In celebration of Hispanic Heritage Month, and to shine a light on the rich diversity of literary talent in Texas, here’s a list of eight books released within the past year by authors who live in Texas and inform their storytelling through their cultural identities.
In her first adult novel, Dallas-based Alex Temblador, who wrote about her hometown of Wichita Falls for Texas Highways in 2019, grapples with what it means to move forward when the past remains unsettled. Raqi, a successful partner at a Los Angeles law firm, learns that her uncle passed away. When she tries turning down a “grieving ride” with the motorcycle club her uncle used to ride with, she discovers she has a living relative. Throughout the course of the grieving ride, Raqi learns more about her uncle, herself, and
Katie Gutierrez’s bestselling debut novel, a Good Morning America’s Book Club pick for June, has a bit of everything: true crime, murder, suspense, and two main female characters grappling with morality. Set in Laredo and Mexico City, the story has twists and turns that ultimately lead to a place of forgiveness. Gutierrez crosses borders, languages, perspectives, and stories and challenges readers’ notion of morality and empathy. For her contributions to Texas Highways, Gutierrez was nominated earlier this year for a National Magazine Award and named Writer of the Year at the IRMA Awards.
Much like its author, who lives in the Rio Grande Valley and advocates for the borderlands, this collection of poems published by Flowersong Press has its roots along the Texas-Mexico border. César Leonardo De León, an educator who won the Texas Institute of Letters’s John A. Robertson Award for Best First Book of Poetry for this anthology, draws from his childhood memories, queerness, and interpersonal relationships to add depth and emotion to his poetry.
Also from Flowersong Press is this hybrid collection of poems and short stories. Inspired by her Tejana roots and studies in creative writing at Texas State University, Leticia Urieta highlights the cultures around her and the feminine experience by telling the stories we often don’t hear—or even want to hear. From migrant detention centers to sexual assault to mother-daughter relationships, this anthology, divided into three sections, paints painful yet beautiful pictures of femininity, making women feel seen in refreshing ways.
In 1914, after immigrating from Mexico to San Antonio during the Mexican Revolution, Aureliano Urrutia built Miraflores garden near the city’s Brackenridge Park. A prominent physician and public servant in his home country, Urrutia always stressed the importance of nature, art, literature, and community. Now his great-granddaughter Anne Elise Urrutia recounts the garden’s history and its ties to her family, the Alamo City, and Mexico. The garden, which has long been neglected, vandalized, and shrouded in mystery, is now slowly undergoing renovations.
Drawing from his Mexican heritage and language to inform his writing, San Antonio’s Rudy Ruiz received accolades for his previous novel, 2020’s The Resurrection of Fulgencio Ramirez, including landing on the American Library Association’s Top 10 Best First Novels of 2020 list. In his new neo-Western novel, Ruiz sets the scene of 1883 West Texas and the historic injustices and suffering along the U.S.-Mexico border. The protagonist, a retired Mexican lawman, sets out to save his community while confronting his destiny. The reader, meanwhile, is asked to reflect on what it means to truly belong.
Undocumented Motherhood: Conversations on Love, Trauma, and Border Crossing by Elizabeth Farfán-Santos (Coming out Oct. 18)
Elizabeth Farfán-Santos is an anthropology professor at the University of Houston College of Medicine and a first-generation scholar and writer. After spending five years with Claudia Garcia, she chronicles the story of her subject’s undocumented motherhood. Garcia initially crossed the United States-Mexico border in hopes of finding quality health care for her deaf daughter. After settling in Houston, she learns that an undocumented status affects more than just travel: It weaves into every part of her life.
In her debut book, El Paso’s Yasmín Ramírez recounts the strong Mexican American women who taught her to be proud and throw a good punch. After the death of her abuelita Ita, Ramírez returns home to interview her mother and older sister. Through them, she learns more about why Ita was so tough. Ramírez’s self-reflection and candid lack of direction in her own life provide solidarity for anyone who has found themselves knocked down over and over again by life. The book is published by Cinco Puntos Presslate, whose founder, Bobby Byrd, recently passed away. His efforts and advocacy helped put Chicano and Latino literature on the map.