1) REMEDIOS: MEDICINE STORIES FROM THE HISTORY OF PUERTO RICAN WOMEN AND OUR KIN by Aurora Levins Morales
I'm motivated by injustice and the drive to resist and remake the world. I'm inspired by the folks who are currently in that fight. Right now AOC is my hero. I've just never seen a Latina elected official (other than my mom) who was just so in-your-face toward the powers-that-be.
2) THE GODS OF TANGO by Carolina DeRobertis
Arriving in Buenos Aires in 1913, with only a suitcase and her father’s cherished violin to her name, seventeen-year-old Leda is shocked to find that the husband she has travelled across an ocean to reach is dead. Unable to return home, alone, and on the brink of destitution, she finds herself seduced by the tango, the dance that underscores every aspect of life in her new city. Knowing that she can never play in public as a woman, Leda disguises herself as a young man to join a troupe of musicians. In the illicit, scandalous world of brothels and cabarets, the line between Leda and her disguise begins to blur, and forbidden longings that she has long kept suppressed are realized for the first time. Powerfully sensual, The Gods of Tango is an erotically charged story of music, passion, and the quest for an authentic life against the odds.
3) MY BELOVED WORLD by Sonia Sotomayo
The first Hispanic and third woman appointed to the United States Supreme Court, Sonia Sotomayor has become an instant American icon. Now, with a candor and intimacy never undertaken by a sitting Justice, she recounts her life from a Bronx housing project to the federal bench, a journey that offers an inspiring testament to her own extraordinary determination and the power of believing in oneself.
Here is the story of a precarious childhood, with an alcoholic father (who would die when she was nine) and a devoted but overburdened mother, and of the refuge a little girl took from the turmoil at home with her passionately spirited paternal grandmother. But it was when she was diagnosed with juvenile diabetes that the precocious Sonia recognized she must ultimately depend on herself. She would learn to give herself the insulin shots she needed to survive and soon imagined a path to a different life. With only television characters for her professional role models, and little understanding of what was involved, she determined to become a lawyer, a dream that would sustain her on an unlikely course, from valedictorian of her high school class to the highest honors at Princeton, Yale Law School, the New York County District Attorney’s office, private practice, and appointment to the Federal District Court before the age of forty. Along the way we see how she was shaped by her invaluable mentors, a failed marriage, and the modern version of extended family she has created from cherished friends and their children. Through her still-astonished eyes, America’s infinite possibilities are envisioned anew in this warm and honest book.
4) IN THE TIME OF THE BUTTERFLIES by Julia Alvarez
It is November 25, 1960, and three beautiful sisters have been found near their wrecked Jeep at the bottom of a 150-foot cliff on the north coast of the Dominican Republic. The official state newspaper reports their deaths as accidental. It does not mention that a fourth sister lives. Nor does it explain that the sisters were among the leading opponents of Gen. Rafael Leónidas Trujillo’s dictatorship. It doesn’t have to. Everybody knows of Las Mariposas--the Butterflies.
In this extraordinary novel, the voices of all four sisters--Minerva, Patria, María Teresa, and the survivor, Dedé--speak across the decades to tell their own stories, from secret crushes to gunrunning, and to describe the everyday horrors of life under Trujillo’s rule. Through the art and magic of Julia Alvarez’s imagination, the martyred Butterflies live again in this novel of courage and love, and the human costs of political oppression.
5) THE OPEN VEINS OF LATIN AMERICA by Eduardo Galeano
My own heritage is Puerto Rican, African American and West Indian from St. Kitts & Nevis. Originally, the Justice Hustlers series was only three books, and each protagonist had one of my heritages. UPTOWN THIEF's protagonist, Marisol, is Puerto Rican. THE BOSS' protagonist, Tyesha, is African American (from Chicago). THE ACCIDENTAL MISTRESS' protagonists are Violet and Lily, sisters from Trinidad. I was several books in before I realized I was writing about my own cultural roots. For the purpose of the Justice Hustlers formula, it worked best to write about them individually, but I'm working on some future projects where the protagonists are mixed heritage. But then Justice Hustlers seems to have stretched into a 5-book series. The hurricane book was an unexpected addition (Dulce is Dominican & Cuban, but was born in PR) and the 5th book will also be West Indian, because Lily, one of the sisters from Book 3, didn't get a romantic arc. I just love her and want to see what will happen in her love life. She's a stripper-organizer, and also a slam poet. She's six-feet-tall, loud & hotheaded. I really look forward to getting to write a whole book about her.
Aya de Leon directs the Poetry for the People program in the African American Studies Department at UC Berkeley. Kensington Books published her feminist heist novels UPTOWN THIEF in 2016 (winner of the International Latino Book Awards), THE BOSS in 2017, and THE ACCIDENTAL MISTRESS in 2018 (all of which won first place Independent Publisher Awards). The Justice Hustlers series continues with SIDE CHICK NATION in 2019 about the hurricane in Puerto Rico, and in 2020 Kensington will publish Aya's first spy novel, about FBI infiltration of an African American political organization. Aya's work has also appeared in Ebony, Guernica, Writers Digest, Bitch Magazine, Essence, VICE, The Root, Ploughshares, and on Def Poetry, and she's an advice columnist for Mutha Magazine. Aya is at work on a picture book to help talk to children about racism, as well as a black/Latina spy girl series for teens called GOING DARK. She is an alumna of Cave Canem and VONA. Visit her online at ayadeleon.com, on Tiwitter at @AyadeLeon or on Facebook or Instagram at ayadeleonwrites.