencing.

      I felt it could have been me at that club and that’s why this tragedy affected me so deeply.

  1. Thank you so much for taking the time to educate all of us in cultures that we may not experience on a daily basis. Informing and understanding is the only way to make progress.

    1. It’s a cruel and horrifying world sometimes. I’m usually at a loss for words after such tragic events. What can we say? We can’t really guarantee that it won’t happen again. The best we can do is remain hopeful that by sharing our stories and promoting love, we can affect the people around us.

  2. This list is a wonderful contribution at a time like this. I’m especially interested in Juliet takes a Breath (the description reminds me of Rubyfruit Jungle) and City of Night. Thank you for the recommendations. x

  3. Wonderful post. I’d like to add “Aristotle and Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe” by Benjamin Alire Saenz. Brilliant YA novel about two boys whose friendship develops unexpectedly.
    Also, thanks for the link explaining “Latinx.” I’d started seeing it around recently and was wondering!

    1. Thinking about what they must be going through fills me with overwhelming sadness. I was so upset even though I didn’t know any of them personally. My heart is still broken and their pain must be amplified even further. I hope something like this never happens again, but it’s unfortunate that we can’t guarantee it.

  4. What a horrifiying, senseless event. I will never cease to be amazed at the ways humans can be cruel to other humans. We can not let the fact that this happened to this specific community be swept under the rug – this was homophobia, whether inspired by (a warped understanding of) religion or not. Thank you, Naz, for putting this out there, and I will make every effort to read some of these titles! Your blog is a bright light!

  5. Fantastic post, Naz. I can’t thank you enough for expanding my reading and helping educate and inspire me. Definitely going to check a bunch of these out on Goodreads.

    What happened was devastating. I can’t even imagine what everyone is going through. The fact that guns have more rights than POCs and the LGBTQIA community is unfathomable.

    1. I appreciate all your support, Lauren. <3
      Your last statement is so painfully true. It feels like guns have more rights and protections than the LGBT community, at least in America. It's certainly unfathomable that guns are valued more than the rights of LGBT people, but that's exactly what's happening here.

  6. Thank you so much for this Naz! I needed something to give me a sense of direction coming out of such a dark place, and you have given that. I will try and read as many of these titles as possible to honor the victims and to expand my understanding of the community.

  7. Loved this list when you guest blogged at Kristen’s and now I’m so glad I get to read your words about the terrible killings in Orlando. This is a lovely tribute and I do hope that reading queer Latinx and qpoc lit can go at least a little way towards changing things, it is one way I can do something from over here. Hugs and take care!

  8. Thanks for this Naz, you have definitely encouraged me to read more about this genre and provided a wonderful resource which I probably never would have found alone. I’ve felt so sad since the Orlando massacre and it hurts to think that this man has anything to do with my religion/community. In truth, he doesn’t and if any good can come of this for the muslim community, it is that I hope they realise how much we need to have solidarity with the LGBTq community. I cried listening to a radio talk yesterday when a young gay man called up and spoke of his experience of being on the fringe of society, of always looking over his shoulder, being spat and shouted at and constantly feeling weary of attack. As a hijab wearing muslim woman, I share these feelings and experiences on an almost daily basis too. This attack has made me realise now, more than ever that the affinity and bond I share with the LGBTq community will always be much stronger than those who commit such atrocities in my name. I hope this list will be a stepping stone to change and understanding for people. Thanks for sharing xx

    1. Hi, Sabeena. Thank yo so much for you heartfelt words.
      Solidarity between the Muslim and LGBT community is crucial at this time. I appreciate people like you and the millions of Muslims who condemn his actions. It’s obvious that his actions had no connection to Islam because the LAST thing a Muslim would have done during Ramadan is murder people.
      It’s unfortunate that people like him exist and that the media focuses on these individuals to perpetuate islamophobia. But we can’t get caught in that narrative. I personally refuse to.

  9. Thank you so much for this post, Naz. As always, such a beautiful, heart-felt and thoughtful response. I am sharing this with everyone I know. Thank you. Bookmarking this and adding to tbr – I am starting with Juliet Takes a Breath.

  10. Thanks for the recognition. “Mariposas: A Modern Anthology of Queer Latino Poetry” includes the work of three incredible poets we’ve lost along the way since publication in 2008: Francisco Aragon, Brandon Lacy Campos and Rane Arroyo.

    Also worth considering: “Christ Like”, specifically about the experiences of a young gay Latinx main character journeying through the club scene and NYC nightlife, and any of my own poetry collections- “Radiance”, “Nefarious”, “If Jesus Were Gay & other poems”, “Americano: Growing up Gay & Latino in the USA” and “Pier Queen.”

    Hope the LGBT Latinx community continues to share and publish our unique stories. We may be a minority within a minority and suffered such great loss recently but our love is mf loud and we will continue to have our voices heard! Que siga la tradicion!

    1. Thank you for stopping by.
      I do know of your other works, edited & penned by you, but had only read Mariposas and wanted to share it with others.
      “Christ Like” is on my reading list for 2016!
      I’m making it a goal for the second half of this year to read more Queer Latinx narratives than I ever have before. It’s going to a marvelous reading year.

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