October is Latin American & Hispanic Heritage Month* in Canada, as well as Women’s History Month! So with that, I figured I should spotlight a title that talks about the intersection between Latin American heritage and gender.
Dominicana by Angie Cruz was shortlisted for the Women’s Prize for Fiction for 2020. Cruz was inspired by her mother’s experience in writing Dominicana, though when Cruz presented her mother with the idea of writing this novel, “the older woman was apparently unconvinced: “Who would be interested in a story about a woman like me? It’s so typical.” Typical but rarely represented among mainstream narratives, Cruz counters” (Anderson, Dominicana by Angie Cruz Review in The Guardian). The fate of her entire family – their upward mobility and the way out of the Dominican Republic – rests upon 15-year old Ana’s marriage to Juan Ruiz, a man more than twice her age, who promises to whisk her away to New York (her family to be brought over after). Once in New York, Ana discovers that the life of riches and glamour she and her family had envisioned Juan would bring her was far from the truth: in a foreign land, without her family, where she does not speak the language, she is locked in a small apartment most of the days, waiting for Juan to come home. But as Ana herself says, “Bully me, and I transform into an ant”. Cruz captures Ana’s loneliness poignantly, the sense that nothing is going as either she or Juan had wanted, and the feeling of being trapped with no way out: this marriage is bigger than either of them. Although as a reader, you likely feel more for Ana, as a child bride going someplace unknown knowing no one apart from her new husband (though she doesn’t know him well either), you get the sense that no one in this generation has gotten closer to the American Dream. Not Mamá, not Juan, not César… Dominicana ends on an ambiguously hopeful note, but I won’t spoil it for you here: the novel is well worth a read.
*On the national level, it appears it’s Latin American Heritage Month for Canada (a bit different from the Hispanic Heritage Month in the United States).
If you liked Dominicana, here are a few more titles you might enjoy (not all by Hispanic or Latin American authors):
- The Lost Book of Adana Moreau by Michael Zapata (Latin American author)
- The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henríquez (of Hispanic descent)
- Mexican Gothic by Silvia Moreno-Garcia (Mexican-Canadian author)
- Hades, Argentina by Daniel Loedel, who based the character of Isabel on his half-sister, who was disappeared by the military dictatorship of Argentina in the 70s
- The New American by Micheline Aharonian Marcom
- The Seven or Eight Deaths of Stella Fortuna by Juliet Grames
- Homeland Elegies by Ayad Akhtar
- The Other Americans by Laila Lalami
- The Unpassing by Chia-Chia Lin
- Sun of a Distant Land by David Bouchet
- Notice one title conspicuously missing from this list consisting mostly of titles about the immigrant experience?
- When the Moon Was Ours by Anna Marie McLemore
- Anna Marie McLemore is one of the best YA writers, and for good reason! Their lyrical writing combines real world issues with fantasy elements so well. When the Moon Was Ours is about two best friends, Miel and Sam. Roses grow out of Miel’s wrists and Sam is known for the moon he hangs in trees. There’s more than meets the eye to this gorgeous novel and we encourage people looking for their next favourite author to check out anything by McLemore!
- Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
- There’s always new debut novels we’re eager to recommend and Cemetery Boys is no different! This #ownvoices novel focuses on a 16-year-old trans boy who wants to prove that he is a brujo to his conservative family. This is a book both for those who love character-driven novels AND for those who love fantasy!
- Paola Santiago and the River of Tears by Tehlor Kay Mejia
- This new middle grade novel is perfect for fans of Rick Riordan! The book stars Paola Santiago, a twelve-year old girl who doesn’t believe in her mother’s superstitions and tales of ghosts. She knows that science has an explanation for everything, but what happens when science can’t predict the weird dreams that she gets? When her best friend goes missing, it’s up to Paola to figure out what happened, leaving everything she thought behind. If you like novels with great characters. This title is available as a physical item at our libraries or it is instantly available online through Hoopla.