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10 Latin American and Latinx Books That’ll Have You Planning Your Next Trip

Get inspo for your next page-turning trip with the help of Latinx literature.

The scenery of Barranco in Lima, Peru
Hi, I'm Lauren!

Lauren is a Mexico City–based writer, editor, and translator from Yorkshire with bylines at CNN, BBC Travel, and Al Jazeera. She’s currently working on her first full-length literary translation in between harassing her cat, drinking smuggled Yorkshire Tea, and blogging about Latin American literature at leyendolatam.com.

Chaotic cities and colorful towns where soul-searching backpackers abound are scenes that perhaps spring to mind when you think of Latin America and, in turn, Latinx literature. But, like all other loosely defined umbrella genres, the broad and expansive range of Latin American and Latinx literature defies such simplistic categorization. Instead, expect tales of migration, loss, teenage angst, and LGBTQ+ love from these 10 Latin American and Latinx authors, set against a swath of different backdrops across Latin American and beyond. The one constant in these picks? A strong sense of place.

1. “Sea Monsters” by Chloe Aridjis

A beach on the coast of Oaxaca during sunset.
Zipolite is evoked beautifully by Aridjis.Photo Credit: javarman / Shutterstock

Oaxaca and Mexico City, Mexico

Set between the streets of Mexico City and the coast of Oaxaca, Chloe Aridjis’ novel Sea Monsters is a sometimes surreal snapshot of a sometimes surreal Mexico in the late 80s. Seventeen-year-old Luisa is disenchanted with her life in the capital, so she boards a bus to the beach with a boy she barely knows, in the hope of finding a troupe of Soviet circus performers. In real life, you’re unlikely to find a roaming band of Soviet acrobats on Zipolite Beach, Oaxaca, but we can all sympathize with the need to skip the city for the sea.

2. “The Remainder” by Alia Trabucco Zerán (tr. Sophie Hughes)

A bird's eye view of Santiago, Chile.
Trabucco Zerán takes us on a macabre road trip through Chile.Photo Credit: Pablo Rogat / Shutterstock

Santiago, Chile

Ash is falling from the sky and memories of the dead are irrepressible in post-Pinochet Santiago, Chile. In this dark novel, Trabucco Zerán—with the help of Sophie Hughes’ masterful English translation—depicts both a recognisable and entirely obscured Chile, in which the children of ex-militants (Felipe, Iquela, and Paloma) are haunted by what they’ve failed to remember and yet cannot forget. As they take a road trip to retrieve Iquela’s dead mother, Trabucco Zerán moves us from the city to the Cordillera with ease.

3. “The Cardboard House” by Martín Adán (tr. Katherine Silver)

The view of a street in Peru, Lima.
Barranco, Lima comes to life in "The Cardboard House."Photo Credit: RPBaiao / Shutterstock

Lima, Peru

Martín Adán's The Cardboard House—available in two English-language translations by either Katherine Silver and José Garay Boszeta—reimagines his childhood in Peru. Neither novel nor short story, this book is actually a collection of vignettes, all loosely woven together to create a tapestry of Barranco, Lima in the early 20th century. A poet rather than a prose writer, Adán’s snatches of life in Peru are as lyrical and precise as you’d imagine and have drawn comparisons with Brazilian writer Clarice Lispector.

4. “The Bitch” by Pilar Quintana (tr. Lisa Dillman)

A scene at the Pacific Coast in Colombia.
Colombia's Pacific Coast is depicted as an unforgiving place by Quintana.Photo Credit: streetflash / Shutterstock

Colombia's Pacific Coast

The Colombian coastline of Pilar Quintana’s The Bitch is neither the hospitable nor picturesque place of your travel brochure dreams. Set on the less popular Pacific (as opposed to the Caribbean) coast, The Bitch puts forth a place in which nature rules with an iron fist, where the jungle swallows the living and the sea returns the dead. Thankfully, while the Colombia of Quintana’s novel is decidedly bleak, a visit to this lively country will almost certainly prove quite the opposite.

5. “Cantoras” by Carolina de Robertis

A lighthouse on the coast of Uruguay.
Cabo Polonio provides a safe haven for De Robertis' protagonists.Photo Credit: Ksenia Ragozina / Shutterstock

Cabo Polonio and Montevideo, Uruguay

Five LGBTQ+ friends seek refuge in each other and Cabo Polonio in 70s Uruguay, as a decidedly anti-gay military dictatorship rages on in the background. Split between Montevideo and their isolated hideaway, Cantoras spans nearly four decades and serves as a testament to community and love in the midst of utter disaster. And we'd be very surprised if you don’t find yourself wanting to seek solace in Cabo Polonio by the time you’ve finished reading.

6. “The Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra” by Pedro Mairal (tr. Nick Caistor)

A road on the Argentine countryside.
The Argentine countryside features heavily in Mairal's book.Photo Credit: Aleksandra H. Kossowska / Shutterstock

Argentina

A mute Argentine artist dedicates his life to painting gargantuan rolls of canvas which depict six decades on the Argentina-Uruguay border and must be unraveled both literally and figuratively by his sons upon his death. However, one canvas is absent. So begins the search for the titular Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra, which transports character and reader alike to tiny villages in the hunt for the final piece of the puzzle.

7. "Dominicana” by Angie Cruz

A view of Washington Heights in New York City.
Washington Heights provides the backdrop for "Dominicana."Photo Credit: Gregory James Van Raalte / Shutterstock

Dominican Republic and New York City, US

A loose riff on her mother’s immigration story, Angie Cruz’s Dominicana splits its time between the sticky heat of the Dominican countryside and the chilly heights—Washington Heights, that is—of New York City. Trapped in a marriage she doesn’t want with a man twice her age, Ana Cancion is lonely and very much not in love, neither with her husband nor with her new NYC life, but the way Cruz conjures up Ana’s coming-of-age in the Big Apple will have you wanting to pound the streets for yourself.

8 “São Bernardo” by Graciliano Ramos (tr. Padma Viswanathan)

The countryside in Northeast Brazil.
Northeastern Brazil is the star of "São Bernardo."Photo Credit: MontenegroStock / Shutterstock

Northeast Brazil

A classic in Brazil, São Bernardo has been twice translated into English, most recently by Canadian author Padma Viswanathan. Often overlooked and overshadowed by Brazil’s big cities—São Paulo and Rio de Janeirothe northeast is the star of this dryly funny novel, which is densely packed with real and invented, convoluted and obscure idioms hailing (or not) from the region.

9. “Fiebre Tropical” by Julián Delgado Lopera

A view of downtown Miami.
Julián Delgado Lopera captures the sticky heat of Miami in "Fiebre Tropical."Photo Credit: Sean Pavone / Shutterstock

Miami, Florida

Told in an effervescent Spanglish, Julián Delgado Lopera’s Fiebre Tropical is set against the sticky and languorous backdrop of Latinx Miami, where our teenage protagonist’s mother has been sucked into evangelical christianity. A tale of intergenerational, coming-of-age angst and LGBTQ+ first love, Fiebre Tropical might not have you pining for the specific Florida of Francisca and Carmen, but Delgado Lopera’s ability to capture place in print is undeniable.

10. “Claire of the Sea Light” by Edwidge Danticat

A Haitian fishing village set as the backdrop of "Claire of the Sea Light" by Edwidge Danticat.
Ville Rose is a fictional Haitian village.Photo Credit: Irina Wilhauk / Shutterstock

Haiti

Editor's note: Travel to Haiti is not recommended due to serious safety risks in this area. Please follow your government's guidance and travel advisories.

Prolific author Edwidge Danticat’s Claire of the Sea Light may take place in the fictional Ville Rose, but her deeply engrossing narrative of life in this Haitian fishing village will have you itching to pay a visit to the country that inspired such storytelling. Short and affecting, Claire of the Sea Light tells the tale of a missing girl in a series of evocative interconnected vignettes, in which the sea plays a dreadful and constant role.

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