The best books about the Dominican Republic

5 authors have picked their favorite books about the Dominican Republic and why they recommend each book.

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The Feast of the Goat

By Mario Vargas Llosa, Edith Grossman (translator),

Book cover of The Feast of the Goat

A dark, brooding novel by a giant of Latin American fiction, the Peruvian winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Vargas Llosa appropriately placed a female protagonist, Urania Cabral, front and center in this book about a dictator who is remembered in part for his abuses of young women. Another storyline involves the men who conspired, with CIA support, to assassinate Trujillo. Vargas Llosa includes real historical characters, like Trujillo’s right-hand man and successor, Joaquín Balaguer, often with fictionalized aspects; and fictional composites bearing witness to the experiences of the Dominican people under their rule.


Who am I?

A summer with relatives in Belgium—a country divided by language and culture—inspired me to travel to Santo Domingo in 1988 to learn Spanish and study the fraught dynamics of two countries speaking different languages but sharing an island. My time in the Dominican Republic and Haiti inspired a lifelong exploration of complex issues using many lenses and stories. Today I write mainly about risk, drawing on psychology, culture, policy, and economics. The third book, The Gray Rhino, calls for a fresh look at obvious, looming threats. My fourth book, You Are What You Riskexplores risk perceptions and attitudes using a comparative, socio-cultural lens like the one I used in Why the Cocks Fight.


I wrote...

Why the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians, and the Struggle for Hispaniola

By Michele Wucker,

Book cover of Why the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians, and the Struggle for Hispaniola

What is my book about?

Like two roosters in a fighting arena, Haiti and the Dominican Republic are trapped by barriers of geography and poverty. One French-speaking and Black, one Spanish-speaking and mulatto, the two countries co-inhabit the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. They share a national symbol in the rooster and a favorite sport in the cockfight. Just as the owners of gamecocks contrive battles between their birds as a way of playing out human conflicts, Haitian and Dominican leaders often stir up nationalist disputes and exaggerate cultural and racial differences in order to deflect other tensions. Why the Cocks Fight explores the relations of each nation with each other and with colonial powers including the United States, and how their shared history impacts contemporary dynamics. 

Anita and the Dragons

By Hannah Carmona, Anna Cunha (illustrator),

Book cover of Anita and the Dragons

Moving to a new place can be daunting for adults and more so for children. Airplanes turn into dragons and the new home into a terrifying place. It takes courage to emigrate and imagination to adapt. Anita’s story stayed with me long after I finished it. And Anna Cunha’s illustrations are exquisite.


Who am I?

When I first started writing in English, which is my second language, I was reluctant to share my work with others. I was terrified they would find it lacking. It takes a lot of effort and research to write authentically for a foreign audience. I studied creative writing at different universities around the world to gain knowledge and experience. I published short stories and poems in online and print journals. Bit by bit, I gathered the courage to submit my first picture book manuscript.


I wrote...

The Pirate Tree

By Brigita Orel, Jennie Poh (illustrator),

Book cover of The Pirate Tree

What is my book about?

The gnarled tree on the hill sometimes turns into a pirate ship. A rope serves as an anchor, a sheet as a sail, and Sam is its fearless captain. But one day another sailor approaches, and he’s not from Sam’s street. Can they find something more precious than diamonds and gold? Can they find…friendship?

Tentacle

By Rita Indiana, Achy Obejas (translator),

Book cover of Tentacle

Electric, dystopic, magical, queer, Tentacle is the most exciting, genre-bending book Ive gotten my little hands on in quite some time. Expansive in theme yet swiftly paced, it moves between three different connected time spans including futuristic Santo Domingo. Felt like a fever dream with seriously high stakes, I cant believe how much world building happens in under 200 pages. Rita Indiana is also a brilliant musician based in the Dominican Republic, I was introduced to her revelatory music after reading her fiction. Her music now haunts all my playlists. 


Who am I?

Writer and essayist Agnes Borinsky called my debut novel The Seep, A swift shock of a novel that has shifted how I see our world.Here are five short, urgent novels that continue to live with me in the months and years after reading them. These are some of my most beloved books, all of which happen to be under 200 pages, which ache with the inner mystery of what is hidden, and what is revealed. These books are my teachers, each a precise masterclass in world building, suspense, and purposeful storytelling. Enjoy these ‘swift shocks!’


I wrote...

The Seep

By Chana Porter,

Book cover of The Seep

What is my book about?

A blend of searing social commentary and speculative fiction, Chana Porters fresh, pointed debut explores a strange new world in the wake of a benign alien invasion. A strange new elegy of love and loss, The Seep explores grief, alienation, and the ache of moving on. A 2021 Lambda Literary Award Finalist, Finalist for the Otherwise Award, Times of London Best Sci-Fi of 2021.

A unique alien invasion story that focuses on the human and the myriad ways we see and dont see our own world. Mesmerizing.” —Jeff VanderMeer

Before We Were Free

By Julia Alvarez,

Book cover of Before We Were Free

I was fascinated by this gripping story about a twelve-year-old girl living in the Dominican Republic in 1960 because, while it is fiction, it is based on a very real and scary time in the history of the DR. My parents grew up in the DR under the dictatorship that was still in place in 1960, and Julia Alvarez does a beautiful job showing readers how young people and their families were impacted by that regime, as well as the bravery and hopefulness of those who fought for their country’s freedom.


Who am I?

I have always loved realistic fiction that shows characters navigating tricky real-world situations and reaching inside themselves to be their best – as friends, children, siblings, etc. As a writer of stories for children, I write the kinds of books I love to read, the ones that make readers ask themselves, what would I do if I were in that situation?  I think it’s important to show all our stories, past and present, from different places and viewpoints, so that we can learn from one another and become our best selves.


I wrote...

Miosotis Flores Never Forgets

By Hilda Eunice Burgos,

Book cover of Miosotis Flores Never Forgets

What is my book about?

Miosotis Flores is excited about three things; fostering rescue dogs, goofy horror movies, and her sister Amarilis' upcoming wedding. But her papi wants her to care about school more than anything else, so they strike a deal – if Miosotis improves her grades in two classes, she can adopt a dog of her own in the summer.

Miosotis dives into her schoolwork, and into nurturing a fearful little pup called Freckles. At the same time, she notices Amarilis behaving strangely – wearing thick clothes in springtime, dropping her friends in favor of her fiancé, even avoiding Miosotis and the rest of their family. When Miosotis finally discovers her sister's secret, she faces some difficult choices. What ultimately matters most--what Miosotis wants, or what's right for the ones she loves?

In the Time of the Butterflies

By Julia Alvarez,

Book cover of In the Time of the Butterflies

A novel based on the real-life story of the three Mirabal sisters, known as las mariposas (the butterflies) who became national heroes for their resistance to the dictator Generalissimo Rafael Leonidas Trujillo. The murder of these three courageous women by Trujillo’s henchmen helped to catalyze his downfall after more than 30 years of iron-fisted rule. When my publisher sent her an advance copy of my book in 1999, Julia sent me a lovely hand-written note that began more than two decades of friendship. Readers particularly interested in the contemporary relationship between the Dominican Republic and Haiti will find her non-fiction book, A Wedding in Haiti, well worth a read.


Who am I?

A summer with relatives in Belgium—a country divided by language and culture—inspired me to travel to Santo Domingo in 1988 to learn Spanish and study the fraught dynamics of two countries speaking different languages but sharing an island. My time in the Dominican Republic and Haiti inspired a lifelong exploration of complex issues using many lenses and stories. Today I write mainly about risk, drawing on psychology, culture, policy, and economics. The third book, The Gray Rhino, calls for a fresh look at obvious, looming threats. My fourth book, You Are What You Riskexplores risk perceptions and attitudes using a comparative, socio-cultural lens like the one I used in Why the Cocks Fight.


I wrote...

Why the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians, and the Struggle for Hispaniola

By Michele Wucker,

Book cover of Why the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians, and the Struggle for Hispaniola

What is my book about?

Like two roosters in a fighting arena, Haiti and the Dominican Republic are trapped by barriers of geography and poverty. One French-speaking and Black, one Spanish-speaking and mulatto, the two countries co-inhabit the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. They share a national symbol in the rooster and a favorite sport in the cockfight. Just as the owners of gamecocks contrive battles between their birds as a way of playing out human conflicts, Haitian and Dominican leaders often stir up nationalist disputes and exaggerate cultural and racial differences in order to deflect other tensions. Why the Cocks Fight explores the relations of each nation with each other and with colonial powers including the United States, and how their shared history impacts contemporary dynamics. 

The Invaded

By Alan McPherson,

Book cover of The Invaded: How Latin Americans and Their Allies Fought and Ended U.S. Occupations

Professor McPherson’s stellar history paints an incredibly rich portrait of protracted U.S. interventions—the Dominican Republic, Haiti, and Nicaragua, most critically—during the so-called Banana Wars in the first decades of the 20th century. This painstaking researched and lucidly penned tome demands that we take the Latin American side of the story when we study the searing history of Uncle Sam interventionism. 


Who am I?

I've been interested in U.S.-Latin American relations ever since my junior year in college when I studied abroad in Chile, a country that had only two years prior been run by dictator Augusto Pinochet. Often referred to as America’s “backyard,” Latin America has often been on the receiving end of U.S. machinations and expansions. In terms of the history of American foreign policy, it's never a dull moment in U.S. involvement in its own hemisphere. I have now had the privilege to work inside the executive branch of the U.S. government on Latin America policy, stints which have forced me to reconsider some of what I had assumed about U.S. abilities and outcomes. 


I wrote...

"Our Hemisphere"? The United States in Latin America, from 1776 to the Twenty-First Century

By Russell C. Crandall, Britta H. Crandall,

Book cover of "Our Hemisphere"? The United States in Latin America, from 1776 to the Twenty-First Century

What is my book about?

“Our Hemisphere”? uncovers the range, depth, and veracity of the United States’ relationship with the Americas. Using short historical vignettes, Britta and Russell Crandall chart the course of inter-American relations from 1776 to the present, highlighting the roles that individuals and groups of soldiers, intellectuals, private citizens, and politicians have had in shaping U.S. policy toward Latin America in the postcolonial, Cold War, and post–Cold War eras. The United States is usually and correctly seen as pursuing a monolithic, hegemonic agenda in Latin America, wielding political, economic, and military muscle to force Latin American countries to do its bidding, but the Crandalls reveal unexpected yet salient regional interactions where Latin Americans have exercised their own power with their northern and very powerful neighbor.

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

By Junot Diaz,

Book cover of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

A central theme in all of Díaz’ work is his critique of toxic machismo in Dominican society, which extracts a heavy emotional toll on men as well as women. That’s why it’s such a delight that the protagonist of this award-winning multi-generational novel is a chubby science-fiction-loving nerd who dares to challenge the hyper-masculine norms. Set in New Jersey—where Díaz grew up—and the Dominican Republic, this novel is the story, in part, of Oscar’s doomed quest for love with a Dominican sex worker. Its larger theme is the way Oscar—and Dominicans by extension—is caught between the US and the DR and between the shadow of the past and fantasies for the future. The narrator, Yunior, who also appears in many of Díaz’s short stories, is the author’s alter ego.


Who am I?

A summer with relatives in Belgium—a country divided by language and culture—inspired me to travel to Santo Domingo in 1988 to learn Spanish and study the fraught dynamics of two countries speaking different languages but sharing an island. My time in the Dominican Republic and Haiti inspired a lifelong exploration of complex issues using many lenses and stories. Today I write mainly about risk, drawing on psychology, culture, policy, and economics. The third book, The Gray Rhino, calls for a fresh look at obvious, looming threats. My fourth book, You Are What You Riskexplores risk perceptions and attitudes using a comparative, socio-cultural lens like the one I used in Why the Cocks Fight.


I wrote...

Why the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians, and the Struggle for Hispaniola

By Michele Wucker,

Book cover of Why the Cocks Fight: Dominicans, Haitians, and the Struggle for Hispaniola

What is my book about?

Like two roosters in a fighting arena, Haiti and the Dominican Republic are trapped by barriers of geography and poverty. One French-speaking and Black, one Spanish-speaking and mulatto, the two countries co-inhabit the Caribbean island of Hispaniola. They share a national symbol in the rooster and a favorite sport in the cockfight. Just as the owners of gamecocks contrive battles between their birds as a way of playing out human conflicts, Haitian and Dominican leaders often stir up nationalist disputes and exaggerate cultural and racial differences in order to deflect other tensions. Why the Cocks Fight explores the relations of each nation with each other and with colonial powers including the United States, and how their shared history impacts contemporary dynamics. 

Clap When You Land

By Elizabeth Acevedo,

Book cover of Clap When You Land

I’m fascinated by the stories of DNA secrets that unite, confuse, and complicate lives. Camino Rios and Yahaira Rios had no idea they shared the same father—until he perished in an airplane disaster. Told in verse with alternating viewpoints, this novel drew me in right away. Camino Rios had her father every summer while Yahaira had her father the rest of the year, both living very different lives—until their father’s death changed everything. Suspense builds as the two girls follow clues to the shocking realization that they are sisters. Once I started reading, I could not put the book down. 


Who am I?

The Complete Book of Aspen is based on my DNA experience. I was crushed after taking a DNA test to learn that the man who raised me was not my biological father. It rocked the foundation my life was built upon. Suddenly I was struggling with my identity, wondering why I am who I am. This led to a deep dive into DNA-related books. I read everything I could, from DNA science to memoirs to novels whose characters were affected by DNA discoveries. I liked seeing how these brave souls handled their heartbreak. Not only is the subject fascinating, but it’s also comforting to know, fictional or not, that we're never alone.


I wrote...

The Complete Book of Aspen

By Danna Smith,

Book cover of The Complete Book of Aspen

What is my book about?

When Aspen’s best friend gives her a DNA test kit, a half teaspoon of spit is all it takes to discover her entire life has been a lie.

Learning that her beloved late father was not her biological father—and that her mother had deceived her—ignites a wild storm of emotions. Aspen struggles with her identity and the burden of being the gatekeeper of this closely guarded family secret. When her mother refuses to reveal her biological father’s name, Aspen sets out on a courageous journey to find him. A heartbreakingly hopeful young adult novel-in-verse by award-winning author and poet, Danna Smith, based on her true DNA experience. 

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