Recommended reading for Hispanic Heritage Month

By Molly Minturn | September 22, 2022

Thanks to Amy Hunsaker, Librarian for Music & the Performing Arts, for contributing this post.

From magical realism master Gabriel García Márquez to exciting debut novelist Xochitl Gonzalez, there are thousands of Latinx authors to celebrate during Hispanic Heritage Month, which overlaps September and the first few weeks of October.

We’ve gathered some book recommendations from UVA librarians and Ph.D. candidates from the Spanish, Italian, and Portuguese Department.

Take a look at their selections below. (For a more extensive list, see this guide.)

Recommended by Katie Rojas, Head of Archival Processing

“The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina” by Zoraida Córdova (Atria Books, 2021)

Cover of "The Inheritance of Orquídea Divina" featuring a bird, flowers, and a watch.
One of my favorite literary styles is magical realism, and this book did not disappoint. Córdova’s novel tells the story of the Montoya family and the strange blessings of their matriarch, Orquídea Divina. Even her name, which means “Divine Orchid” alludes to the delicate and mysterious beauty of orchids, which must have just the right conditions to bloom and thrive. Orquídea Divina lives up to her name, never leaving her home, yet creating a flourishing landscape and bounty of food in a place that was once barren. Upon receiving invitations to Orquídea Divina’s funeral, three of her adult grandchildren travel back to their family’s small hometown of Four Rivers and embark upon a journey of discovery, self-preservation, and family history which leads them to Ecuador. As an archivist, I especially love how the themes of family origin, identity, and place all relate well to current understandings of how the history of our families impacts us today. I recommend this book to anyone who enjoys fantasy, light horror, and stories of self-discovery.

(UVA Library hardcover copy is on order.)

Recommended by Amy Hunsaker, Librarian for Music & Performing Arts

“Mexican Gothic” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Del Rey Books, 2020)

The cover of "Mexican Gothic," featuring a woman in a red dress holding flowers.
This spooky book set in remote Mexico in the 1950s brings the reader into a gothic horror setting that includes an eerie house, ghoulish relatives, a haunted, forbidding cemetery, and Noemí,‏ the stylish and clever socialite who must solve the mysteries surrounding High Place manor. Is there a perfectly scientific explanation for the supernatural aberrations that seem to be spiraling our hero toward certain doom? Will she be able to save herself and her cousin from a fate worse than death? Is there anyone she can trust? Will you, gentle reader, be able to look at mushrooms in the same way ever again?

(UVA Library hardcopy is on order.)

“Love in the Time of Cholera” by Gabriel García Márquez, translated from the Spanish by Edith Grossman (Knopf, 1988)

Cover image of "Love in the Time of Cholera," featuring a tropic bird.
Florentino Ariza lives only for love. He only wants to die for love. But his most sincere love isn’t requited.

“… his examination revealed that he had no fever, no pain anywhere, and that his only concrete feeling was an urgent desire to die. All that was needed was shrewd questioning … to conclude once again that the symptoms of love were the same as those of cholera.”

The obsessed Ariza can never be cured of his lovesickness for Fermina Daza in a story that spans several decades, explores the complexities of relationships, and illustrates how noble it is to suffer for love. Márquez’s luscious storytelling poetically explores themes of love, philosophy, and life in general.

(Available in SpanishElectronic Copy: Internet Archive)

Recommended by Miguel Valladares-Llata, Librarian for Romance Languages and Latin American Studies

“Olga Dies Dreaming” by Xochitl Gonzalez (Flatiron Books, 2022)

Cover of "Olga Dies Dreaming," feturing a collage of a woman's face, a city, and flowers.
Publisher’s summary: “A blazing talent debuts with the tale of a status-driven wedding planner grappling with her social ambitions, absent mother, and Puerto Rican roots, all in the wake of Hurricane María.”

Cover image of "Neruda on the Park," featuring a middle-aged woman and a younger woman.
“Neruda on the Park: A Novel” by Cleyvis Natera (Ballantine Books, 2022)

Publisher’s summary: “An exhilarating debut novel about members of a Dominican family in New York City who take radically different paths when faced with encroaching gentrification, for readers of ‘Such a Fun Age’ and ‘Dominicana.’”

Cover image of "Brown Neon: Essays", featuring a photo of a desert at dusk.
“Brown Neon: Essays” by Raquel Gutiérrez (Coffee House Press, 2022)

Publisher’s summary: “Part butch memoir, part ekphrastic travel diary, part queer family tree, Raquel Gutiérrez’s debut essay collection ‘Brown Neon’ gleans insight from the sediment of land and relationships. For Gutierrez, terrain is essential to understanding that no story, no matter how personal, is separate from the space where it unfolds.”

(On order for Clemons Library.)

Recommended by Carlos Velazco Fernandez, Ph.D. Candidate

“La mucama de Omicunlé” de Rita Indiana (Editorial Periférica, 2015)

Publisher’s summary: “This overwhelming novel, which enshrines Rita Indiana as narrator, contains many layers and fascinating twists. … Including deities that inhabit the Caribbean Sea, political interests, Goya’s prints, gender reassignment and numerous plot twists, few other works of fiction speak of contemporary art as precisely as ‘La mucama de Omicunlé.’”

“Tentacle” by Rita Indiana, translated by Achy Obejas (And Other Stories, 2018)

Cover image for "Tentacle, featuring an illustration of a sea creature with pink tentacles.
Publisher’s summary: “Plucked from her life on the streets of post-apocalyptic Santo Domingo, young maid Acilde Figueroa finds herself at the heart of a voodoo prophecy: only she can travel back in time and save the ocean and humanity from disaster. … Bursting with punk energy and lyricism, it’s a restless, addictive trip: ‘The Tempest’ meets the telenovela.”

The other two books are poetic since poetry is the water of the soul. Besides, these books are close to our university, since the first one was written by a guest professor at our university last year and the second one is written by another professor who currently teaches at our university:

“Adiós a Lenin: Antología Poética” de Federico Díaz-Granados (Pontificia Universidad Javeriana, 2017)

Publisher’s summary: “Ultimately, only the poetic word is capable of evoking the lost paradise of childhood, family, love, the desired body, the longed-for plenitude. Yes, to evoke them, but only in fragments and scraps, in their traces and absences, in their ‘brief passage through the word.’ Hence precisely the tragic beauty of the poetry of Federico Díaz Granados.”

(Electronic copy available.)

“America” by Fernando Valverde, translated and with an introduction by Carolyn Forché  (Copper Canyon Press, 2021)
Cover image for "America" featuring black and white picture of an open road.

Publisher’s summary: “In Fernando Valverde’s América, ‘sorrow is ancient.’ Mournfully lyrical, politically sharp, with a sweeping view of American roots, dysfunctions, and ideals – as if from above, and yet also from within – this is a book that deconstructs the legacy of empire. Valverde is widely regarded as one of the most important younger Spanish-language poets. Here his vibrant voice and convictions are translated and introduced by Carolyn Forché, herself a world-renowned poet of witness. Bilingual, with Spanish originals and English translations.


Recommended by Elizabeth Mirabal, Ph.D. Candidate

El infinito en un junco: la invención de loss libros en el mundo antiguo” de Irene Vallejo. (Siruela, 2019)

Publisher’s summary: “In an essay sprinkled with personal anecdotes, Irene Vallejo breaks down and covers 30 centuries of the history of the book.”

(An English translation will be available in late September.)

“Papyrus: The Invention of Books in the Ancient World” by Irene Vallejo, translated from the Spanish by Charlotte Whittle (Knopf, 2022)
Cover image of "Papyrus" featuring an illustration of a marsh.

Publisher’s summary: “A rich exploration of the importance of books and libraries in the ancient world that highlights how humanity’s obsession with the printed word has echoed throughout the ages.”

“Jardín” de Dulce María Loynaz (Aguilar, 1951)

You can electronically read this novel in the critical edition by Zaida Capote Cruz published in 2015 in La Habana, Cuba (Editorial Letras Cubanas), via the Internet Archive. No English translation available.

“My Tender Matador” by Pedro Lemebel, translated by Katherine Silver (Grove Press, 2003)

Cover art for "My Tender Matador" featuring an illustration of a soldier dancing with a woman in a black dress.
Publisher’s summary: “Centered around the 1986 attempt on the life of Augusto Pinochet, an event that changed Chile forever, My Tender Matador is one of the most explosive, controversial, and popular novels to have been published in that country in decades.”