9 Books That Will Make You Laugh, Swoon, and Cry—All Starring Latinx Characters

updated Oct 13, 2020
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Growing up, I rarely saw the Latinx experience cherished in the books, TV, and movies I consumed. While shows like “Jane the Virgin,” “One Day at a Time,” and “Supercenter” would eventually provide space for Latinx characters to explore well-rounded storylines, major TV and movie studios have a lot of work to do when it comes to investing in Latinx artists both in front of and behind the camera. In recent years, there has been a widespread push by those creatives to make space themselves—and Latinx book authors are among those leading the charge for us to tell our stories.

I once was left to imagine stories where I saw my experience reflected—save for books like “The House on Mango Street”, and the occasional sidekick in a young adult novel or two whose so-called “fiery” personality was always one-dimensional and always seemed based on a harmful stereotype. Now, there are plenty of books that run the gambit of the Latinx experience, whether by featuring gay and trans Latinx characters to those of different class statuses. Even better, while these books aren’t limited to one genre, they all have characters you’ll want to root for at the center. Happy reading!

“Cemetery Boys” by Aiden Thomas

Family is everything to Yadriel. But his family refuses to accept Yadriel for what he is: A trans and queer brujo. Yadriel’s family believes that only men can help guide the dead to the afterlife, and they don’t see him as truly a man. So Yadriel tries to prove himself by summoning the ghost of his murdered cousin. There’s just one problem: he accidentally summons bad boy Julian Diaz and the more time the two spend together, the closer they become.

“Pride” by Ibi Zoboi

Woman hates pretentious man. Pretentious man is fascinated by her scorn. They intrigue each other and fall in love. Sounds familiar? In her sophomore novel, Ibi Zoboi remixes the plot of Jane Austen’s “Pride and Prejudice” against the backdrop of Bushwick, Brooklyn, where Zuri Benitez does everything she can to save her New York City neighborhood from falling into gentrification—including making a frenemy of Darius Darcy and his family when they move in next door.

“You Had Me at Hola” by Alexis Daria

You can’t control when chemistry happens—off-screen or on-screen. And it’s chemistry that gets soap opera star Jasmine Lin Rodriguez embroiled in yet another tabloid disaster, so she swears off men in order to become a “Leading Lady.” But the sparks between her and co-star Ashton Suárez might throw a wrench in that plan as fans begin to insist the two are an IRL couple, despite both of their desires to put work above love. 

Mexican Gothic” by Silvia Moreno-Garcia

Socialite Noemí Taboada just wants to go to parties, wear nice clothes, and study anthropology. That is, until her father whisks her away and sends her to visit her newly married cousin, Catalina, who sent a distressing letter. Noemí arrives at the High Place—the Victorian-style residence of Catalina’s husband, Virgil Doyle—and discovers that there’s more going on than a white man taking advantage of a woman for her money. 

“The Grief Keeper” by Alexandra Villasante

Afraid that their asylum request will be denied, 17-year-old Marisol agrees to participate in an experimental study that will guarantee that her and her sister’s application will get approved. Marisol, under the impression that she will be absorbing the grief of soldiers with PTSD, is surprised when she is assigned to be the grief keeper of Rey, a white wealthy girl her age. As time goes on, they realize that they are both coming to terms with their sexuality.

Felipe only wanted to vibe for winter break: Binge-watch some TV, learn something new on YouTube, and not be reminded about his body. So when Felipe’s mom tells him that the neighbor’s son, Caio, will be staying over for 15 days straight, Felipe naturally is freaking out mainly because he’s had a crush on Caio since forever. “Here the Whole Time” is a heartening read for anyone who has felt insecure because of who they are.

For the past three generations, the women in Rosa Santos’ family have been unable to escape a horrible curse where they lose their lovers to sea. But Rosa is more concerned with connecting with her Cuban culture more than anything else, despite her grandmother’s refusal to speak about her home island. But right when Rosa’s about to graduate high school while completing an associates degree, she meets Alex Aquino, whose family owns the marina. Making a decision for college won’t be the only choice Rosa’s making. 

“Woven in Moonlight” by Isabel Ibañez

In her debut novel, Isabel Ibañez crafts a fantastical world based off of Bolivian history. Ximena, the decoy for the usurped Condesa of Inkasisa, must marry the power-hungry king who drove the Illustrian peoples from their homes. Ximena—who has the ability to turn moonlight into thread—plans on spying on the king and implementing her revenge, but she learns that not everything is what she thinks. 

“This Train is Being Held” by Ismée Williams

Teenagers Isabelle Warren and Alex Rosario are at the whims of their parents. Isa, who is white-passing Cuban and wealthy, wants to be a dancer while her mother pushes her into medicine. On the other hand, Alex, who is Dominican and barely making it, dreams of becoming a poet while his dad forces him into doing extra baseball practice. The two meet on the downtown 1 train and pine after each other over the course of three tumultuous years, but also hide the problems that plague them behind closed doors. While they belong to separate worlds, the 1 train ensures that their worlds collide, time and time again.