Across Cultures

Young Latinos are often navigating between many cultures and expectations as they explore their identity throughout adolescence. These stories and novels capture that journey in ways that are funny, heartbreaking, and authentic. Recommended for grades 7-12.

Amor and Summer Secrets

Age Level: 14-16

Product Description: For fifteen-year-old Mariana Ruiz, it's not so much an unexpected vacation as a literal "guilt trip" — her father's way of atoning for ignoring his Puerto Rican roots. The heat is merciless, the food is spicy, and her great aunt and uncle's mountain house teems with relatives, only one of whom — her distant cousin Lilly — speaks English. Bored, and hoping to make up for missing her best friend's star-studded Sweet 16, Mariana offers to help in the planning of Lilly's quinceañera.

Call Me Maria

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: Maria is a girl caught between two worlds: Puerto Rico, where she was born, and New York, where she now lives in a basement apartment in the barrio. While her mother remains on the island, Maria lives with her father, the super of their building. As she struggles to lose her island accent, Maria does her best to find her place within the unfamiliar culture of the barrio. Finally, with Spanglish ringing in her ears, she finds the poet within herself.

Cuba 15

By: Nancy Osa
Age Level: 12-14

Every girl wants to celebrate her quinceañera, or 15th birthday, right? Not necessarily, as half-Cuban, half-Polish Violet can barely speak Spanish. As the plans move forward, Violet comes to terms with her heritage in this warm and funny novel.

Cubanita

Age Level: 16-18

Product Description: All Isa wants is to be a regular American teenager, something her Cuban immigrant mother most definitely does not understand. After almost eighteen years of constant debate over everything from birthdays to boys, Isa has had enough. She's counting down the days until she leaves for college — and can get as far away from Miami (North Cuba) as possible. But the more Isa tries to detach herself from her roots, the more tangled she becomes. Will she ever find the normal American life she dreams of? Or is she destined to become a cubanita after all?

Dancing Home

Product Description: Mexico may be her parents' home, but it's certainly not Margie's. She has finally convinced the other kids at school she is one-hundred percent American — just like them. But when her Mexican cousin Lupe visits, the image she's created for herself crumbles. Things aren't easy for Lupe, either. Mexico hadn't felt like home since her father went North to find work. Lupe, as much as Margie, is in need of a friend. Little by little, the girls' individual steps find the rhythm of one shared dance, and they learn what "home" really means.

Dark Dude

Age Level: 12-14

Product Description: In Wisconsin, Rico could blend in. His light hair and lighter skin wouldn't make him the "dark dude" or the punching bag for the whole neighborhood. Trading Harlem for Wisconsin, though, means giving up on a big part of his identity. And when Rico no longer has to prove that he's Latino, he almost stops being one — except there are some things that can't be left behind.

Emily Goldberg Learns to Salsa

Age Level: 12-14

"When high-school senior Emily Goldberg leaves her New York suburban home to attend her grandmother's funeral in Puerto Rico, it's her first meeting with her mother's extended family…Emily stays in Puerto Rico for the summer to help Mom reconnect with what she left behind, and discovers a new world…Ostow draws on her own half-Jewish, half-Puerto Rican roots to tell a moving story that has a solid plotline and plenty of family secrets — past and present — as it opens up issues of tradition, feminism, friendship, and loyalty." — Booklist

Finding Miracles

Age Level: 12-14

Product Description: Milly Kaufman is an ordinary American teenager living in Vermont — until she meets Pablo, a new student at her high school. His exotic accent, strange fashion sense, and intense interest in Milly force her to confront her identity as an adopted child from Pablo's native country. As their relationship grows, Milly decides to undertake a courageous journey to her homeland and, along the way, discovers that the story of her birth is intertwined with the story of a country recovering from a brutal history.

I Wanna Be Your Shoebox

Age Level: 12-14

Product Description: Because Yumi Ruíz-Hirsch has grandparents from Japan, Cuba, and Brooklyn, her mother calls her a poster child for the twenty-first century. Yumi would laugh if only her life wasn't getting as complicated as her heritage. Yumi wishes everything could stay the same. But as she listens to her grandfather tell his story, she learns that nobody ever asks you if you're ready for life to happen.

It's Not About the Accent

Age Level: 16-18

Product Description: Sick and tired of her life in small-town Ohio, college-bound Caroline Darcy is determined to start fresh…as a new person. And that means following in the footsteps of her late Nana Ellie — her witty and vibrant Cuban great-grandmother with a glamorous, well-traveled past. The only person who doesn't seem impressed by her Latina facade is Peter, a quiet, sweet Cuban guy from Miami. But when "Carolina" finds herself in a dangerous situation, it's Peter who comes to her rescue — and leads her on a real adventure to discover the truth about Nana Ellie and her family.

Just Like Us

Age Level: 16-18

Product Description: Just Like Us tells the story of four high school students whose parents entered this country illegally from Mexico. We meet the girls on the eve of their senior prom in Denver, Colorado. All four of the girls have grown up in the United States, and all four want to live the American dream, but only two have documents. Just Like Us is a coming-of-age story about girlhood, friendship, and identity — what it means to steal an identity, what it means to have a public identity, what it means to inherit an identity from parents.

Laughing Out Loud, I Fly

Age Level: 12-14

Product Description: Juan Felipe Herrera writes in both Spanish and English about the joy and laughter and sometimes the confusion of growing up in an upside-down, jumbled-up world-between two cultures, two homes. Skillfully crafted, joyful, and fun, the poems are paired with whimsical black and white drawings by Karen Barbour.

Mexican WhiteBoy

Age Level: 14-16

Danny's a great baseball player but he's not even on the school team — he's consumed with feeling like his private-school classmates only see him as a Mexican who doesn't belong and that his Mexican relatives see him as an "almost albino." Can Danny find the help he needs before it's too late?

Song of the Water Saints

Age Level: 16-18

Product Description: This début novel explores the dreams and struggles of three generations of Dominican women. Graciela, born on the outskirts of Santo Domingo at the turn of the century, is a headstrong adventuress who comes of age during the U.S. occupation. Mercedes, abandoned by Graciela at thirteen, turns to religion for solace and, after managing to keep a shop alive during the Trujillo dictatorship, emigrates to New York with her husband and granddaughter, Leila. Leila inherits her great-grandmother Graciela's passion-driven recklessness.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

Age Level: 16-18

"Ghetto nerd," outcast, and anime-loving Oscar Wao is the latest in a long line of doomed generations to suffer the dreaded fuku curse of his native Dominican Republic. With humor and talent as his weapons, he perseveres, knowing "you can never run away. Not ever. The only way out is in."

The Jumping Tree

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: These lively stories follow Rey Castaneda from sixth through eighth grade in Nuevo Penitas, Texas. As Rey begins to cross the border from childhood into manhood, he turns from jokes and games to sense the meaning of work, love, poverty, and grief, and what it means to be a proud Chicano — moments that sometimes propel him to show feelings un hombre should never express. It's a new territory where Rey longs to follow the example his hardworking, loving father has set for him.

The Tequila Worm

Age Level: 12-14

Sofia is a Mexican-American living in Texas. When she is accepted to a prestigious, predominantly white boarding school, she learns how to meld her Mexican-American roots with her new life. The author includes lots of detail about Mexican culture and heritage.

What Can't Wait

Age Level: 14-16

Product Description: Marisa's parents came to Houston from Mexico. They work hard, and they expect Marisa to help her familia. Marisa hears something else from her calc teacher. She should study harder, ace the AP test, and get into engineering school in Austin. Caught between the expectations of two different worlds, Marisa isn't sure what she wants — other than a life where she doesn't end each day thanking God it's over.

When I Was Puerto Rican

Age Level: 16-18

Product Description: Esmeralda Santiago's story begins in rural Puerto Rico, where her childhood was full of both tenderness and domestic strife, tropical sounds and sights as well as poverty. When her mother, Mami, a force of nature, takes off to New York with her seven (soon to be eleven) children, Esmeralda as the oldest must learn new rules, a new language, and eventually take on a new identity.

Yes! We Are Latinos

Illustrated by: David Diaz
Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: Juanita lives in New York and is Mexican. Felipe lives in Chicago and is Panamanian, Venezuelan, and black. Michiko lives in Los Angeles and is Peruvian and Japanese. Each of them is also Latino. Thirteen young Latinos and Latinas living in America are introduced in this book celebrating the rich diversity of the Latino and Latina experience in the United States through free-verse fictional narratives.