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Water Cooler: Books that will teach you about Hispanic American experiences

UPDATED: Mon., Sept. 20, 2021


What better tool is thereto learn more about Hispanic American life and history than a book? Here is a list of fiction by Hispanic American authors and nonfiction on Hispanic American history to help you commemorate the contributions and experiences of Hispanic Americans through Oct. 15 and beyond.


“A Puerto Rican in New York and Other Sketches,” by Jesús Colón (1961) – A short story and essay collection from an author who, born in Puerto Rico, spent 40 years of his life until death in New York City. Colón was an Afro-Puerto Rican activist, and the book includes the author’s political musings. The highlights of this book are its details of Latino life, beginning in Puerto Rico and migrating to the docks of New York.

“The People of Paper,” by Salvador Plascencia (2005) – Plascencia was born in Guadalajara, Mexico and came with his family to Los Angeles when he was eight. This is his debut novel, which shares its world through the tradition of magical realism, which has been featured among many Latin American writings. It also draws upon the work of American postmodernists and their exploration in metafiction. The story plays out in a large war against Saturn, led by a Mexican man named Federico de la Fe.

“The House of the Spirits,” by Isabel Allende (1982) – Acclaimed author and journalist Isabel Allende was born in Lima, Peru. She now resides in California. Her career is marked with numerous awards and honors, such as being the first women to receive the Gabriela Mistral Order of Merit, a high distinction granted by the Chilean government. She is known for her work in magical realism and blending it with influences from history and her childhood. This story is no exception, as it details four generations of a Chilean family and the various political events that impacted their lives.

The House on Mango Street,” by Sandra Cisneros (1984) – Born as the third of seven children in Chicago, with many childhood trips to Mexico City, Cisneros has always drawn on the unique cultural and economic experiences of her early life. Her stories often revolve around the type of people she saw throughout her life and travels, this book being a perfect example. It is a coming-of-age tale with a particular focus on the very silent lives of women Cisneros remembers from her past.


“Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States,” by Felipe Fernández-Armesto (2014) – British historian Felipe Fernández-Armesto was the son of two journalists and spent most of his career teaching at Oxford. This historical analysis reframes United States history by focusing on the country’s early and southern history , beginning with Spain’s early colonizations of Florida, the U.S. Southwest and Puerto Rico and continuing as missionaries and rancheros into California, as well as the charting of the Pacific Coast.

“North from Mexico: The Spanish-Speaking People of the United States,” by Carey McWilliams and updated by Matt S. Meier (1948) – In this survey of Chicano history, American journalist and lawyer Cary McWilliams details the Mexican experience of the United States, beginning with the Indigenous peoples of North and Central America, stretching to 1940s Mexican immigration and detailing the large role undocumented Mexican workers played in the economy of the United States. The book now includes updates by Matt S. Meier, providing analysis and context for the past four decades.

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