10 books like The Taste of Sugar

By Marisel Vera,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like The Taste of Sugar. Shepherd is a community of 7,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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Down These Mean Streets

By Piri Thomas,

Book cover of Down These Mean Streets

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. 

Down These Mean Streets

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…


Family Installments

By Edward Rivera,

Book cover of Family Installments: Memories of Growing Up Hispanic

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.

Family Installments

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


The Latin Deli

By Judith Ortiz Cofer,

Book cover of The Latin Deli: Telling the Lives of Barrio Women

Nominated for a Pulitzer, Ortiz-Cofer’s book is an eclectic collection of poetry, creative nonfiction and fiction. She weaves these genres masterfully into a mosaic of diasporican life, especially from a woman’s perspective. Published in 1993, The Latin Deli breaks from the traditional, bleak picture of Puerto Rican urban life in the States. Growing up in Paterson, New Jersey, and then Georgia, Ortiz Cofer focuses on the more typical stories of growing up in a middle-class home and what she casts as the daily struggle “to consolidate my opposing cultural identities.” A subtextual element of the book is Ortiz Cofer’s developing identity as a Latina writer in a country that sees you as an “other.”  

The Latin Deli

By Judith Ortiz Cofer,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A community transplanted from what they now view as an island paradise, these Puerto Rican families yearn for the colors and tastes of their former home. As they carve out lives as Americans, their days are filled with drama, success, and sometimes tragedy. A widow becomes crazy after her son is killed in Vietnam, her remaining word "nada." Another woman carries on after the death of her husband, keeping their store, filled with plantain, Bustello coffee, jamon y queso, open as a refuge for her neighbors. And there are Cofer's stories of growing up with a dictatorial and straying father,…


The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle

By Edgardo Vega Yunqué,

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

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. 

The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle

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…


Insurrecto

By Gina Apostol,

Book cover of Insurrecto

Sometimes I read a book and wish I’d written it. With Insurrecto, I cheered and gave thanks that Gina Apostol did write it. Decades ago, I became obsessed with the US conquest of the Philippines after the Spanish American War and how the people of the islands fought back to liberate their country. I knew Mark Twain protested the occupation. I found military histories of the war against Spain. At that time, I couldn’t find anything from the Filipino perspective. Where were books to challenge the American belief we’ve never had colonies? Apostol brings this lost history brilliantly to life with a contemporary filmmaker and a translator who create dueling narratives while trying to make a movie about a 1901 massacre. Insurrecto is a remarkable work, complex enough to repay rereading.

Insurrecto

By Gina Apostol,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"A bravura performance."—The New York Times

Histories and personalities collide in this literary tour-de-force about the Philippines’ present and America’s past by the PEN Open Book Award–winning author of Gun Dealers’ Daughter.
 
Two women, a Filipino translator and an American filmmaker, go on a road trip in Duterte’s Philippines, collaborating and clashing in the writing of a film script about a massacre during the Philippine-American War. Chiara is working on a film about an incident in Balangiga, Samar, in 1901, when Filipino revolutionaries attacked an American garrison, and in retaliation American soldiers created “a howling wilderness” of the surrounding countryside.…


I'll Be Right There

By Kyung-Sook Shin, Sora Kim-Russell (translator),

Book cover of I'll Be Right There

I fall hard for novels about intense friendships and loyalty. I’ve never been to Korea, but it was easy for me to relate to the protagonist, Jung Yoon, whose personal growth is influenced by her study of European culture, much as my own immersion in Latin American culture continues to inform my life. 

Here again, a gap in most Americans’ knowledge gets filled in. Shin’s haunting and poetic novel offers a bracing account of the student protests in South Korea in the ’80s, with repression, deaths, and disappearances at the hands of the US-supported dictatorship. The politics are eye-opening, but just a backdrop to the characters’ pursuit of love, friendship, intellectual development, and the tender way they must mourn many other losses as they grow up and apart.

I'll Be Right There

By Kyung-Sook Shin, Sora Kim-Russell (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked I'll Be Right There as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Both a coming-of-age story and a love story, I'LL BE RIGHT THERE follows four friends who meet in the 1980s, at university in Seoul. Times are tough - South Korea is still a military dictatorship - and the group cling to each other, falling in and out of love. As they face personal loss and political uncertainty their paths diverge - mysterious deaths occur and secrets are revealed. Steeped in heartache, this novel is a delicate examination of youthful passions, tragedy, and political turmoil Like PLEASE LOOK AFTER MOTHER, I'LL BE RIGHT THERE combines utterly universal, resonant themes with an…


The German Mujahid

By Boualem Sansal, Frank Wynne (translator),

Book cover of The German Mujahid

For decades, Holocaust denial was widespread in Arab countries. That’s beginning to change, and Sansal’s harrowing novel – inspired in part by a Nazi officer who escaped to Algeria and became a hero in the war for independence aids in writing that history back into consciousness. We gain extraordinary intimacy with two brothers as they contend in different ways with the challenges of North African immigrant life in France, the massacre by the Algerian military that claims the lives of their parents, and the discovery of their father’s horrific past. Sansal was attacked for comparing Islamist fundamentalism to the Holocaust and for visiting Israel, but I think it’s clear his intent is to condemn any ideology based on an unyielding and violent intolerance of difference.   

The German Mujahid

By Boualem Sansal, Frank Wynne (translator),

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“[A] masterly investigation of evil, resistance and guilt, billed as the first Arab novel to confront the Holocaust” from the Nobel Prize–nominated author (Publishers Weekly).

Banned in the author’s native Algeria, this groundbreaking novel is based on a true story and inspired by the work of Primo Levi.

The Schiller brothers, Rachel and Malrich, couldn’t be more dissimilar. They were born in a small village in Algeria to a German father and an Algerian mother and raised by an elderly uncle in one of the toughest ghettos in France. But the similarities end there. Rachel is a model immigrant—hard working,…


The Office of Historical Corrections

By Danielle Evans,

Book cover of The Office of Historical Corrections: A Novella and Stories

I couldn’t possibly leave out Danielle Evans’ story collection when the title novella portrays just the kind of cultural erasure and recuperation I’ve been blathering on about. The protagonist, Cassie, is an obscure federal employee charged with correcting historical inaccuracies and omissions in public places and textbooks. Her mission intersects in Wisconsin with that of an old frenemy as both investigate an arson murder from 1937. Throughout the collection, these stories delight me line by line, with beautifully wrought prose, insight, and wit. Evans tackles fake news and current controversies about race, including fissures within the Black community, while always focusing on the personal dilemmas of her vividly alive characters. I am in awe of her talent. 

The Office of Historical Corrections

By Danielle Evans,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Office of Historical Corrections as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

'Sublime short stories of race, grief, and belonging . . . an extraordinary new collection'
New Yorker

'Evans's new stories present rich plots reflecting on race relations, grief, and love'
New York Times, Editor's Choice

'Brilliant . . . These stories are sly and prescient, a nuanced reflection of the world we are living in'
Roxane Gay

Danielle Evans is widely acclaimed for her blisteringly smart voice and X-ray insights into complex human relationships. With The Office of Historical Corrections, Evans zooms in on particular moments and relationships in her characters' lives in a way that allows them to speak…


Planting Stories

By Anika Aldamuy Denise, Paola Escobar (illustrator),

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

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. 

Planting Stories

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.

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…


The Sovereign Colony

By Antonio Sotomayor,

Book cover of The Sovereign Colony: Olympic Sport, National Identity, and International Politics in Puerto Rico

Put simply, in The Sovereign Colony Antonio Sotomayor uses a fascinating exception to prove an important general rule. That is, he explains clearly just how powerful modern sports can be in defining national identity by showing that Puerto Ricans have used sports to claim a sense of nationhood despite the fact that theirs is a nation but not a nation-state. He shows that whenever the Puerto Rican flag flies at an international sporting event islanders express their national identity and negotiate the character of US colonialism, and he carefully demonstrates how politicians and sports figures worked to make sports a site of Puerto Rican pride and identity.

The Sovereign Colony

By Antonio Sotomayor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Ceded to the United States under the terms of the Treaty of Paris after the Spanish-American War of 1898, Puerto Rico has since remained a colonial territory. Despite this subordinated colonial experience, however, Puerto Ricans managed to secure national Olympic representation in the 1930s and in so doing nurtured powerful ideas of nationalism.

By examining how the Olympic movement developed in Puerto Rico, Antonio Sotomayor illuminates the profound role sports play in the political and cultural processes of an identity that evolved within a political tradition of autonomy rather than traditional political independence. Significantly, it was precisely in the Olympic…


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