True Story

Nonfiction for Hispanic Heritage Month

Happiest of Fridays, nonfiction friends! We are in Minnesota’s beautiful, brief season of “second summer,” which means I’m wearing hooded sweatshirts with sandals and trying to soak up the fact that we still have a few hours of sunlight after work.

This week I’d like to share some recent books to help recognize Hispanic Heritage Month, which is celebrated September 15 – October 15 each year. Although the name of the month is problematic, it’s still a good excuse to celebrate nonfiction by Latinx authors and storytellers. Here are a few recent-ish gems:

book cover an african american and latinx history of the united stats by paul ortiz

An African American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz

This book offers a revolutionary history of the contributions African American, Latinx, and Indigenous people have made to the history of the United States. By looking at history through those stories, the book “transforms US history into one of the working class organizing against imperialism.” This book is part of Beacon Press’s amazing Revisionist History series, which I just love.  

Ordinary Girls: A Memoir by Jaquira Díaz

Jaquira Díaz grew up in housing projects in both Puerto Rico and Miami Beach, trying to balance her family’s disintegration (and her mother’s schizophrenia) with the connections she felt with her friends. Her story explores sexuality, mental illness, sexual assault within the context of trying to understand Puerto Rico’s colonial history and one girl’s place in it. This one is really beautiful!

book cover the hispanic republican by geraldo cadava

The Hispanic Republican: The Shaping of an American Political Identity, from Nixon to Trump by Gerardo Cadava

When it comes to politics and political prognostication, it can be easy to lump entire groups of people into a single type or voting bloc. In this book, a Northwestern University professor explores how some Hispanic Americans have impacted national politics since the 1960s, particularly after being courted by Republicans during the Cold War. He also looks at how different cultural identities within the Latino community affect voting patterns.

book cover undocumented by dan-el padilla peralta

Undocumented: A Dominican Boy’s Odyssey from a Homeless Shelter to the Ivy League by Dan-El Padilla Peralta

Dan-El Padilla Peralta came to the United States with his family, seeking medical care for his mother. When their visas ran out, his father returned to Santo Domingo while Peralta and his mother remained in New York City. This memoir is about his experiences growing up homeless, getting a boost into private school, and navigating his dual life between Harlem and Manhattan as an undocumented immigrant.

Finding Latinx: In Search of the Voices Redefining Latino Identity by Paola Ramos

One of my favorite nonfiction storytelling techniques is heading out on a road trip to gather stories from people around the county as a way of exploring big and complicated questions. In this book, journalist Paola Ramos sets out to understand how people define the term “Latinx” – particularly those who have been overlooked when we think about Latinos more generally. It’s a big group, and the stories she gathers are very moving. 

Weekend Reading

I’ve felt overwhelmed and scattered lately, which reminded me of a book that’s been on my TBR for a couple of years – How to Do Nothing: Resisting the Attention Economy by Jenny Odell. The book is about how to live in a world where “technology is designed to buy and sell our attention,” and our worth is determined by how productive we are. Odell argues that we need to protect our attention as our most valuable resource and connects this way of being with larger and more radical forms of political action. I am here for all of that.

For more nonfiction reads, head over to the podcast service of your choice and download For Real, which I co-host with my dear friend Alice. If you have any questions/comments/book suggestions, you can find me on social media @kimthedork. Happy weekend!