90 books like The Latin Deli

By Judith Ortiz Cofer,

Here are 90 books that The Latin Deli fans have personally recommended if you like The Latin Deli. Shepherd is a community of 10,000+ authors and super readers sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Book cover of Down These Mean Streets

J.L. Torres Author Of Migrations

From my list on by writers of the Puerto Rican diaspora.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a child of the Puerto Rican diaspora. Born in the island, raised in the South Bronx—with an interval period in the homeland “to find roots”—I now reside in upstate New York. My life is representative of the vaivén—the “coming and going”—that is a constant in Puerto Rican modern history. Like many Diasporicans, I grew up disconnected from my history, culture, and heritage. These books did not recover what I lost. It is difficult to reclaim culture and national identity secondhand. But these writers shared an experience I readily recognized. Reading them, I embrace my tribe and don’t feel alone. They inspire me to write and tell my own stories.

J.L.'s book list on by writers of the Puerto Rican diaspora

J.L. Torres Why did J.L. love this book?

Thomas’s memoir is a seminal text of Nuyorican Literature (a sub-genre of Diasporican Literature) and the Latinx canon. It also belongs to the urban literature genre that emerged in the 1960s. His, however, was the first Latinx version of a narrative that depicts, some would say sensationalizes and exploits, the gritty, raw life of the inner city. As such, it had a tremendous impact on developing Latinx writers who had few role models at the time. His work, along with others of that genre, still holds influence stylistically and thematically with some Latinx authors. Written in the traditional Augustinian autobiographical model, Mean Streets tracks Piri’s fall into crime and drugs and final transformation and redemption. More significantly, this memoir introduces the issue of Latinx black identity and the complication of it within the American black-white paradigm. 

By Piri Thomas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Down These Mean Streets as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A modern classic of manhood, marginalization, survival, and transcendence—and a lyrical memoir of coming of age on the streets of Spanish Harlem. 

"A report from the guts and heart of a submerged population group ... It claims our attention and emotional response." —The New York Times Book Review

Thirty years ago Piri Thomas made literary history with this lacerating memoir. Here was the testament of a born outsider: a Puerto Rican in English-speaking America; a dark-skinned morenito in a family that refused to acknowledge its African blood. Here was an unsparing document of Thomas's plunge into the deadly consolations of…


Book cover of Family Installments: Memories of Growing Up Hispanic

J.L. Torres Author Of Migrations

From my list on by writers of the Puerto Rican diaspora.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a child of the Puerto Rican diaspora. Born in the island, raised in the South Bronx—with an interval period in the homeland “to find roots”—I now reside in upstate New York. My life is representative of the vaivén—the “coming and going”—that is a constant in Puerto Rican modern history. Like many Diasporicans, I grew up disconnected from my history, culture, and heritage. These books did not recover what I lost. It is difficult to reclaim culture and national identity secondhand. But these writers shared an experience I readily recognized. Reading them, I embrace my tribe and don’t feel alone. They inspire me to write and tell my own stories.

J.L.'s book list on by writers of the Puerto Rican diaspora

J.L. Torres Why did J.L. love this book?

Rivera’s only major work, Family Installments has influenced many Latinx writers, including Junot Diaz. Published in 1982, it was one of the earliest novels capturing the diasporican experience of the Great Migration in the 1950s. Rivera’s protagonist, Santos Malánguez, narrates his family’s journey from  Puerto Rico to New York in great detail, often with sharp insight and humor. As a young aspiring writer, I identified with Santos, especially as he found, in reading and books, solace from a dreary life of struggle. No other book depicts diasporican life so richly and comprehensively—from harsh rural life on the island to tenement living, abusive parochial school education, rip-off credit scams, exploitive working conditions, and the lingering desire to return to the homeland.

By Edward Rivera,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Family Installments as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

A chronicle of the Melanguez family's life in Puerto Rico, their move to New York City, and their efforts to make a life in America includes the narrator's determination to succeed on his own


Book cover of The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle

J.L. Torres Author Of Migrations

From my list on by writers of the Puerto Rican diaspora.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a child of the Puerto Rican diaspora. Born in the island, raised in the South Bronx—with an interval period in the homeland “to find roots”—I now reside in upstate New York. My life is representative of the vaivén—the “coming and going”—that is a constant in Puerto Rican modern history. Like many Diasporicans, I grew up disconnected from my history, culture, and heritage. These books did not recover what I lost. It is difficult to reclaim culture and national identity secondhand. But these writers shared an experience I readily recognized. Reading them, I embrace my tribe and don’t feel alone. They inspire me to write and tell my own stories.

J.L.'s book list on by writers of the Puerto Rican diaspora

J.L. Torres Why did J.L. love this book?

In Vega’s third novel, the eponymous Omaha Bigelow falls for a young and gifted Puerto Rican Taina priestess, Maruquita Salsipuedes. Smitten by the “gringo whiteboy,” and driven by her desire to have a “gringorican baby,” Maruquita asks her mother to perform the bohango ceremony on Omaha to enlarge his small penis. Breaking his vow never to use this new bohango on another woman, Omaha pays the consequences for his betrayal. Full of metafictional intrusions, a subplot concerning a secret, subversive plot to liberate Puerto Rico, and rambling discursive rants, this maximalist novel is more than a parodic romantic story. Vega’s fictional world is often complex, imaginative, iconoclastic, and attuned to American culture and society as seen through the eyes of arguably the most accomplished, talented diasporican fiction writer to date. 

By Edgardo Vega Yunqué,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From one of the most powerful voices in contemporary fiction comes a fantastic adventure through the concrete jungle of New York City

Failed in all his career aspirations, recently laid off from Kinko's, and burdened with a frustrating anatomical shortcoming, Omaha Bigelow finds salvation on the streets of New York City's Lower East Side in the form of a Nuyorican homegirl equipped with an array of powers to cure his problems. Their misbegotten romance transforms him from a perpetual loser to an overnight success, but fame comes with a hefty price. Omaha must soon struggle to remain faithful as he…


Book cover of The Taste of Sugar

Diane Lefer Author Of Out of Place

From my list on for recovering erased history.

Why am I passionate about this?

Soon after 9/11, I had dinner with several American scientists worried about how new security measures would affect international collaborations and foreign-born colleagues. Since science rarely if ever comes up in discourse about the War on Terror, that set me off. I’m always drawn to whatever gets overlooked. I was born in one international city – New York – and have lived in another – Los Angeles – for over 20 years. I’ve spent time on four continents and assisted survivors of violent persecution as they seek asylum – which may explain why I feel compelled to include viewpoints from outside the US and fill in the gaps when different cultural perspectives go missing.

Diane's book list on for recovering erased history

Diane Lefer Why did Diane love this book?

Through friendships with Borinqueñxs and interest in the island, I don’t consider myself wholly ignorant about Puerto Rico. Like the Philippines, Puerto Rico was claimed by the US following the Spanish American War, but once again, when I tried to learn more about that era, I ran into a brick wall. Marisel Vera recovers that history while offering all the pleasures of a traditional family saga. She brings the reader close to the daily lives and loves of a family of coffee farmers who struggle first under Spanish rule and then the system established by the US. Vera also taught me something I’d never heard of: the deceptive recruitment that carried newly impoverished but still hopeful Puerto Ricans off to Hawaii to labor in the sugar fields. 

By Marisel Vera,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Taste of Sugar as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Marisel Vera emerges as a major new voice in contemporary fiction with this "capacious" (The New Yorker) novel set in Puerto Rico on the eve of the Spanish-American War. Up in the mountainous region of Utuado, Vicente Vega and Valentina Sanchez labor to keep their coffee farm from the creditors. When the great San Ciriaco hurricane of 1899 brings devastating upheaval, the young couple is lured along with thousands of other puertorriquenos to the sugar plantations of Hawaii, where they are confronted by the hollowness of America's promises of prosperity. Depicting the roots of Puerto Rican alienation and exodus, which…


Book cover of Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré

Ana Siqueira Author Of Bella's Recipe for Success

From my list on fabulosos Latinx picture books.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ana Siqueira is a Spanish-language elementary teacher, an award-winning Brazilian children’s author, and a published author in the Foreign Language educational market. Her debut picture book is Bella’s Recipe for Disaster/Success (Beaming Books, 2021), Her forthcoming books are If Your Babysitter Is a Bruja/ Cuando Tu Niñera Es Una Bruja (SimonKids, 2022), Abuela’s Super Capa/La Super Capa De Abuela (HarperCollins 2023) - two-book deal auction, Room in Mami’s Corazon (HarperCollins 2024) and some others that can’t be announced yet. Ana is a member of SCBWI, Las Musas Books, and co-founder of LatinxPitch. You can learn more about Ana, by following her.

Ana's book list on fabulosos Latinx picture books

Ana Siqueira Why did Ana love this book?

In this story about Pura Belpre, the Puerto Rican librarian, we learn about her journey of planting story seeds throughout the country. It all starts when she moves to the United States. Working as a bilingual librarian assistant, she notices there are no Puerto Rican stories. So, she writes her own and plants also dream seeds. This is a sparse, lyrical book with vivid and sweet illustrations. 

By Anika Aldamuy Denise, Paola Escobar (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Planting Stories as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 4, 5, 6, and 7.

What is this book about?

FOLLOW LA VIDA Y EL LEGADO OF PURA BELPRE, THE FIRST PUERTO RICAN LIBRARIAN IN NEW YORK CITY

When she came to America in 1921, Pura carried the cuentos folkloricos of her Puerto Rican homeland. Finding a new home at the New York Public Library as a bilingual assistant, she turned her popular retellings into libros and spread story seeds across the land. Today, these seeds have grown into a lush landscape as generations of children and storytellers continue to share her tales and celebrate Pura's legacy.

This portrait of the influential librarian, author, and puppeteer reminds us of the…


Book cover of A Different Kind of Heat

Kelly Parra Author Of Graffiti Girl

From my list on realistic, edgy, multicultural young adult fiction.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am a multicultural published author from California. I attended different schools growing up, reading classic literature that I couldn't relate to, resulting in becoming a reluctant reader. I didn't live in historical time periods. My skin was a lighter shade of brown. In my world, I met kids from diverse backgrounds, who spoke slang and had personal hardships. Where were the books like that? That's why I wrote Graffiti Girl. To share a realistic, multicultural approach so the reluctant reader could have characters they could see themselves in. That's why I chose these books, in no specific order, that share contemporary, urban stories involving people of different cultures, who face unique hardships.

Kelly's book list on realistic, edgy, multicultural young adult fiction

Kelly Parra Why did Kelly love this book?

Luz Cordero lost her brother in a police shooting. Anger and grief burn within her for her brother's tragic death, and this young girl must battle through her emotional pain toward forgiveness during her stay at a Boys and Girls home. This is one girl's story as she pulls herself from the life of gangs and violence toward forgiveness and ultimately peace. I couldn't put it down. 

By Antonio Pagliarulo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A Different Kind of Heat as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

Luz Cordero is on fire. She’s burning up with rage. She was there the night her brother got killed. She saw the cop pull the trigger. She tried to do something positive about it by going to protests, but all her anger got her into trouble. Now Luz is living at the St. Therese Home for Boys and Girls, working to turn her life around.

Sister Ellen and Luz’s three fellow residents are helping. When Sister Ellen gives Luz a journal to write everything down, Luz is finally able to face the truth about what happened that night. And she’s…


Book cover of Schomburg: The Man Who Built a Library

Viviane Elbee Author Of I Want My Book Back

From my list on the magic of libraries.

Why am I passionate about this?

I've loved books and reading from an early age. My family and I go to the library nearly every week to check out books, do research, or attend library programs like storytime. My interest in libraries led me to read books about libraries and write one of my own. I’m a children’s book author living in North Carolina with my husband and two book-devouring kids. I Want My Book Back is my second book, following my debut, Teach Your Giraffe to Ski. When I’m not reading or writing, I like hanging out with my family, being outdoors, and going on everyday adventures.

Viviane's book list on the magic of libraries

Viviane Elbee Why did Viviane love this book?

As my kids are getting older, I keep my eyes open for longer, more complex picture books – and this book attracted my attention. It’s a great non-fiction biography for kids who like learning about notable historical personalities. It took roughly 45 minutes to read this book with the kids, and we all learned so much about Schomburg and his quest to collect literature by and about people of African descent worldwide. One thing that really impressed the kids and me was how he managed to keep this humongous collection in his home. (The kids and I were wondering if the whole family was sleeping on books instead of beds)!

By Carole Boston Weatherford, Eric Velasquez (illustrator),

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Schomburg as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 8, 9, 10, and 11.

What is this book about?

In luminous paintings and arresting poems, two of children’s literature’s top African-American scholars track Arturo Schomburg’s quest to correct history.

Where is our historian to give us our side? Arturo asked.

Amid the scholars, poets, authors, and artists of the Harlem Renaissance stood an Afro–Puerto Rican named Arturo Schomburg. This law clerk’s life’s passion was to collect books, letters, music, and art from Africa and the African diaspora and bring to light the achievements of people of African descent through the ages. When Schomburg’s collection became so big it began to overflow his house (and his wife threatened to mutiny),…


Book cover of When We Make It

Monique "Nikki" Murphy Author Of Home for Hurricanes: A Memoir of Resilience in Poetry and Prose

From my list on poetry that explore communities of color.

Why am I passionate about this?

I am Monique “Nikki” Murphy, an awarded poet, author, and Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion professional. I grew up in a Black low-income neighborhood with the love of a single mother and the absence of a father, which all impacted the way I experienced the failed promise of justice and equality for all. My mother, an avid reader of Black novels, fostered a love of reading in me and a deep sensitivity to caring about the issues that affected Black people. This sensitivity manifested in a career in Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion and a love of creative writing & books that explore issues of inequality, trauma, and personal development.  As a poet, I love the artistic exploration of our lived experiences and art that inspires activism.

Monique's book list on poetry that explore communities of color

Monique "Nikki" Murphy Why did Monique love this book?

This coming-of-age novel-in-verse beautifully captures the dynamics of survival in tough neighborhoods in a way that honors the humanity and nuance of the community—details that are too often lost in media and forgotten by the people that “make it out.” Through the lens of the Puerto Rican-American protagonist, Sarai, her family, and the neighborhood characters that are all too familiar, I was brought into the heart of pre-gentrified Bushwick, Brooklyn, and Puerto Rican culture to go on Sarai’s journey of self-discovery. We are sitting on the stoop, at the foot of the bed, in the back pew in conversation with Sarai. We see her, we hear her, we love her. And won’t ever forget her. We are left to reflect on what it really means to “make it.”

By Elisabet Velasquez,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked When We Make It as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 14, 15, 16, and 17.

What is this book about?

"The energy. The clarity. The beauty. Elisabet Velasquez brings it all. . . . Her voice is FIRE!"-NYT bestselling and award-winning author Jacqueline Woodson

An unforgettable, torrential, and hopeful debut young adult novel-in-verse that redefines what it means to "make it," for readers of Nicholasa Mohr and Elizabeth Acevedo.

Sarai is a first-generation Puerto Rican question asker who can see with clarity the truth, pain, and beauty of the world both inside and outside her Bushwick apartment. Together with her older sister, Estrella, she navigates the strain of family traumas and the systemic pressures of toxic masculinity and housing insecurity…


Book cover of Once a King, Always a King: The Unmaking of a Latin King

Tim Pritchard Author Of Street Boys: 7 Kids. 1 Estate. No Way Out. The True Story of a Lost Childhood

From my list on how street gangs develop and why they fall apart.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a filmmaker and writer who made a TV series about street gangs around the world with actor and presenter Ross Kemp. But it was one London street gang, the PDC, that particularly caught my attention. The newspaper reports were full of overblown headlines, terrifying statistics, and quotes from police forces. That’s when I decided to head down to the PDC’s “turf” in a small corner of south London because if you are going to try and tackle this crimewave it’s best to find out who is doing it and why. Right? I spoke to PDC gang members, their friends and families and the surprising truth behind the headlines is revealed in my book.

Tim's book list on how street gangs develop and why they fall apart

Tim Pritchard Why did Tim love this book?

What became apparent as I was writing my book was just how difficult it is for young kids to get away from a life of crime on the streets. Once a King, Always a King helped me understand the challenge – it’s not just that bad habits get absorbed into a personality from a young age, or that adults don’t help kids escape from their criminality. The social care and justice system actively collude in trapping young gang members in a cycle of violence, abuse, and poverty. 

By Reymundo Sanchez,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Once a King, Always a King as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This riveting sequel to My Bloody Life traces Reymundo Sanchez's struggle to create a “normal” life outside the Latin Kings, one of the nation's most notorious street gangs, and to move beyond his past. Sanchez illustrates how the Latin King motto “once a king, always a king” rings true and details the difficulty and danger of leaving that life behind. Filled with heart-pounding scenes of his backslide into drugs, sex, and violence, Once a King, Always a King recounts how Sanchez wound up behind bars and provides an engrossing firsthand account of how the Latin Kings are run from inside…


Book cover of Conquistadora

Thomas Bardenwerper Author Of Mona Passage

From my list on set in the Caribbean.

Why am I passionate about this?

Ever since traveling across Cuba as a teenager in 2006, I’ve been fascinated by the Caribbean and Latin America. That trip inspired me to learn Spanish, study abroad in Mexico, and write a college honors thesis at Harvard about the Batista and Trujillo regimes in Cuba and the Dominican Republic respectively. Upon graduation, I merged this interest with my desire to serve my country by joining the Coast Guard – the military branch most involved in the Western Hemisphere. This proved to be a wise decision, as the two years I spent stationed in Puerto Rico and patrolling the Caribbean were two of the most enjoyable years of my life.

Thomas' book list on set in the Caribbean

Thomas Bardenwerper Why did Thomas love this book?

Esmeralda Santiago portrays the 19th-century journey of Ana Cubillas from imperial Spain to colonial outpost Puerto Rico. Cubillas has a complicated relationship with her family, slavery, and Puerto Rico, and the reader never knows quite what to think of her. Like Cubillas, Puerto Rico itself is complicated. I lived in San Juan for two years and grew to love the island, but I never felt like I quite understood it – any outsider who says they do is probably lying.

By Esmeralda Santiago,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Conquistadora as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

As a young girl growing up in Spain, Ana Larragoity Cubillas is powerfully drawn to Puerto Rico by the diaries of an ancestor who traveled there with Ponce de Leon. And in handsome twin brothers Ramon and Inocente—both in love with Ana—she finds a way to get there. Marrying Ramon at the age of eighteen, she travels across the ocean to Hacienda los Gemelos, a remote sugar plantation the brothers have inherited. But soon the Civil War erupts in the United States, and Ana finds her livelihood, and perhaps even her life, threatened by the very people on whose backs…


5 book lists we think you will like!

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