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Latino History & Culture; with Memoirs, Essays, and Poetry

A selection of books about Latino history and culture, with emphasis on books by Latino authors. For more books and resources on Racial Equity and Social Justice, see the resource guide Racial Equity Resources. For more reading suggestions check out the Madison Public Library Insider newsletter-- History.


Cover of Silver, Sword & Stone: Thr

Tells the stories of three people in contemporary Latin America whose lives emblemize the three powerful historical forces that still shape Latin America: mineral exploitation (silver), violence (sword), and the Church (stone).   

Cover of Visual Voyages: Images of

An unprecedented visual exploration of the intertwined histories of art and science, of the old world and the new.

Cover of Jungle of Stone: The True

Documents the true story of the nineteenth-century rediscovery of the Mayan civilization by American ambassador John Lloyd Stephens and British architect Frederick Catherwood, illuminating how their findings profoundly changed Western understandings about human history.

Cover of Our America: A Hispanic Hi

Maps the influence of America's Hispanic past, from the explorers and conquistadors who helped colonize Puerto Rico and Florida, to the missionaries and rancheros who settled in California and the 20th-century resurgence in major cities like Chicago and Miami.

Cover of El Norte: The Epic and For

Chronicles the sweeping and dramatic history of Hispanic North America from the arrival of the Spanish in the early 16th century to the present--from Ponce de Leon's initial landing in Florida in 1513 to Spanish control of the vast Louisiana territory in 1762 to the Mexican-American War in 1846 and up to the more recent tragedy of post-hurricane Puerto Rico and the ongoing border acrimony with Mexico. Interwoven in this stirring narrative of events and people are cultural issues that have been there from the start but which are unresolved to this day: language, belonging, community, race, and nationality. Seeing them play out over centuries provides vital perspective at a time when it is urgently needed.

Cover of Enrique's Journey

A Los Angeles Times journalist offers her 2003 Pulitzer Prize-winning story in book form--a timely account of a young Honduran boy's perilous quest to reunite with his mother in the United States.

Available to download: eBook
Read it in Spanish: La travesia de Enrique

Cover of An African American and La

Incisive and timely, this work is a bottom-up history told from the viewpoint of African American and Latinx activists and revealing the radically different ways people of the diaspora addressed issues still plaguing the United States today.

Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of Barrio America: How Latino
A. K.

The compelling history of how Latino immigrants revitalized the nation's cities after decades of disinvestment and white flight.

Cover of Latino Americans: The 500-

Latino Americans chronicles the rich and varied history of Latinos, who have helped shape our nation and have become, with more than fifty million people, the largest minority in the United States. This companion to the landmark PBS miniseries vividly and candidly tells how the story of Latino Americans is the story of our country.

Read it in Spanish: Latino Americanos: El legado de 500 ãnos que dio forma a una nación

Cover of The Devil's Highway: A Tru
Luis Alberto

In May 2001, a group of men attempted to cross the Mexican border into the desert of southern Arizona, through the deadliest region of the continent, the "Devil's Highway." Three years later, Luis Alberto Urrea wrote about what happened to them. The result was a national bestseller, a Pulitzer Prize finalist, a "book of the year" in multiple newspapers, and a work proclaimed as a modern American classic.

Available to download: eBook Audio

Current Events

Cover of We Fed An Island: The True
José Andrés and
Richard Wolffe

The true story of how a group of chefs fed hundreds of thousands of hungry Americans after Hurricane Maria and touched the hearts of many more.

Cover of Somos Latinas: Voices of W
Arenas and Eloisa Gómez

Celebrated Latina civil rights activist Dolores Huerta once said, "Every moment is an organizing opportunity, every person a potential activist, every minute a chance to change the world." These are the stories of some of the Latina activists from Wisconsin who have lived Huerta's words.

Cover of Let's Talk About Your Wall
Boullosa, editor

Major writers from Mexico weigh in on U.S. immigration policy, from harrowing migrant journeys to immigrant detention to the life beyond the wall.

Cover of The Undocumented Americans
Cornejo Villavicencio

One of the first undocumented immigrants to graduate from Harvard reveals the hidden lives of her fellow undocumented Americans in this deeply personal and groundbreaking portrait of a nation.

Available to download: eBook

Cover of Cuba on the Verge: 12 Writ

Spanning politics and art, music and baseball, these essays provide a timely look at a society's profound transformation--from inside and out.

Cover of Tell Me How It Ends: An Es

Structured around the forty questions Luiselli translates and asks undocumented Latin-American children facing deportation, Tell Me How It Ends (an expansion of her 2016 Freeman's essay of the same name) humanizes these young migrants and highlights the contradiction of the idea of America as a fiction for immigrants with the reality of racism and fear--both here and back home.

Cover of Latinx: The New Force in A

"Latinx" (pronounced "La-teen-ex") is the gender-neutral term that covers the largest racial minority in the United States, 17 percent of the country. This is the fastest-growing sector of American society, containing the most immigrants. It is the poorest ethnic group in the country, whose political empowerment is altering the balance of forces in a growing number of states. And yet, Latins barely figure in America's racial conversation--the US census does not even have a category for "Latino." In this groundbreaking discussion, Ed Morales explains how Latin political identities are tied to a long Latin American history of mestizaje, translatable as "mixedness" or "hybridity", and that this border thinking is both a key to understanding bilingual, bicultural Latin cultures and politics and a challenge to America's infamously black/white racial regime.

Cover of American Poison: How Racia

A sweeping examination of how American racism has broken the country's social compact, eroded America's common goods, and damaged the lives of every American--and a heartfelt look at how these deep wounds might begin to heal.

Read it in Spanish: El precio del racismo: la hostilidad racial y la fractura del "sueño Americano"

Cover of Horizontal Vertigo: A City

At once intimate and wide-ranging, and as enthralling, surprising, and vivid as the place itself, this is a uniquely eye-opening tour of one of the great metropolises of the world, and its largest Spanish-speaking city.

En español: El vértigo horizontal: una ciudad llamada México

Memoirs and Essays

Cover of Spirit Run: A 6,000-mile M

The son of working-class Mexican immigrants flees a life of labor in fruit-packing plants to run in a Native American marathon from Canada to Guatemala in this "stunning memoir that moves to the rhythm of feet, labor, and the many landscapes of the Americas.

Available to download: eBook

Cover of The Prince of Los Cocuyos:

A poignant, hilarious, and inspiring memoir from the first Latino and openly gay inaugural poet, which explores his coming-of-age as the child of Cuban immigrants and his attempts to understand his place in America while grappling with his burgeoning artistic and sexual identities.

Cover of My Time to Speak: Reclaimi

An inspiring, timely, and conversation-starting memoir from the barrier-breaking and Emmy Award-winning journalist Ilia Calderón-the first Afro-Latina to anchor a high-profile newscast for a major Hispanic broadcast network in the United States-about following your dreams, overcoming prejudice, and embracing your identity.

Read it in Spanish: Es mi turno: un viaje en busca de mi voz y mis raíces

Cover of The Line Becomes A River

A former Border Patrol agent's haunting experience of an unnatural divide and the lives caught on either side, struggling to cross or to defend it.

Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of An Unlikely Journey: Wakin

Julian Castro, 2020 Presidential candidate, keynote speaker at the 2012 DNC, and former San Antonio mayor and Secretary of Housing and Urban Development, tells his remarkable and inspiring life story.

Read it in Spanish: Un viaje improbable: mi despertar del sueño Americano


Cover of A House of My Own: Stories

From the author of The House on Mango Street, a richly illustrated compilation of true stories and nonfiction pieces that, taken together, form a jigsaw autobiography--an intimate album of a beloved literary legend.

Cover of Homelands: Four Friends, T

From prizewinning journalist and immigration expert Alfredo Corchado comes the sweeping story of the great Mexican migration from the late 1980s to today, told through the eyes of four friends over three decades.

Read it in Spanish: Patrias: cuatro amigos, dos países y el destino de la gran migración Mexicana

Cover of My Time Among the Whites:
Jennine Capó

In this sharp and candid collection of essays, critically acclaimed writer and first-generation American Jennine Capó Crucet explores the condition of finding herself a stranger in the country where she was born. Raised in Miami and the daughter of Cuban refugees, Crucet examines the political and personal contours of American identity and the physical places where those contours find themselves smashed: be it a rodeo town in Nebraska, a university campus in upstate New York, or Disney World in Florida.

Available to download: eBook

Cover of Ordinary Girls: A Memoir

Jaquira Díaz writes an unflinching account of growing up as a queer biracial girl searching for home as her family splits apart and her mother struggles with mental illness and addiction. From her own struggles with depression and drug abuse to her experiences of violence to Puerto Rico's history of colonialism, every page vibrates with music and lyricism.

Available to download: eBook

Cover of The Distance Between Us: A

From an award-winning novelist and sought-after public speaker, an eye-opening memoir about life before and after illegally emigrating from Mexico to the United States.

Read it in Spanish: La distancia entre nosotros, eBook

Cover of In the Country We Love: My
Guerrero and Michelle Burford

The star of Orange is the New Black and Jane the Virgin presents her personal story of the real plight of undocumented immigrants in this country.

Available to download: eBook
Read it in Spanish: En el país que amamos: mi familia dividida, eBook

Cover of Crux: A Cross-border Memoi

A daughter's quest to understand her charismatic and troubled father, an immigrant who crosses borders both real and illusory--between sanity and madness, science and spirituality, life and death.

Cover of Creep: Accusations and Con

A ruthless and razor-sharp essay collection that tackles the pervasive, creeping oppression and toxicity that has wormed its way into society, in our books, schools, and homes, as well as the systems that perpetuate them, from the acclaimed author of Mean, and one of our fiercest, foremost explorers of intersectional Latinx identity.


Cover of A Cup of Water Under My Be

A coming-of-age memoir by a Colombian-Cuban woman about shaping lessons from home into a new, queer life.

Cover of Children of the Land
Hernandez Castillo

This unforgettable memoir from a prize-winning poet about growing up undocumented in the United States recounts the sorrows and joys of a family torn apart by draconian policies and chronicles one young man's attempt to build a future in a nation that denies his existence.

Cover of Once I Was You: A Memoir o

Emmy Award-winning NPR journalist Maria Hinojosa shares her personal story interwoven with American immigration policy's coming-of-age journey at a time when our country's branding went from "The Land of the Free" to "the land of invasion."

Available to download: eBook Audio
Read it in Spanish: Una vez fui tú: mi vida entre el amor y el odio en los Estados Unidos

Cover of My Broken Language: A Memo
Quiara Alegría

The Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright and co-writer of In the Heights tells her lyrical story of coming of age against the backdrop of an ailing Philadelphia barrio, with her sprawling Puerto Rican family as a collective muse. Available to download: eBook, eAudio

Cover of Unforgetting: A Memoir of

A journalistic memoir detailing the author's firsthand experiences with immigration, gang life, and guerrilla warfare explores the violence that shaped generations of his impoverished Salvadoran family to connect today's immigration crisis to the realities of everyday families.

Cover of Becoming Maria: Love and C

Pura Belpré Honor winner and one of America's most influential Hispanics--'Maria' on Sesame Street--delivers a beautifully wrought coming-of-age memoir.

Available to download: eBook

Cover of Native Country of the Hear

From the pioneering queer theorist Cherríe Moraga, a memoir about her relationship with her mother, and her people.

Cover of The Book of Rosy
Rosayra Pablo
Cruz and Julie Schwietert Collaz

From a mother whose children were taken from her at the U.S. border by the American government in 2018 and another mother who helped reunite the family, a crucial, searing story about the immigration odyssey, family separation and reunification, and the power of individuals to band together to overcome even the most cruel and unjust circumstances.

Available to download: eBook
Read it in Spanish: El libro de Rosy: la historia de una madre separada de sus hijos en la frontera, eBook

Cover of My Beloved World

An instant American icon--the first Hispanic on the U.S. Supreme Court--tells the story of her life before becoming a judge in an inspiring, surprisingly personal memoir.

Available to download: eBook Audio

Cover of Burro Genius: A Memoir

From one of America's most beloved authors comes a raw and unnerving memoir that explores the transformation of an angry young man into the bestselling author we know today.

Available to download in Spanish: Burro genio

Cover of Darkroom: A Memoir in Blac
Lila Quintero

An arresting and moving personal story about childhood, race, and identity in the American South, rendered in stunning illustrations by the author. (graphic novel)


Cover of Borderlands = La frontera

Rooted in Gloria Anzaldúa's experience as a Chicana, a lesbian, an activist, and a writer, the essays and poems in this volume profoundly challenged, and continue to challenge, how we think about identity.

Cover of Breakbeat Poets vol. 4: La
Felicia Chavez, Jose Olivarez
and Willie Perdomo, Editors

In the dynamic tradition of the BreakBeat Poets anthology, The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNext celebrates the embodied narratives of Latinidad.  Poets speak from an array of nationalities, genders, sexualities, races, and writing styles, staking a claim to our cultural and civic space.  Like Hip-Hop, we honor what was, what is, and what's next.

Cover of Postcolonial Love Poem

Natalie Diaz's highly anticipated follow-up to When My Brother Was an Aztec, winner of an American Book Award.

Cover of Be Recorder: Poems
Giménez Smith

In this finalist for the National Book Award for Poetry, Carmen Giménez Smith dares to demand renewal for a world made unrecognizable.

Cover of The Carrying: Poems

From National Book Award and National Book Critics Circle Award finalist Ada Limón comes her most powerful collection yet. Vulnerable, tender, acute, these are serious poems, brave poems, exploring with honesty the ambiguous moment between the rapture of youth and the grace of acceptance.

Cover of I Didn't Know There Were L
Mireles, Editor

Twenty-five years ago Oscar Mireles published the anthology, I didn't know there were Latinos in Wisconsin: 20 Hispanic Poets. This third volume in the series includes the work of more than thirty authors of poetry, essay, memoir, and fiction and demonstrates once again the breadth and depth of Wisconsin's Latino/a population. Not strangers, not new arrivals, these authors represent an important part of the region's cultural and social fabric. Writing sometimes in English, sometimes in Spanish, and sometimes in a dynamic mixture of both languages, Mireles' anthology helps to extend many narratives: not only of what it means to be Latino/a in the Midwest, but also what it means to be Midwestern.

Cover of Promises of Gold = Promesa

A groundbreaking collection of poems addressing how every kind of love-self, brotherly, romantic, familial, cultural-is birthed, shaped, and complicated by the invisible forces of gender, capitalism, religion, migration, and so on. Written in English and combined with a Spanish translation by poet David Ruano, Promises of Gold explores many forms of love and how "a promise made isn't always a promise kept," as Olivarez grapples with the contradictions of the American Dream laying bare the ways in which "love is complicated by forces larger than our hearts.

Cover of The Crazy Bunch

A new collection that chronicles a weekend in the life of a group of friends coming of age in East Harlem at the dawn of the hip-hop era.

Cover of Lima : Limón

In her striking second collection, Natalie Scenters-Zapico sets her unflinching gaze once again on the borders of things. Lima : Limón illuminates both the sweet and the sour of the immigrant experience, of life as a woman in the U.S. and Mexico, and of the politics of the present day.

Cover of Inward
Yung Pueblo

From poet, meditator, and speaker Yung Pueblo, comes a collection of poetry and prose that explores the movement from self-love to unconditional love, the power of letting go, and the wisdom that comes when we truly try to know ourselves. It serves as a reminder to the reader that healing, transformation, and freedom are possible.


Cover of Unaccompanied

This gorgeous debut speaks with heart-wrenching intimacy and first-hand experience to the hot-button political issues of immigration and border crossings.