15 Latinx Memoirs To Add To Your Hispanic Heritage Month TBR List

By Kerri Jarema

With September comes Hispanic Heritage Month, and there is honestly no better time to know read tons of books by and about Latinx and Hispanic people. We all know that it is crucial to amplify the voices of minority groups now more than ever, and insure that all cultures are celebrated for their contributions. And even if you have already made a commitment to reading more diversely, and reading more Latinx books, you might not have been adding many memoirs to your list. But these books are some of the best ways to really celebrate Latinx and Hispanic culture, by reading the unique stories of various figures within the community, in their own voices.

There is something in the 15 picks below for everyone, for readers who prefer entertainment memoirs to those who are all about politics and government. And whether these people have become icons for you in your own life—think Selena Quintanilla-Perez, Rita Moreno or Sonia Sotomayor—all of whom have memoirs in the lsit below (or about them in the case To Selena, With Love, written by Selena's husband Chris Perez), or you are just hoping to learn more about some influential Latinxs, you really can't go wrong with any of these reads.

'The Distance Between Us: A Memoir' by Reyna Grande

When Reyna Grande’s father leaves his family behind in Mexico to make the dangerous trek to the United States, he promises he will return with enough money to build them a dream house. His promises become harder to believe as months turn into years. When he summons his wife to join him, Reyna and her siblings are deposited in the overburdened household of their stern, unsmiling grandmother. But soon the stage for a dramatic new chapter in Reyna’s young life: her own journey to “El Otro Lado” to live with her long-absent father.

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'My Voice: A Memoir' by Angie Martinez

Angie Martinez has been called "The Voice of New York." Now, she speaks out about her experiences at the helm of the #1 radio show in the country and her unlikely path to the heart of hip-hop music. In her twenty years behind the mic at New York City's two biggest hip-hop stations—Hot 97 and Power 105.1—Martinez has become an entertainment legend. In the same no-holds-barred style of her radio show, Angie shares stories from behind-the-scenes of her most controversial interviews and reflects on her climb to the top of the radio business, as well as diving into her personal life.

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'In The Country We Love: My Family Divided' by Diane Guerrero

Actress Diane Guerrero, was just 14- years-old on the day her parents and brother were arrested and deported while she was at school. Born in the U.S., Guerrero was able to remain in the country and continue her education, depending on the kindness of family friends who took her in and helped her build a life and a successful acting career for herself, without the support system of her family. In the Country We Love is a moving, heartbreaking story of one woman's extraordinary resilience in the face of the nightmarish struggles of undocumented residents in this country.

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'To Selena, With Love' by Chris Perez

One of the most compelling and adored superstars in Latin music history, Selena was nothing short of a phenomenon who shared all of herself with her millions of devoted fans. Her tragic murder, at the young age of 23, stripped the world of her talent, her tightly knit family of their beloved angel, and her husband, Chris Perez, of the greatest love he had ever known. Here, for the first time, Chris opens up about their unbreakable friendship, forbidden relationship, and blossoming marriage, which were cut short by Selena’s unforgivable death.

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'American Chica: Two Worlds, One Childhood' by Marie Arana

In her father’s Peruvian family, Marie Arana was taught to be a proper lady, yet in her mother’s American family she learned to shoot a gun, break a horse, and snap a chicken’s neck for dinner. Arana shuttled easily between these deeply separate cultures for years. But only when she immigrated with her family to the United States did she come to understand that she was a hybrid American whose cultural identity was split in half. Coming to terms with this split is at the heart of this portrait of a child who “was a north-south collision, a New World fusion. An American Chica.”

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'When I Was Puerto Rican' by Esmeralda Santiago

Esmeralda Santiago's story begins in rural Puerto Rico, where her childhood was full of both tenderness and domestic strife, tropical sounds and sights as well as poverty. When her mother, Mami, a force of nature, takes off to New York with her seven, soon to be 11 children, Esmeralda, the oldest, must learn new rules, a new language, and eventually take on a new identity. Here Santiago recreates the idyllic landscape and tumultuous family life of her earliest years and her tremendous journey from the barrio to Brooklyn, from translating for her mother at the welfare office to high honors at Harvard.

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'A Cup Of Water Under My Bed' by Daisy Hernández

Daisy Hernández chronicles what the women in her Cuban-Colombian family taught her about love, money, and race. These lessons—rooted in women’s experiences of migration, colonization, y cariño—define in evocative detail what it means to grow up female in an immigrant home. A heartfelt exploration of family, identity, and language, A Cup of Water Under My Bed is ultimately a daughter’s story of finding herself and her community, and of creating a new, queer life.

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'The Motorcycle Diaries: Notes On A Latin American Journey' by Ernesto Che Guevara

In January 1952, two young men from Buenos Aires set out to explore South America on 'La Poderosa', the Powerful One: a 500cc Norton. One of them was the 23-year-old Che Guevara. Written eight years before the Cuban Revolution, these are Che's diaries—full of disasters and discoveries, high drama, low comedy and laddish improvisations. During his travels through Argentina, Chile, Peru and Venezuela, Che becomes a stowaway, a fireman and a football coach; he sometimes falls in love and frequently falls off the motorbike. Within a decade the whole world would know his name.

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'My Beloved World' by Sonia Sotomayor

Sonia Sotomayor recounts her life from a Bronx housing project to the federal bench, a progress that is testament to her extraordinary determination and the power of believing in oneself. She writes of her precarious childhood and the refuge she took with her passionately spirited paternal grandmother. She describes her resolve as a young girl to become a lawyer, and how she made this dream become reality. She also writes about her deeply valued mentors, about her failed marriage, about her cherished family of friends.

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'Rita Moreno: A Memoir' by Rita Moreno

Born Rosita Dolores Alverio in the idyll of Puerto Rico, Moreno, at age five, embarked on a harrowing sea voyage with her mother and wound up in the harsh barrios of the Bronx, where she discovered dancing, singing, and acting as ways to escape a tumultuous childhood. Making her Broadway debut by age 13, Moreno moved on to Hollywood in its Golden Age just a few years later. Here, for the first time, Rita reflects on her struggles to break through Hollywood's racial and sexual barriers, along with stories from her personal life.

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'Still Dreaming: My Journey From The Barrio To Capitol Hill' by Luis Gutiérrez

Beloved by the immigrants and working people whose rights he has championed, Congressman Luis Gutierrez is one of the most recognized Hispanic public figures in America. Here he recounts his life between two worlds: too Puerto Rican in America, where he was born; too American in Puerto Rico, where he was ridiculed as a "gringo" who couldn’t speak Spanish. For much of his early life, he seemed like the last person who would rise to national prominence. Yet his tremendous will and resilience shaped his varied experiences into one of the most surprising careers in American politics.

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'Butterfly Boy: Memories Of A Chicano Mariposa' by Rigoberto González

Growing up among poor migrant Mexican farmworkers, Rigoberto González also faces the pressure of coming-of-age as a gay man in a culture that prizes machismo. After losing his mother at the age of 12, González confronts his father’s abandonment and an abiding sense of cultural estrangement, both from his adopted home in the United States and from a Mexican birthright. By finding his calling as a writer, and by revisiting the relationship with his father during a trip to Mexico, González finally claims his identity at the intersection of race, class, and sexuality.

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'Becoming Maria: Love And Chaos In The South Bronx' by Sonia Manzano

Emmy Award-winning actress and writer Sonia Manzano plunges us into the daily lives of a Latino family that is loving—and troubled. When readers meet young Sonia, she is a child living amidst the squalor of a boisterous home that is filled with noisy relatives and nosy neighbors. Each day she is glued to the TV screen that blots out the painful realities of her existence and also illuminates the possibilities that lie ahead. But when the TV goes off, Sonia is taken back to real life—the cramped, colorful world of her neighborhood and an alcoholic father. But it is Sonia's dream of becoming an actress that keeps her afloat among the turbulence of her life and times.

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'The Closer: My Story' by Mariano Rivera

Mariano Rivera, the man who intimidated thousands of batters merely by opening a bullpen door, began his journey as the son of a poor Panamanian fisherman. When first scouted by the Yankees, he didn't even own his own glove. When discovered, he had never flown in an airplane, had never heard of Babe Ruth, spoke no English, and couldn't imagine Tampa, the city where he was headed to begin a career. With astonishing candor, Rivera tells the story of the championships, the bosses, the rivalries, and the struggles of being a Latino baseball player in the United States.

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'Bird Of Paradise: How I Became Latina' by Raquel Cepeda

In 2009, when Raquel Cepeda almost lost her estranged father to heart disease, she was terrified she’d never know the truth about her ancestry. Every time she looked in the mirror, Cepeda saw a mystery—a tapestry of races and ethnicities that came together in an ambiguous mix. With time running out, she decided to embark on an archaeological dig of sorts by using the science of ancestral DNA testing to excavate everything she could about her genetic history. Digging through memories long buried, she embarks upon a journey not only into her ancestry but also into her own identity.

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