The best books about Puerto Ricans 📚

Browse the best books on Puerto Ricans as recommended by authors, experts, and creators. Along with notes on why they recommend those books.

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

Planting Stories: The Life of Librarian and Storyteller Pura Belpré

By Anika Aldamuy Denise, Paola Escobar

Why 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. 

From the list:

The most fabulosos Latinx picture books

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Book cover of Down These Mean Streets

Down These Mean Streets

By Piri Thomas

Why 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…

From the list:

The best books by writers of the Puerto Rican diaspora

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Book cover of Family Installments: Memories of Growing Up Hispanic

Family Installments: Memories of Growing Up Hispanic

By Edward Rivera

Why 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…

From the list:

The best books by writers of the Puerto Rican diaspora

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

The Latin Deli: Telling the Lives of Barrio Women

By Judith Ortiz Cofer

Why this book?

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…

From the list:

The best books by writers of the Puerto Rican diaspora

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

The Lamentable Journey of Omaha Bigelow into the Impenetrable Loisaida Jungle

By Edgardo Vega Yunqué

Why 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.…

From the list:

The best books by writers of the Puerto Rican diaspora

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Book cover of The Taste of Sugar

The Taste of Sugar

By Marisel Vera

Why 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…

From the list:

The best fiction for recovering erased history

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