By Joanna Martin | @cafedumartin
It’s Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15), and this year’s celebration of Hispanic food and fun feels more personal to me than in years’ past. I’ve spent the past year reading, cooking, and inquiring about my own Hispanic culture to learn more about a part of me that, up until a year ago, always felt unexplored and distant.
I come from Irish, German, and Puerto Rican descent. Having light skin, green eyes and not speaking Spanish fluently, I never felt like I could claim my own history. Witnessing so many movements of cultural recognition and self acceptance over the past few years has truly inspired me to own my heritage with curiosity and love.
I’ve spent the past year asking questions, reading books, and consuming media to learn more about my Hispanic roots. I’ve used DuoLingo to brush up on what I learned from high school Spanish so I can converse more fluently with other Spanish speakers and connect to my culture through language. My library queue is full of requests; I’m seeking out Hispanic authors of both children’s book and adult novelists.
My cultural exploration is also evident in my favorite place in the world: my kitchen. I am a planner by nature and find so much comfort in researching recipes and trying new dishes (you can find my weekly meal plans here!) We love eating Tostones loaded up with shredded chicken, sour cream and black beans. Cheese Pupusas were a fun recipe that my five year-old and I made together and served with guacamole and tomatoes! My family is also a fan of any and all tacos – my girls love to layer a soft taco with jicama wrap from Trader Joe’s and then stuff it with Spanish beans, salsa, and CrockPot Carnitas. Using my weekly meal plans to explore Hispanic recipes in my kitchen has been one of my favorite ways to involve my family in my cultural self reflection.
Rediscovering myself in everything I’ve learned about Puerto Rico and my background has been amazing. But I’ve loved involving my three kids in my cultural exploration even more. It’s been so fun to share photos, books, and recipes as a family. One of my favorite ways to discuss any topic with my kids is to pair our discussions with informative and entertaining children’s literature. With my background in teaching elementary school, I can’t help but want to connect big things I am experiencing and explaining to my kids with an on-level, culturally rich literary resource!
Whether you are Hispanic or not, use this month to explore new books and authors that celebrate and explain Hispanic culture. I’ve compiled my top ten books for Hispanic Heritage Month below – these books explore the lives of children, adults, change makers, and families. Make sure to check out your local library or local bookseller to find out more!
Ten Books to Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month
Across The Bay by Carlos Aponte
A book set in the heart of Puerto Rico. I loved the illustrations and vibrant colors that perfectly depicted this beautiful island. The story is silly, quirky, but filled with depth and love as Carlitos discovers the true meaning of home and family.
Mango, Abuela, and Me by Meg Medina
I love any book that depicts the loving relationship between a grandparent and grandchild. This book breaks down generational barriers when Abuela learns English from Mia and Mango making their relationship all the sweeter.
La Princesa and the Pea by Susan Middleton Elyr
Everyone loves a classic fairy tale and I love to find different takes on my children’s favorite stories! La Princesa is from Peru and offers a delightful Latin twist to the tale. I adore the illustrations in this book!
The Day of the Dead by Bob Barner
Ever since we first watched the movie Coco, my kids have loved celebrating El Dia de Los Muertos. We started a ceramic calavera (sugar skull) collection last year and it offers a time to reflect on the love ones we have lost and will never forget.
Islandborn by Junot Diaz
Lola is a little girl who lives in the city and does not remember the island where she was born. She asks neighbors, family, and friends to paint the mental picture for her. This book is a great age-appropriate way to broach the complex topic of immigration and why people leave their home countries.
Drum Dream Girl by Margarita Engle and Rafael López
This is a story based on the life of Millo Castro Zaldarriaga, a girl who broke down barriers of Cuba’s old tradition of male-only drummers. My seven year-old loves stories of girl power with strong female leads. I loved sharing this book with her and then showing her photos of the real Drum Dream Girl (this article was especially interesting)!
I love Saturdays y domingos by Alma Flor Ada
This is a story about a child with both Mexican-American grandparents as well as European-American grandparents. They spend the weekends with both sets of grandparents and the differences between family members make their family culture all the more beautiful. I personally really loved this book having both a Latino and European American background!
Separate is Never Equal by Duncan Tonatiuh
This is the story of the Mendez family who fought for desegregation of public schools in 1947 California. This was a story I didn’t even know about until I shared this book with my children and truly feels like a piece of history that is forgotten but so important to bring back to the forefront.
Dreamers by Yuyi Morales
A beautiful book to introduce the concept of memoir to young readers that teaches the concepts of resilience, strength, independence, love, family, and love.
I would love to know what books you read with your kids at home. Who are your favorite Hispanic children’s authors? What are your favorite books that celebrate Hispanic heritage? Diving deeper to explore the richness of other cultures makes our world a more accepting, loving, and beautiful place.
Joanna Martin | @cafedumartin
Joanna is a lifelong Dallas resident with a bearded husband, two spirited sisters, one sweet boy and a very needy dog inhabiting the walls of her home. She graduated from The University of Texas at Dallas with degrees in Child Learning and Development and Psychology before becoming a public school teacher. She is now a stay-at-home mom who dabbles in too many hobbies and activities to count, making life very full and very beautiful.