The most recommended books about Mexican Americans

Who picked these books? Meet our 42 experts.

42 authors created a book list connected to Mexican Americans, and here are their favorite Mexican American books.
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Book cover of Agent of Change: Adela Sloss-Vento, Mexican American Civil Rights Activist and Texas Feminist

Melita M. Garza Author Of They Came to Toil: Newspaper Representations of Mexicans and Immigrants in the Great Depression

From my list on how media makes and unmakes Mexican Americans.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a journalism historian who sees an old newspaper the way Alice saw the looking glass, as a portal to a place where things wind up beyond the imaginable. In comparing English- and Spanish-language journalism, I examine how people from the same time and place live distinct constructed realities, separated by their news source looking glass. I aim to recenter the journalism of marginalized groups in the American experience and in media history. After more than 20 years at major U.S. news organizations and 10 years in academia, often as the first or only Mexican American—I’ve honed the ability to see from both sides of the glass.

Melita's book list on how media makes and unmakes Mexican Americans

Melita M. Garza Why did Melita love this book?

During a period when Mexican American women were seen as having only three possible roles in life, either as hypersexualized figures, maids, or beauty queens, this stirring biography uncovers how one Latina, Adela Sloss-Vento, broke the mold.

She had only a high school education—and one belatedly received at that, but Sloss-Vento became a public intellectual and a vital, though hidden figure in the emerging Mexican American Civil Rights Movement. Reading this stimulating biography, I found it easy to see Sloss-Vento (1901-1998), sitting at her kitchen table writing spirited columns and letters in defense of Mexican Americans to English and Spanish Texas newspaper editors.

Though Mexican American women didn’t begin entering into mainstream journalism jobs in any sizeable numbers until the 1980s, Sloss-Vento’s story shows how at least one Latina beat back the barriers and made her own way into print.

By Cynthia E. Orozco,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Liz Carpenter Award for Research in the History of Women, Texas State Historical Association

The essayist Adela Sloss-Vento (1901-1998) was a powerhouse of activism in South Texas's Lower Rio Grande Valley throughout the Mexican American civil rights movement beginning in 1920 and the subsequent Chicano movement of the 1960s and 1970s. At last presenting the full story of Sloss-Vento's achievements, Agent of Change revives a forgotten history of a major female Latina leader.

Bringing to light the economic and political transformations that swept through South Texas in the 1920s as ranching declined and agribusiness proliferated, Cynthia E. Orozco situates Sloss-Vento's…

Book cover of Rain of Gold

Louis Mendoza Author Of (Re)constructing Memory, Place, and Identity in Twentieth Century Houston: A Memoir on Family and Being Mexican American in Space City USA

From my list on Mexican migration to the United States.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a second-generation immigrant, I knew very little of my family’s migration story. My grandparents never really learned English despite living in the US sixty or more years. In my twenties when the country was undergoing turmoil about immigration reform once again, I began looking at the immigrants all around me (and in literature) and identifying what we had in common—how our lives intertwined and were mutually dependent on one another. In 2007 I traveled 8,500 miles around the perimeter of the US by bicycle on a research trip to collect stories from immigrants and those whose lives they impacted. I wrote two books based on that experience.

Louis' book list on Mexican migration to the United States

Louis Mendoza Why did Louis love this book?

Villasenor’s Rain of Gold is the first of a trilogy about his family's migration to the United States in the early part of the 20th Century.

Published in 1991, I was fascinated by the book’s rich detail, the numerous layers of stories about his family regarding their life in Mexico, their decision to leave, the challenges they faced finding work and struggling to fit into the United States.

The book covers his parents’ lives as children and the trials their families faced in surviving the Mexican Revolution. His parents meet when they are very young and eventually move to Carlsbad, California. Villasenor’s trilogy highlights the importance of family and personal integrity. I was especially intrigued that the author was able to transform his familial history into a work of literature.

By Victor Villasenor,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

This is the Hispanic Roots, an all-American story of poverty, immigration, struggle and success. It focuses on three generations of Villaseñor's kin, their spiritual and cultural roots in Mexico, their immigration to California and their overcoming the poverty, prejudice and economic exploitation. It is the warm-hearted, humorous and tragic, true story of the wily, wary, persevering forebears of Villaseñor.

Book cover of La Calle: Spatial Conflicts and Urban Renewal in a Southwest City

Tom Zoellner Author Of Rim to River: Looking into the Heart of Arizona

From my list on books about Southern Arizona.

Why am I passionate about this?

I'm a fifth-generation Arizonan, a former staff writer for the Arizona Republic, and a lifelong student of the Grand Canyon State. One of my very favorite things to do is travel the backroads of this amazing state and talk with the astonishing people who live there. Along the way, I wrote eight nonfiction books, including Island on Fire, which won the 2020 National Book Critics Circle Award. My day job is at Chapman University, where I am an English professor. 

Tom's book list on books about Southern Arizona

Tom Zoellner Why did Tom love this book?

Cities all over the country were busy wrecking their own architectural heritage in the mid-20th century during the heyday of “slum clearance,” but Tucson experienced an especially painful loss: multiple blocks of irreplaceable colonial townhouses in Barro Viejo turned to dust for the sake of an ugly convention center.

Lydia Otero explains how and why this was allowed to happen with the exactitude of a scholar and the muted outrage of one who came from the community mourning the loss.

By Lydia R. Otero,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

On March 1, 1966, the voters of Tucson approved the Pueblo Center Redevelopment Project--Arizona's first major urban renewal project--which targeted the most densely populated eighty acres in the state. For close to one hundred years, tucsonenses had created their own spatial reality in the historical, predominantly Mexican American heart of the city, an area most called "la calle." Here, amid small retail and service shops, restaurants, and entertainment venues, they openly lived and celebrated their culture. To make way for the Pueblo Center's new buildings, city officials proceeded to displace la calle's residents and to demolish their ethnically diverse neighborhoods,…

Book cover of So Far from God

Alex Temblador Author Of Half Outlaw

From my list on magical realism that make me feel at home.

Why am I passionate about this?

Magical realism was created by Latin American writers, and I’m proud to continue the tradition today. I grew up reading magical stories – mostly fantasy – but there was always something missing in those books, that sense of reality that I experienced every day of my life thanks to my Mixed Latinx heritage. When I discovered magical realism, I felt at home. I’ve been studying magical realism since I was 21, so it comes as no surprise that most of the creative writing I do fall into the magical realism genre. I love helping others discover the beauty of magical realism because it is a phenomenal genre that helps readers understand their reality through magic. 

Alex's book list on magical realism that make me feel at home

Alex Temblador Why did Alex love this book?

When I read So Far From God, it did two things. First, it helped me understand this genre that was created by Latin American authors. Lois Parkinson Zamora said, “Magical realism is characterized by...its capacity to create (magical) meanings by envisioning ordinary things in extraordinary ways.” I understood what that meant when I read So Far From God. In the first chapter alone, one of the main characters, La Loca, dies and comes back to life. Her death was ordinary and extraordinary. I was hooked. 

Perhaps more importantly, in reading Castillo’s novel, I saw our shared Latina history, culture, and perspective through the stories she told. It was the first book that validated my experience as a Latina which is why it’ll always be close to my heart.

By Ana Castillo,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked So Far from God as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sofia and her fated daughters, Fe, Esperanza, Caridad, and la Loca, endure hardship and enjoy love in the sleepy New Mexico hamlet of Tome, a town teeming with marvels where the comic and the horrific, the real and the supernatural, reside.

Book cover of Lawn Boy

Lori Henriksen Author Of The Winter Loon

From my list on LGBTQ+ themes about the healing power of love.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a retired family therapist, I find that writing and reading stories about emotional journeys no matter our sexual identity, ethnicity, or class has the potential to transform us. A protagonist under threat of persecution who finds healing in the power of love, of family, of community can help us fix ourselves where we are broken. I believe stories can help us sever unhealthy ties to the patterns of past generations. My mother was a closeted lesbian with no family who died when I was nine. Writing how I wished her life could have been helped me heal from childhood trauma. Our ancestors passed the talking stick. We have books.

Lori's book list on LGBTQ+ themes about the healing power of love

Lori Henriksen Why did Lori love this book?

This book increased my empathy.

There’s a lot to absorb here, especially for a white, straight ally of the LGBTQ+ community who doesn’t cut her own grass. It's a novel about the effects of discrimination against race, class, and sexual identity. It’s the authentic experience of a 22-year-old Hispanic man who, against all odds, tries to make an honest living and figure out his place in 21st-century America.

On the banned books list, this novel seems to assault the sensibility of censors who want to protect the young and vulnerable against truth. It must be the language, graphic and raw at times, but in the end, it’s not possible to ban reality. The love of his broken family and cobbled-together community has his back as he embraces his sexuality.

By Jonathan Evison,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

For Mike Munoz, a young Chicano living in Washington State, life has been a whole lot of waiting for something to happen. Not too many years out of high school and still doing menial work - and just fired from his latest gig as a lawn boy on a landscaping crew - he knows that he's got to be the one to shake things up if he's ever going to change his life. But how?

In this funny, angry, touching, and ultimately deeply inspiring novel, bestselling author Jonathan Evison takes the reader into the heart and mind of a young…

Book cover of Mexikid

Bethanie Deeney Murguia

From Bethanie's 3 favorite reads in 2023.

Why am I passionate about this?

Author Graphic novelist Creature adorer Illustrator

Bethanie's 3 favorite reads in 2023

Bethanie Deeney Murguia Why did Bethanie love this book?

Mexikid uses the graphic novel format cleverly and beautifully to interweave lore and flashbacks into a road trip story about a family driving to Mexico to bring their abuelo back to the US.

This book has the funniest haircut scene (and haircut) I've encountered. The interactions of the nine siblings are my favorite part, though—so truthfully and hilariously captured.

The story is also touching and personal as Pedro, the narrator, learns about his Mexican heritage and family history. It's one of the best graphic novels I've read this year!

By Pedro Martín,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked Mexikid as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it. This book is for kids age 10, 11, 12, and 13.

What is this book about?

An unforgettable graphic memoir about a Mexican American boy's family and their adventure-filled road trip to bring their abuelito back from Mexico to live with them that National Book Award Finalist Victoria Jamieson calls "one of those books that kids will pass to their friends as soon as they have finished it."

Pedro Martin has grown up hearing stories about his abuelito-his legendary crime-fighting, grandfather who was once a part of the Mexican Revolution! But that doesn't mean Pedro is excited at the news that Abuelito is coming to live with their family. After all, Pedro has 8 brothers and…

Book cover of The Queen of the Cicadas

Daniel Olivas Author Of Chicano Frankenstein

From my list on books by BIPOC writers that will scare the living daylights out of you.

Why am I passionate about this?

In my 25 years of writing short stories, novels, and plays, I have explored my Mexican and Chicano roots in a variety of genres, from literary fiction to horror to magical realism to science fiction and everything in between. In the end, I do not discriminate when it comes to genre because a well-told story is key for me, regardless of the mode chosen by the author. My most recent novel, Chicano Frankenstein, is a case in point. In it, I blend genres: horror, science fiction, political satire, and a bit of romance. So, too, I love reading fiction that bravely challenges conventional storytelling.

Daniel's book list on books by BIPOC writers that will scare the living daylights out of you

Daniel Olivas Why did Daniel love this book?

V. (Violet) Castro’s debut novel, released in 2021, put her on the horror map, and for good reason.

I loved how she blended Mexican legend and culture to tell a supernatural horror story that is rich in detail, dialogue, and dark humor. The setting is a Texas wedding held on a renovated farm.

But very bad things start to happen, all seemingly tied to a legend of a 1950s murder of a Mexican farmworker. But—so people say—the woman’s death piqued the interest of the Aztec Goddess of Death, who pledges herself to the murdered woman.

Castro’s expert storytelling upends classic tropes to make this book an exhilarating and frightening literary ride that is smart and timely.

By V. Castro,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?


2018 - Belinda Alvarez has returned to Texas for the wedding of her best friend Veronica. The farm is the site of the urban legend, La Reina de Las Chicharras - The Queen of The Cicadas.

In 1950s south Texas a farmworker- Milagros from San Luis Potosi, Mexico, is murdered. Her death is ignored by the town, but not the Aztec goddess of death, Mictecacihuatl. The goddess hears the dying cries of Milagros and creates a plan for both to be physically reborn by feeding on vengeance and…

Book cover of Esperanza Rising

Nancy Blodgett Klein Author Of Torn Between Worlds: A Mexican Immigrant’s Journey to Find Herself

From my list on young people overcoming obstacles to survive.

Why am I passionate about this?

I pride myself on my independence and sense of adventure. I started traveling the world with my family when I was 3 and I haven’t stopped since. When you travel, you have to cope with new situations on a daily basis and navigate different obstacles to meet your needs. An interest in adventure and how people cope with new situations are the biggest reasons why I have a passion for books dealing with overcoming obstacles. Before I retired to Spain, I was a teacher of students between 10 and 15 years old. I chose two of the books I recommended to read to my students when I was a teacher. 

Nancy's book list on young people overcoming obstacles to survive

Nancy Blodgett Klein Why did Nancy love this book?

This is a great book about a young girl named Esperanza living a good life on a ranch in Mexico when she and her mother are forced to leave the country after family tragedy strikes. They go to the US during the Great Depression and have serious financial problems that they never had to deal with before. When she lived in Mexico, they had servants to do everything for them, so living in poverty in the US is a major adjustment. She doesn’t even know how to use a broom! This kind of detail makes for an interesting saga about a young lady overcoming obstacles to survive. 

By Pam Muñoz Ryan,

Why should I read it?

5 authors picked Esperanza Rising 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?

Esperanza Rising joins the Scholastic Gold line, which features award-winning and beloved novels. Includes exclusive bonus content!

Esperanza thought she'd always live a privileged life on her family's ranch in Mexico. She'd always have fancy dresses, a beautiful home filled with servants, and Mama, Papa, and Abuelita to care for her. But a sudden tragedy forces Esperanza and Mama to flee to California and settle in a Mexican farm labor camp. Esperanza isn't ready for the hard work, financial struggles brought on by the Great Depression, or lack of acceptance she now faces. When Mama gets sick and a strike…

Book cover of Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything

Kristin Cashore Author Of Winterkeep

From my list on mysteries—and solutions—you never saw coming.

Why am I passionate about this?

As a reader and writer, I work with a pretty broad definition of “mystery.” You’ll find my own novels in the fantasy section of the bookstore, but my books are mysteries too — and romances, and tales of adventure, and intimate character studies, and reflections on our reality, no matter how fantastical the worlds in which they take place. I love melding genres! So when I think of my favorite mysteries, I try not to limit myself to the mystery section of the bookstore. Few things make me happier than discovering partway through a book that a mystery has been building that I didn’t even notice.

Kristin's book list on mysteries—and solutions—you never saw coming

Kristin Cashore Why did Kristin love this book?

The less I say about the plot of this book, the better your reading experience will be. I avoided reading the flap copy, and I recommend you do too. What I can promise you is this: a book set in Arizona and firmly grounded in the reality of racism and deportation in the USA, mixed together with spirituality, mythology, sci-fi pop culture, a surprising solution to a mystery, and, just possibly, aliens from outer space. Plus, beautiful writing! This is one of those books with super short chapters, each of which is a little gem. I loved it.

By Raquel Vasquez Gilliland,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Sia Martinez and the Moonlit Beginning of Everything as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“In a world where we are so often dividing ourselves into us and them, this book feels like a kind of magic, celebrating all beliefs, ethnicities, and unknowns.” —The New York Times Book Review

Aristotle & Dante Discover the Secrets of the Universe meets Roswell by way of Laurie Halse Anderson in this astonishing, genre-bending novel about a Mexican American teen who discovers profound connections between immigration, folklore, and alien life.

It’s been three years since ICE raids and phone calls from Mexico and an ill-fated walk across the Sonoran. Three years since Sia Martinez’s mom disappeared. Sia wants to…

Book cover of And Hell Followed With Her: Crossing the Dark Side of the American Border

Michael Blake Author Of Justice, Migration, and Mercy

From my list on understanding what’s happening at the border.

Why am I passionate about this?

I’m a political philosopher who lives in Seattle. I teach and write about political ethics, and the ways in which moral concepts change when they get applied to the relationships between states—and to the complicated borders that define where states end. I tend to write about what puzzles me, and many of these puzzles come from my personal life; I’m a migrant myself, and the experience of migrating to the United States led me to write about what sorts of values a country can rightly pursue through migration policyand what sorts of things, more generally, it can and can’t do to migrants themselves.  

Michael's book list on understanding what’s happening at the border

Michael Blake Why did Michael love this book?

Neiwert’s book focuses on the horrifying case of Shawna Forde, an anti-migration activist who ended up murdering a child on the Arizona border in an attempt to steal money to fund her activism. It’s sometimes easier to understand the politics of the borderlands by focusing on particular people who inhabit and cross the borders; Neiwert let me see the complex politics of the Arizona border, and the ways in which those politics can curdle into a murderous rage.

By David Neiwert,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked And Hell Followed With Her as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

It began with a frantic 911 call from a woman in a dusty Arizona border town. A gang claiming to be affiliated with the Border Patrol had shot her husband and daughter. It was initially assumed that the murders were products of border drug wars ravaging the Southwest until the leader of one of the more prominent offshoots of the Minutemen movement was arrested for plotting the home invasion as part of a scheme to finance a violent antigovernment border militia. And Hell Followed With Her: Crossing to the Dark Side of the American Border is award-winning journalist David Neiwert's…