The Latinx experience is not an easy one to capture. Even our language is evolving, with the more recognized use of Latinx instead of Latin@. For so long, Latinxs in the United States have had to deal with being depicted solely as stereotypes by the media. You know the ones: the sassy and oversexed best friend, the Latin Lover™ with the fly salsa moves, the undocumented and shy immigrant, the gangbanger from the wrong side of the tracks. These don’t even begin to cover our vast differences when it comes to culture, religion, and region. Stereotypes don’t define us.
It is wonderfully uplifting that 2017 gives readers not just stories about Latinx kids, but much needed stories about LGBTQIA Latinx kids. While we clearly need a ton more, this is a strong start. Moving forward, Latinx kids get to see themselves as more than one identity, and this list is proof of that. They get to be magical and queer. They get to be heroes and bisexual. They get to be. But, most importantly, they get to define themselves.
The Inexplicable Logic of My Life, by Benjamin Alire Sáenz
Sal comes from a very complicated family. He’s ethnically white and was adopted by a gay dad and a Mexican American family. Still, he feels Mexican, no matter what anyone tells him. But at a time in his life when he’s surrounded by tragedy and death and abandonment, he’s trying to hold on to the things that make him intrinsically Sal. He thought he knew his place in the world, but now the outside world is trying to define him, including through verbal assault pointed at himself and his family. Soon Sal is questioning everything about who he is. The problem is, if he was wrong all this time, who can he be after all these years? Told with a dry, earnest wit as only Sáenz can, The Inexplicable Logic of My Life is unexpected.
Queer, There, and Everywhere, by Sarah Prager, Zoe More O’Ferrall (illustrator)
This one is for everyone who wants to add some nonfiction to their lives. A big part of understanding where the future is going is understanding the people who shaped the present. One of the 23 people in this collection is Frida Kahlo, whose contribution to art and popular culture has made her an icon for Latinx people in every generation. She is perhaps my most cherished icon, next to Selena, but don’t stop reading with Frida: this book covers people from periods ranging from ancient Rome to the present. I wish more history books were written like this.
The Gallery of Unfinished Girls, by Lauren Karcz
This is one of my most anticipated read of 2017. Pitched as The Walls Around Us meets The Bone Gap, it’s a welcome addition to the burgeoning YA magical realism scene. In Lauren Karcz’s debut, she tells the story of teen painter Mercedes Moreno, who’s suffering a huge artistic block. Part of it has to do with her grandmother being gravely ill, and part of it is because she’s in love with her best friend, Victoria. Then one day, everything changes. She meets a strange neighbor who opens the doors to the Red Mangrove Estate, giving Mercedes a place where she can be herself. She can create, and here her art flows freely and naturally. The hitch in this idyllic situation is that she can’t take anything she makes out of the estate. Will the pressure of being two people at once break her?
They Both Die at the End, by Adam Silvera
Silvera’s second release this year is a little more magical than History is All You Left of Me. Literally. Funny, sarcastic, and including Silvera’s dash of angst, The Both Die at the End promises a journey we haven’t seen before. On September 5, Death comes calling for Mateo Torrez and Rufus Emererio, literally: they each get a phone call from Death-Cast, a near-future organization that informs everyone of the arrival of their death date. Neither boy wants to spend their End Day alone, and they connect using the Last Friend app, hooking up to handle their goodbyes and have one last hurrah. As different as they are from each other, they’re determined to live and love a lifetime’s worth in one day.
Wild Beauty, by Anna-Marie McLemore
Since her debut, The Weight of Feathers, Anna-Marie McLemore has been a force to reckon with. Her prose is lush, vivid, and achingly beautiful. She writes the kind of books you want to sink your teeth into. In Wild Beauty she tells the story of the Nomeolvides women, who have a tragic legacy of loving so much that their lovers vanish. I’d like to point out that their last name, read as “no me olvides,” translates to “don’t forget me.” Queue the butterflies in my stomach. When Estrella Nomeolvides finds a boy named Fel in the gardens her family tends, she isn’t quite sure what to do with him. All she knows is she must help him figure out who is is, and perhaps together, they’ll discover why fate has brought them together.
Not Your Villain, by C.B. Lee
In C.B. Lee’s companion to Not Your Sidekick, she expands on her wonderful cast of characters. This is a fun and fast-paced story that is widely inclusive. C.B. Lee writes the future in a way that feels true to so many kinds of experiences. When you think of diversity that puts kids in the adventure seat, you think of these books. Not Your Villain follows Bells Broussard, a shapeshifter framed as the world’s most wanted villain. With the help of his friends he discovers a massive cover-up that has them seeking the help of the Resistance. One of these friends is Emma Robledo, who is Latinx and queer—and who will take center stage as protagonist in book three of this superhero series. Keep an eye out.
America Vol. 1: The Life and Times of America Chavez, by Gabby Rivera and Joe Quinones (illustrator)
Gabby Rivera is the critically acclaimed author of Juliet Takes a Breath. Now she’s got her hands on a whole new medium, but her powerful voice is unmistakable. First, if you’ve seen Wonder Woman and you need your kickass heroine fix, you should be keeping up with America Chavez. She’s a spitfire, a young Avenger, the Latina, gay, American af heroine I didn’t know I could have as a kid. And now she gets to have her own story, going to school and smashing interdimensional baddies along the way. This volume even sends her to the front lines of WWII at the side of our second favorite American superhero, Captain America.