Are you looking for fun reads for the winter break? The US Latino Digital Humanities team shares some of their favorite Arte Público Press books here, which are available in e-book and print formats! Cozy up on the chilly winter days with a cup of your preferred hot beverage and dive into one of these e-books! Arte Público Press books are available at your favorite local bookstore, online distributor, and on artepublicopress.com.
La Rebelde/The Rebel by Leonor Villegas de Magnón
Leonor Villegas de Magnón (1876-1955) was a fiery critic of dictator Porfirio Díaz and a conspirator and participant in the Mexican Revolution. She rebelled against the ideals of her aristocratic class and against the traditional role of women in her society. In 1910 Villegas de Magnón moved from Mexico to Laredo, Texas, where she continued supporting the revolution as a member of the Junta Revolucionaria (Revolutionary Council) and as an incisive editorialist in Laredo newspapers. In 1913, she founded La Cruz Blanca (The White Cross), a corps of nurses for the revolutionary forces active from the border region to Mexico City.
Many women from both sides of the border risked their lives and left their families to support the revolution. Years later, however, when their participation remained unacknowledged and was running the risk of being forgotten, Villegas de Magnón decided to write her personal account of this history. With enthralling text and 22 pages of photos, La Rebelde examines the period from 1876 through 1920, documenting the heroic actions of the women. Written in the third person with a romantic fervor, the narrative weaves Villegas de Magnón’s autobiography with the story of La Cruz Blanca.
Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood by Judith Ortiz Cofer
Silent Dancing is a personal narrative made up of Judith Ortiz Cofer’s recollections of the bilingual-bicultural childhood which forged her personality as a writer and artist. The daughter of a Navy man, Ortiz Cofer was born in Puerto Rico and spent her childhood shuttling between the small island of her birth and New Jersey. In fluid, clear, incisive prose, as well as in the poems she includes to highlight the major themes, Ortiz Cofer has added an important chapter to autobiography, Hispanic American Creativity and women’s literature.
Silent Dancing has been awarded the 1991 PEN/Martha Albrand Special Citation for Nonfiction and has been selected for The New York Public Library’s 1991 Best Books for the Teen Age.
Nilda by Nicholasa Mohr
It’s the summer of 1941, and all ten-year-old Nilda wants to do is enjoy the cool water with her friends. But two police offers responding to a call about an open fire hydrant end their fun, and their animosity is played out over and over again in Nilda’s life. She is repeatedly treated with contempt and even disgust by adults in positions of authority: teachers, nurses and social workers.
At home, though, she is surrounded by a large and loving–if somewhat eccentric–family that supports and encourages her artistic abilities. She experiences the onset of World War II and watches anxiously as several brothers go off to war; her stepfather’s poor health means he can’t work, causing serious financial difficulties for the family; one brother slinks off to the underworld, leaving behind a pregnant girlfriend, adding two more mouths to feed to the family’s already dire situation.
Named an “Outstanding Book of the Year” by The New York Times and one of the “Best Books of the Year” by the American Library Association in 1973 when it was first published, Nicholasa Mohr’s classic novel about life as an immigrant in New York City offers a poignant look at one young girl’s experiences. Issues of race, religion and machismo are realistically and movingly depicted in this groundbreaking coming-of-age novel that was one of the first by a Latina author to be hailed by the mainstream media.
The Memories of Ana Calderón/Los recuerdos de Ana Calderón by Graciela Limón
Ana is a young girl when her father decides to move his large, motherless brood to the United States. She just knows that her life will change for the better in the U.S. “My dream was beginning to come true. I didn’t know where we were going, but I felt that each step away from the palapa would lead me to the fulfillment of what I knew was my destiny.” Ana does encounter greater opportunity, but she discovers that in the U.S. too, society, family and religion scheme to hold her back. In order to succeed, Ana must sacrifice all that she holds dear and re-make herself into a rootless and obsessed individual. But even after accomplishing this, fate still conspires against her.
Available in English and Spanish.
Song of the Hummingbird by Graciela Limón
From Aztec princess to slave and concubine, Hummingbird – or Huitzitzilín in her native Nahuatl – recounts her life during the Spanish conquest of Mexico. She experienced first-hand the wonder of gods’ arrival—those bearded, armored men who descended from their vessels on horseback—and the brutal devastation of her land and her people. She witnessed the obliteration of Tenochtitlán and suffered the loss of her identity, being forced to discard her traditional garb, to speak a language foreign to her tongue, and to forsake her ancestral gods.
Expressing a confidence and freedom that women have strived for centuries to attain, Huitzitzilín passionately relates her tale to Father Benito, the priest who seeks to confess and convert her, to offer her an absolution she neither needs nor wants. Instead, she forces him to see the conquest, for the first time, through the eyes of the conquered.
In Song of the Hummingbird, Limón pays homage to the pre-Columbian woman, celebrates the endurance of the human spirit in the face of cataclysm and mourns our collective loss of treasures more valuable than all the plundered gold.
Available in print in both English and Spanish.
Eulogy for a Brown Angel: A Gloria Damasco Mystery by Lucha Corpi
Eulogy for a Brown Angel began a new chapter in the mystery genre with the creation of the first Chicana detective in American literature. Now available for the first time in paperback, readers can discover, or rediscover, Lucha Corpi’s dynamic detective Gloria Damasco in the classic novel that started it all.
A Chicano Civil Rights March has been disrupted by the Los Angeles police, resulting in the gruesome death of a prominent reporter. The tear gas has barely settled when a small, defiled body is left on a street in Los Angeles. A feisty political activist finds the murdered child and begins an investigation that will lead her on a trail of international conspiracy and bloody vengeance. Before long, two other people are dead, and Gloria is determined to piece the mystery together, no matter how long the search may last.
Adding to the mystery is Gloria Damasco’s dark gift, a puzzling extra-sensory awareness that forces her to confront situations in which solutions demand more than reason and logic. Eulogy for a Brown Angel is a fast-paced and suspenseful novel, packed with an assortment of interesting characters. A member of the international writers’ circle Sisters in Crime, Lucha Corpi brings the intrigue to a hard-hitting conclusion in the picturesque Wine Country of Northern California.
The Moths and Other Stories: Las Palomillas de la noche y otra relatos by Helena María Viramontes
The adolescent protagonist of the title story, like other girls in this pioneering collection, rebels against her father, refusing to go to Mass. Instead, dressed in her black Easter shoes and carrying her missal and veil, she goes to her abuelita’s house. Her grandmother has always accepted her for who she is and has provided a safe refuge from the anger and violence at home.
The eight haunting stories included in this collection explore the social, economic and cultural impositions that shape women’s lives. Girls on the threshold of puberty rebel against their fathers, struggle to understand their sexuality and, in two stories, deal with the ramifications of pregnancy. Other women struggle against the limitations of marriage and the Catholic religion, which seek to keep them subservient to the men in their lives. Prejudice and the social and economic status of Chicanos often form the backdrop as women fight—with varying degrees of success—to break free from oppression.
Shedding light on the complex lives and experiences of Mexican-American girls and women, this bilingual edition containing the first-ever Spanish translation of Viramontes’ debut collection, The Moths and Other Stories, will make this landmark work available to a wider audience.
Down Garrapata Road by Anne Estevis
Chatita never saw “anything wrong with living on a road named for a small bloodsucking arachnid,” until her older brother explains that the road is “Garland Potter,” not Tick Road, as the kids had been calling it. “Look, little sister, just keep saying Garrapata, and see how you’ll be made fun of at school. The Americanos will really laugh at you.”
In this tender debut novel, a medley of young voices bring to life a small Mexican-American community in South Texas during the 1940s and 1950s. In this untouched world, young men depart for World War II, whispers of El Chupasangre (the bloodsucker) crawl across the countryside, a brother sacrifices the little money he has for a pastel dress for his sister, and one young girl makes a painful mistake when she disobeys her parents for a tryst with her boyfriend. Each of their lives plays out in the shadows of the world outside their small community and reflects the awakening of a generation of young Mexican Americans raised with their lives bridging two cultures.
Anne Estevis brings to life the voices of young people on the brink of change and conflict, and the coming of age of a traditional community in the modern world.
Secrets of the Casa Rosada by Alex Temblador
Sixteen-year-old Martha and her mother move constantly, never staying anywhere for long. So she knows better than to ask if they’ve been evicted again when her mom says they’re going on a “vacation” to meet the grandmother Martha didn’t know existed.
Laredo, Texas, is like no other city she has seen. Driving past businesses with Spanish names and colorfully painted houses with burnt lawns, Martha can’t imagine her mother living somewhere so … Mexican. At her grandmother’s pink house, Martha’s shocked and hurt when her mom abandons her, even though a part of her had been expecting it.
Suddenly, Martha must deal with a lifestyle that is completely foreign. Her grandmother doesn’t speak English, so communication is difficult, and she’s not particularly kind like most grandmothers. Even weirder, it turns out that her grandmother is revered as a healer, or curandera. And there are tons of cousins, aunts, and uncles all ready to embrace her!
Meanwhile, at Martha’s new school, she can’t be anonymous because everyone knows she’s Doña González’s granddaughter, and a girl named Marcella has it out for her. Why does she hate Martha so much?!? As Martha struggles to adjust to her new life, she can’t help but wonder why her mother left Laredo. No one is willing to discuss it, so she’ll have to unravel the secrets herself.
…y no se lo tragó la tierra/And the Earth Did Not Devour Him by Tomás Rivera
Adapted into the award-winning film …and the earth did not swallow him and recipient of the first award for Chicano literature, the Premio Quinto Sol, in 1970, Rivera’s masterpiece recounts the experiences of a Mexican-American community through the eyes of a young boy. Forced to leave their home in search of work, the migrants are exploited by farmers, shopkeepers, even other Mexican Americans, and the boy must forge his identity in the face of exploitation, death and disease, constant moving and conflicts with school officials.
In this new edition of a powerful novel comprised of short vignettes, Rivera writes hauntingly about alienation, love and betrayal, man and nature, death and resurrection and the search for community.
Children’s picture books
The Runaway Piggy/El cochinito fugitivo by James Luna
The sun shines through the windows of Martha’s Panadería onto the shelves of freshly baked treats. The bakery holds tray after tray of hot Mexican sweet bread—conchas, orejas, cuernitos, empanadas, and cochinitos—all ready for hungry customers.
In the classic tradition of The Gingerbread Man, James Luna’s piggy cookie leaps off the baking tray and takes the reader on a mad dash through the barrio, past Lorenzo’s Auto Shop, Nita’s Beauty Salon, Leti’s Flower Shop, and Juana’s Thrift Shop.
The telephone repairman, the bus driver … each person the piggy encounters is greeted by his laugh and the repeated refrain: “Chase me! Chase me down the street! But this is one piggy you won’t get to eat! I ran away from the others and I’ll run away from you!” The cochinito fugitivo avoids being eaten by the long line of people chasing him through the neighborhood streets … until he meets a crafty little girl named Rosa!
Children—and adults too—will delight in the clever piggy’s escape from Martha’s Panadería in this entertaining re-telling of a familiar story set in a colorful Latino neighborhood. A recipe to make Mexican gingerbread pig cookies is included in both English and Spanish.
Pepita Talks Twice/Pepita habla dos veces by Ofelia Duma Lachtman
Frustrated at constantly being stopped to translate, Pepita decides to stop speaking Spanish, not realizing that this means she can’t talk to her grandmother, sing with her friends, and worst of all, her dog Lobo won’t come to her when she calls him Wolf. This colorfully illustrated picture book charmingly explores the joys and benefits of bilingualism through the experiences of a little girl at the crossroads of the English and Spanish-speaking worlds.
The Gift of the Poinsettia/El regalo de la flor de Nochebuena by Pat Mora
A beautifully illustrated picture book that depicts a poor Mexican boy’ search for a special gift for the Baby Jesus, The Gift of the Poinsettia / El regalo de la flor de Nochebuena focuses on the Mexican tradition of las posadas in which villagers reenact Mary and Joseph’s search for shelter for nine nights.
Traveling from house to house, night after night, Carlos worries each day about the gift he cannot afford to give the Baby Jesus on Christmas Eve. Following each evening of the posada, Carlos excitedly tells his aunt of the sounds, tastes, and songs of Christmas that he witnesses, but his joy is shadowed by his concerns. Following the advice of his beloved Tía Nina, Carlos decides upon a magical gift that stems from the love in his heart and blossoms through the strength of his love.
Written by acclaimed children’s book author Pat Mora, with Charles Ramírez Berg, and with illustrations by Daniel Lechón, this book is sure to warm children’s hearts while demonstrating the importance of love over material things. In addition to depicting the traditional Mexican custom of las posadas, the book also illustrates other Mexican traditions such as papel picado, cascarones, and piñatas.The book also includes the text and musical annotation for the traditional songs of las posadas. The Gift of the Poinsettia will delight both English and Spanish-speaking children.
Zulema and the Witch Owl/Zulema y la Bruja Lechuza by Xavier Garza
Zulema Ortiz is the meanest little girl in the whole wide world. She doesn’t have any friends, animals run away from her in fear, and her mom doesn’t know what to do with her. But maybe, just maybe, her almost ninety-year-old Grandma Sabina does.
When Grandma Sabina comes to live with the family, the first thing Zulema says to her is, “You sure look old and ugly.” Grandma Sabina calmly warns her rude granddaughter about the Witch Owl who prowls the night looking for mean little children, but Zulema just laughs defiantly at such a preposterous story. Nothing scares her because she’s the meanest child in the world!
So when she gets into bed one night and something begins to tap at her window, Zulema isn’t afraid at first. She’s mad. “Nobody plays tricks on me. Only I can play tricks!” But as the noise at her window continues, the insolent little girl begins to lose her bravado. And when a huge owl with glowing red eyes smashes through the window and swoops into her room, Zulema is ready to agree to its demands—even if it means promising to be nice!
In this exciting story about the consequences of being mean to others, Zulema learns something about herself and possibly her grandmother too. The imagination of children ages 4-9 will soar with this fun, suspenseful story by acclaimed author and artist Xavier Garza, whose knack for storytelling and creating lively illustrations captures the spirit of naughty Zulema.
Chapter books for middle readers
Vincent Ventura and the Mystery of the Chupacabras/Vincent Ventura y el misterio del chupacabras by Xavier Garza
When stray dogs start disappearing from the neighborhood, Vincent’s dad thinks that maybe the Animal Control Department is finally doing its job. But then, Mrs. Rangel’s celebrity chihuahua Chato, who appeared in television commercials promoting tacos, disappears. And Mrs. García’s weiner dog and Mrs. West’s poodle go missing. Everyone in the neighborhood is puzzled, but Vincent Ventura has a theory.
The disappearances started when Mr. Calaveras moved into the house at 666 Duende Street, which is rumored to be haunted. Vincent knows he’s not the harmless but grumpy guy that everyone else sees. He’s convinced the old man is behind the rash of missing dogs. In fact, Vincent is sure he’s a monster, a blood-sucking beast known as el chupacabras!
Vincent enlists the aid of his cousin Michelle, the smartest student at their school, and her twin brother Bobby to spy on the suspected killer. Vincent Ventura, monster fighter extraordinaire, is determined to catch him in the act, even if it puts them all in danger! Accompanied by the author’s dramatic black and white illustrations, this exciting short novel for ages 8 – 12 will introduce Latino creepy creatures to a new generation of readers.
The Case of the Three Kings: The Flaca Files/El Caso de los reyes magos: Los expedientes de Flaca by Alidis Vicente
Flaca, or Detective Flaca as she prefers to be called, is pleased with her Christmas gifts. Finally, she has the tools needed to do her job: a fingerprint-taking kit, a police-quality mini flashlight, and most exciting of all, police tape to block off crime scenes! However, she is not at all pleased with the airline tickets to Puerto Rico she and her sister La Bruja are given. She has case deadlines to meet! La Bruja isn’t very happy either since their grandmother’s house doesn’t have air conditioning, cable TV or Wi-Fi.
Their parents are sure the girls will enjoy celebrating Three Kings Day, a huge holiday in Latin America that takes place on January 6 and involves putting grass in a box under the bed for the wise men’s camels. Three men on flying camels sounds very suspicious to Detective Flaca, who once again is faced with a case begging to be solved. Where do the Three Kings get the gifts to put in the boxes? Do they steal presents from Santa Claus? Or do they take them from under Christmas trees around the world?
The skinny second grader first introduced in The Case of the Missing Chancleta and Other Top-Secret Cases / La chancleta perdida y otros casos secretos is back on the case in the second installment of the bilingual series, The Flaca Files / Los expedientes de Flaca. Narrated by Detective Flaca in hard-boiled detective style, this short, bilingual novel for intermediate readers will appeal to seasoned and reluctant readers alike.