Hispanic Heritage Month came to a close last week, but as with many specifically heritage-based holidays, this shouldn’t mean that the sentiments promoted need to cease. Especially in Los Angeles, learning about and celebrating Latin culture is important year round if we are to understand many of our neighborhoods and the people who inhabit them (and used to inhabit them before gentrification). After the controversy in January of last year over the novel American Dirt, we think it’s more important than ever to highlight Latin authors and subjects that get it right. We purposefully do so here and now to make a point– as compassionate human beings we shouldn’t need a “month” to be reminded of or recognize other cultures and their contributions to American life. From actors to artists to activists, we offer this handy list of new and new-ish books to buy or check out (the library remains a wonderful resource- use it!) now. We encourage readers to add these titles to your gift lists for friends and family too, Latin or not.
Boyle Heights- How a Los Angeles Neighborhood Became the Future of American Democracy
Tracing the evolution of Boyle Heights and how the region in L.A. has evolved as different immigrant groups have come and gone, bringing their unique culture and customs with them, this great book explores how its inhabitants have sought to maintain their cultural identity as well. USC professor George J. Sanchez illustrates how the neighborhood has influenced ethnic politics as a model for diversity, and more importantly, unity.
Trejo: My Life of Crime, Redemption, and Hollywood
We interviewed legendary the Danny Trejo as few years ago and was inspired by his story, which saw him go from convict to movie star. But even then, we knew we’d only just scratched the surface of his story. His new book lays it all out and as it is told to co-writer/fellow actor Donal Logue, it has a raw and conversational tone that holds nothing back. The Pacoima-based actor is not only a badass, he’s funny, smart and inspirational with the kind of insight and wisdom that comes with a hard life, lessons learned and ultimately, multiple success in entertainment and the food industry. As a Latino, we are proud call him one of ours and this book shows why. (On another note: we just got word that Trejo will be honored with a wax figure at Madame Tussauds in Hollywood at the end of the month. Congrats Amigo!)
Finding Latinx- In Search of the Voices Redefining Latino Identity
Perhaps nothing has divided the Latin community as much as the terminology we prefer. Older people of Latin-American descent have a real distain for the label “Latinx” especially when white media uses it to seem woke. But Vice News/Telemundo reporter Paola Ramos just might change some of these mindsets with this book. She shares her personal perspective as an LGBTQ+ person and how her coming-out corresponded with the term’s popularity, which for queer people, is less about performative political correctness and more about rejection of gender roles and unquestioned conformity in how we use language.
Living Beyond Borders: Growing up Mexican in America
Editor Margarita Longoria’s collection of short stories, poems and more from acclaimed YA writers is a must have if you want to understand the Mexican-American experience in a creative and real way. It’s written for a young audience but its expressive insight is easily accessible for all.
We Are Here: Visionaries of Color Transforming the Art World
Profiling 50 POC artists and entrepreneurs breaking boundaries with their work, Jasmin Hernandez of Gallery Gurls, celebrates queer, trans, nonbinary, and BIWOC visionaries from Los Angeles, New York and more. From the subjects’ creative process’ to personal challenges to actions and intents for changing the world, it’s a compelling collection that’ll give you hope for an inclusive future.
Inventing Latinos- A New Story of American Racism
The complexities of racial identity are explored by Laura E. Gomez, an expert on the topic who posits that Latinos influence on culture is bigger than anyone has acknowledged. Latin people have reached over a third of America’s population but beyond demographics, views on immigration and societal roles in this country continue to hold us back. Racism exists, and for Latinos, it’s literally, figuratively, psychologically and politically, beyond a Black and white issue. This book attempts to get to the bottom of the problem.
Razabilly- Transforming Sights, Sounds, and History in the Los Angeles Latina/o Rockabilly Scene
This look at Los Angeles’ Latin rockabilly enthusiasts explores the community’s connection to 50s and early 60s aesthetics, style and music. We may not have seen it reflected much on TV or film of the time (for save Richie Valens and West Side Story) but La Raza’s influence on mid-century pop culture was always there, making the modern scene more a trend. Author Nicolas F. Centino enlightens us with history, which focuses on L.A.’s scene and vital venuesthe 90s resurgence including Rudolpho’s in Frogtown/Silver Lake.
As Hispanic History Month began, we also covered three beautiful books about our culture (Nuestra Cultura), all pertaining to Los Angeles’ Latin community and its rich sense of style and expression, including Street Writers, Cruise Night and L.A. Graffiti Black Book.
Read the cover story HERE.
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