What I’ve Taken Away From Talented LatinX Authors

A guest post by Elliott Turner — 

A warning: you have probably already read the books in this list. They are brilliant. However, sometimes the baggage we the reader bring to a work of fiction can be just as fun as the actual written prose. Or, at the very least, our flawed perceptions when devouring a great work of fiction are embarrassing and amusing in equal measure. That’s kinda why book clubs in person and/or subreddits are so much fun.

Inevitably, as the time passes since you’ve read a book, your impressions fade but certain characters and moments still stick with you. This happens for seemingly for no apparent reason. Here are the things I, as a reader, have taken away from my favorite Latinx books over the years, and they are things I still carry with me today.


 

The brief wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz

I remember from middle school my Gen-Xer buddies that played D&D and looked down at my MTG skills. This nuanced detail in Wao was when I realized Junot was both a master wordsmith and legit nerd.

 

 

Death in th eAndes by Mario Vargas Llosa

Lituma en los Andes (Death in the Andes) by Mario Vargas Llosa

Still kinda scared by the “pishtaco,” but the name of the mythical beast also kinda makes my ignorant Mexican-American mouth water.

 

 

 

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango Street  by Sandra Cisneros

My hija has just entered middle school and can confirm Sandra’s initial impressions that wearing heels kinda sucks. At least at first.

 

 

 

Ficciones by Jorge luis Borges

Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges

If an infinitely expanding library really existed like in The Library of Babel, would you install elevators or escalators to travel between floors?

 

 

 

Love in the Time of Cholera by GAbriel Garcia Marquez

Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

F*cking hate how the double entendre of cólera in the title is lost when translated to English. Perhaps a better title would be “Love in the Time of Feverish Anger.”

 

 

 

One hundred years of solitude by gabriel garcia marquez

Cien Años de Soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude) by Gabriel Garcia Márquez

Did the blood that traveled across the town ever get washed away by a streetsweeper?

 

 

 

The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Alchemist by Paolo Coehlo

How did this boy trek across the entire Maghreb and never stop, not even once, to chow down on some couscous?

 

 

 

In the time of the butterflies by Julia alvarez

 

In the Time of the Butterflies by Julia Alvarez

I read this when my kids were really little, and I still worry about what happened to very young Minou and Manolito after their activist-lawyer mom got murdered by Trujillo.

 

Rayuela by Julio cortazar

Rayuela by Julio Cortazar

I’ve read this book three different ways and still can’t find the Maga. Time to go back to Where’s Waldo.

 

 

 

Soccer in Sun and Shadow

Soccer in Sun and Shadow by Eduardo Galeano

I dislike poets because poets are better at writing than me. This collection of vignettes is actually better than watching live or in person 95% of actual futbol games.

 

 

A naked Singularity by Sergio de la Pava

A Naked Singularity by Sergio de la Pava

Every time I think of the ending, I shout to myself “Take that money and run Casi, you idiot! Correle!”

 

 


When you think about a favorite book or short story or poem by a Latinx author, what is the very first or last thing that pops into your head? Please share in the comments below!

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About the author:

torso-arms-crossed-bw

 

Elliott’s debut novel, The Night of the Virgin, is due Summer 2017. To learn more about it, click here. To find out about the creative process behind NOTV, subscribe to Elliott’s tiny letter. He also tweets about soccer often.

 

 


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36 thoughts on “What I’ve Taken Away From Talented LatinX Authors

    1. Thanks! Yeah DIaz amazes by being a master of both short and long fiction. Not an easy feat. Rayuela is def. a book where you have to invest a lot of time just thinking despite very short chapters, so be sure to take a deep breath before taking the plunge!

    1. Mango Street is the quickest read – very short chapters and a voice so sincere you want to hug the author’s younger self/protagonist persona. The Alchemist is also a neat and quick read.

  1. Every single time I come onto Naz’s blog, my TBR grows (and grows… and grows…)

    (Oh, and Naz, your blog ads are trying to set me up with ‘hot Russian singles’ again! Lol.)

      1. You def. do the most damage to my TBR ;P but that just means you’re awesome 😉

        Why does the computer algorithm think I need a date dammit?!?! I’m not that desperate – honest! 😉

  2. I love Sandra Cisneros’s books – I read House on Mango Street in middle school for Battle of the Books, and I loved it. Paolo Coelho and Gabriel Garcia Marquez are on the TBR sitting on my bookshelf!

    1. It’s amazing how Cisneros’ books can be so meaningful for readers of all ages. I wish I’d read it in middle school!

      For me personally, Marquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera is/was a much easier read than 100 Years of Solitude – really hard to keep track of all the Buendias in the latter.

  3. Great guest post! I’m embarassed to say I haven’t read the books in the list. I especially MUST get to Gabriel Garcia Marques, Sandra Cisneros and Paolo Coehlo. Most were on my TBR list already, but I’ll go through and add the other ones. Thanks for the recommendations!

  4. I think I must have missed something when I read The Brief and Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. There is nothing about that book which resonated with me, and I struggled to get myself to even finish it. I felt like the pacing was off, and I couldn’t relate to anything happening.
    Perhaps there is another book or short story of Diaz’s you’d recommend to me? I want to see what everyone else sees!

    1. It wasn’t my favorite book either, but I thought it was worth my time. Sometimes a book just isn’t for you and that’s totally fine. It’s actually pretty common for popular or prize winning books to be divise!
      The only other work of his I’ve read is Drown, and for a book of short stories, it’s one of the best out there. It’s a quick read as well, so you don’t have to invest too much time in it if you end up not liking it. Perhaps one day Junot Diaz will write a book that resonates with you. He’s still very young.

    2. Diaz’s fiction always walks the fine line between a narrator who, along with the reader, is poking fun at machista males, and often getting very close to sounding like the machista males in a story or section of Wao. I can easily see why somebody may not be able to wrap their head around his tales.

      I was an MTG playing nerd in middle school and HS, so I loved Wao. I also am fascinated by New Jersey.

  5. Wonderful list! The only book I have read on this list is The Alchemist, but I really need to branch out and read more works by Latinx authors. I haven’t read any of Diaz’s books, but I think I will start with him, and slowwwly work my way down this list.

    Thank you for sharing all these books. <3

    1. Everyone should read The Alchemist, so I’m glad you’ve got that one covered. 🙂
      Diaz’s most famous book is obviously Wao, but I recommend starting with one of his short story collections. They’re quick and powerful. Also, some people don’t seem to like Oscar Wao, despite the praise it generally gets. So I don’t want you to be one of the ones who doesn’t connect with the novel and then reject Diaz’s other works!

  6. I’m proud to call myself a Mexican Book Blogger but so ashamed that I never once made an effort to read books about my culture. It’s not that I don’t WANT to but I’ve never seen any that portray my culture in a way I like. I’m also sorry to say I haven’t heard of any of these books, (except The House on Mango Street which was really good) but thanks for the great list! Be right back whilst I devour all of these books in a sitting! 😛

    1. Do you live in Mexico or in America?
      Authors who write great books with Mexican protagonists are Cristina Henriquez, Francisco X. Stork, and Benjamin Alire Saenz. You’re very young and have many books to read and discover! I’m sure you’ll eventually come across many books you love with Mexican protagonists or about Mexican culture.

    2. One of my fav Chicanx/Mexicanx books was Butterfly Boy – a coming of age story meets “coming to America” and coming out. A bit graphic in parts, but really powerful storytelling.

  7. You’re the second person who has mentioned Junot Diaz recently. Just two days ago I was reading a review of his short story, Drown from his collection of stories of the same title. I’ve had “One Hundred Years of Solitude” on my TBR for a long, long time now. I need to get to it. Thanks Naz & Elliot!

    1. Diaz is a pretty famous author, so I’m not surprised you’ve heard of him. Drown is one of my favorite short story collections ever! If you’re into short stories, you must read it.
      If you do read One Hundred Years of Solitude, go into it with an open mind and savor it. It’s quite a divisive novel. Some people do not like it at all!

  8. Great list. I have read a few pages of Night of the Virgin and it has been a good book so far. I really must finish it soon.
    i need to read Diaz. Thanks for the update on Love in time of cholera. I would never have known there was another meaning to colera. As you already know Garcia is a favourite of mine

    1. No way, you have Elliott Turner’s The Night of the Virgin?? That’s awesome! I am going to review it later this year. The book doesn’t come out for a long while, so I am taking my time.
      As for Diaz, I suggest you start with his debut short story collection and work your through his published works slowly. He doesn’t have that many!

  9. Great list, and yay I’ve actually read a few of them! I love Cisneros, so glad I “had” to reread The House on Mango Street recently for uni. And Alvarez is another amazing writer, I haven’t read this book yet but hope I’ll get to it soon.

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