Family Stories for Teens: Hispanic Heritage

Families are complicated. These novels and stories depict complex family relationships for young Latinos who are trying to figure out their place in their family — and in the world. Recommended for grades 7-12.

A Good Long Way

Age Level: 14-16

"At 2 a.m., Roelito wakes up to a furious quarrel between his older brother, Beto, 18, and Dad over a broken curfew. When Dad tells Beto to leave, he does, and his best friend, Jessy, helps him find shelter for the night. She knows about running away; she flees the house whenever her drunken father and her mother scream and fight. Can she wait out the two months to graduation and make it to college?

Caramelo

Age Level: 16-18

LaLa learns the stories of her Awful Grandmother and weaves them into a colorful family history. The "caramelo," a striped shawl begun by her Great-Grandmother, symbolizes their traditions.

Confetti Girl

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: Apolonia "Lina" Flores is a sock enthusiast, a volleyball player, a science lover, and a girl who's just looking for answers. Even though her house is crammed full of books, she's having trouble figuring out some very big questions, like why her dad seems to care about books more than her, why her best friend's divorced mom is obsessed with making cascarones (hollowed eggshells filled with colorful confetti), and, most of all, why her mom died last year.

Downtown Boy

Age Level: 12-14

"In 1950s California, 10-year-old Juanito is tired of moving with his migrant-worker parents and staying in relatives' homes in San Francisco's Mission District. He aches for his often-absent father. Finally, Papi returns, and home becomes San Diego, where Juanito settles into a deeper sense of place and faces family secrets and hardship." — Booklist

Drift: A Novel

Age Level: 16-18

Product Description: At sixteen, Robert Lomos has lost his family. His father, a Latin jazz musician, has left San Antonio for life on the road as a cool-hand playboy. His mother, shattered by a complete emotional and psycho-logical breakdown, has moved to Los Angeles and taken Robert's little brother with her. Only his iron-willed grandmother, worn down by years of hard work, is left. But Robert's got a plan: Duck trouble, save his money, and head to California to put the family back together.

Gringolandia

Age Level: 14-16

Product Description: Daniel's papá, Marcelo, used to play soccer, dance the cueca, and drive his kids to school in a beat-up green taxi — all while publishing an underground newspaper that exposed Chile's military regime. After Papá's arrest in 1980, Daniel's family fled to the United States. Now Daniel has a new life, but when Daniel's father is released and rejoins his family, they see what five years of prison and torture have done to him. Even though Daniel dreams of a real father-son relationship, he may have to give up everything simply to save Papá's life.

Heat

Age Level: 12-14

Product Description: Michael Arroyo has a pitching arm that throws serious heat. But his firepower is nothing compared to the heat Michael faces in his day-to-day life. Newly orphaned after his father led the family's escape from Cuba, Michael's only family is his seventeen-yearold brother Carlos. If Social Services hears of their situation, they will be separated in the foster-care system — or worse, sent back to Cuba. Together, the boys carry on alone, dodging bills and anyone who asks too many questions.

How Tía Lola Came to (Visit) Stay

Age Level: 9-12

This book is about a ten-year-old Dominican boy, Miguel, who recently moved to a small town in Vermont after his mother and father separated. Throughout the story Miguel demonstrates mixed feeling about his parents' separation, about starting a new life in a small town away from New York City where his father lives, and about welcoming a flamboyant aunt, "Tía Lola," who only speaks Spanish.

I Lived on Butterfly Hill

Illustrated by: Lee White
Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: Celeste Marconi is a dreamer. She lives peacefully among friends and neighbors and family in the idyllic town of Valparaiso, Chile — until the time comes when even Celeste, with her head in the clouds, can't deny the political unrest that is sweeping through the country and is eventually sent by her parents to Maine. Accented with interior artwork, steeped in the history of Pinochet's catastrophic takeover of Chile, and based on many true events, this multicultural ode to the power of revolution, words, and love is both indelibly brave and heartwrenchingly graceful.

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.

Illegal

Age Level: 14-16

Product Description: "A promise that we would be together on my fifteenth birthday…" Instead, Nora is on a desperate journey far away from home. When her father leaves their beloved Mexico in search of work, Nora stays behind. When his letters and money stop coming, Nora decides that she and her mother must look for him in Texas. After a frightening experience crossing the border, the two are all alone in a strange place. Now, Nora must find the strength to survive while aching for small comforts: friends, a new school, and her precious quinceañera.

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.

Jesse

By: Gary Soto
Age Level: 14-16

Product Description: In this new edition of his first young adult novel, Gary Soto paints a moving portrait of seventeen-year-old Jesse, who has left his parents' home to live with his older brother. These Mexican American brothers hope junior college will help them escape their heritage of tedious physical labor. Their struggles are humorous, true to life, and deeply affecting. Young adults will sympathize with the brothers as they come to terms with what is possible for each of them in an imperfect world.

Lost in the System

Age Level: 14-16

A foster child from the age of two, Charlotte Lopez bounced around foster homes until she went to live in a home that she expected to be permanent. But her foster parents wouldn't adopt her, and after eleven years of waiting, Charlotte moved to an emergency shelter for children in crisis. Charlotte kept up her grades, participated in sports and school activities, and even entered the Miss Vermont Teen USA pageant. In August 1992, she was crowned Miss Teen USA. It wasn't until she was legally adopted at age 17, however, that she finally found a place to call home.

Parrot in the Oven: Mi vida

Age Level: 12-14

"It's not easy for Manuel Hernandez to discover his place in the world, especially when he is constantly bombarded with the hardships of his poor and woefully dysfunctional family. Their tiny sheetrock house in the projects is the scene of angry arguments — even of threats at rifle point…But as the months pass and some of his wounds heal, Manny slowly begins to understand the sense of self that he can derive from his role within this difficult household." — Publishers Weekly

Soledad: A Novel

Age Level: 16-18

Product Description: Soledad couldn't get away fast enough from her contentious family. She's an art student at Cooper Union with a gallery job and a hip East Village walk-up. But when Tía Gorda calls with the news that Soledad's mother has lapsed into an emotional coma, she insists that Soledad's return is the only cure.

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.

Suckerpunch

Age Level: 14-16

"Marcus is quiet and artistic; his younger brother, Enrique, is a charismatic ladies' man. Both boys have been scarred by their father's constant physical abuse directed at Enrique and witnessed silently by guilt-ridden Marcus. The man left a year earlier, but the boys are far from healed. Enrique turns to fighting and dating and dumping girl after girl, while Marcus gets stoned.

The Brothers Torres

Age Level: 14-16

Product Description: Frankie Towers has always looked up to his older brother, Steve. Although Frankie has some reservations, he doesn't spend much time thinking about about Steve's crusade to win the respect of the local cholos. Then Frankie gets into a fistfight with John Dalton — longtime nemesis of Steve's, and the richest, preppiest kid in their New Mexican high school. After another incident with Dalton, Steve is bent on retaliating. Frankie starts to think that his brother is taking this respect thing too far.

The Color of My Words

Age Level: 9-12

Product Description: Twelve-year-old Ana Rosa is a blossoming writer growing up in the Dominican Republic, a country where words are feared. Yet there is so much inspiration all around her — watching her brother search for a future, learning to dance and to love, and finding out what it means to be part of a community — that Ana Rosa must write it all down. As she struggles to find her own voice and a way to make it heard, Ana Rosa realizes the power of her words to transform the world around her — and to transcend the most unthinkable of tragedies.

The House on Mango Street

Age Level: 12-14

This classic of Latin American literature tells the story of Esperanza, who lives in a poor Hispanic neighborhood in Chicago. Told in a series of vignettes, Esperanza tries to leave, while realizing the house on Mango Street will always be with her.

The Meaning of Consuelo: A Novel

Age Level: 16-18

Product Description: The Signe family is blessed with two daughters. Consuelo, the elder, is thought of as pensive and book-loving, the serious child — la niña seria — while Mili, her younger sister, is seen as vivacious, a ray of tropical sunshine. But, for all the joy both girls should bring, something is not right in this Puerto Rican family; a tragedia is developing, like a tumor, at its core.

Trino's Time

Age Level: 12-14

"In Bertrand's solid follow-up to the award-winning Trino's Choice (1999), 15-year-old Trino moves past the haunting memory of his friend's murder and takes on more responsibility in his family. To contribute to the small household income, Trino accepts a job in a grocery store, taking time from friends and schoolwork. When he's assigned a biographical report on Jose Antonio Navarro, Trino finds a hero who helps him aspire to more than just survival." — Booklist

¡Yo!

Age Level: 16-18

"The heroine of Julia Alvarez's ¡Yo! is an author who writes what she knows — much to the chagrin of her close-knit immigrant family…Yo's friends and family members, many of whom appeared in Alvarez's earlier novel, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, take turns narrating this book. They draw a vivid portrait of the writer, describing her big mouth and high-strung nature as well as the details of her youth in the Dominican Republic." — Amazon Review