Books That Impacted My Life

My friend and fellow Puerto Rican blogger Wilmarie made a post about books that others NEED to read. I like the idea of sharing books that may have impacted your life because it may help figure out a piece of the puzzles that we all are. I’m not gonna say you need to read these books, that’s not really my style. I don’t wanna shove a book down your throat and then make you feel uncomfortable if you don’t like what I like.

This post is gonna be me sharing some books that I feel have helped shaped my life or books I admire for their words. If you find one of the books I’m sharing might also affect you, then hopefully that’s good. Books that matter leave a fingerprint in your soul. These are the ones that have left my soul well-worn and give you pieces of my own puzzle.

  1. When the Moon Was Ours by Anna-Marie McLemore: There should be a name for the feeling you have when you first read Anna-Marie McLemore’s words. Her words have a way of moving you, and not in the way that leaves you lying down and processing everything, but in a way that you feel your soul shift and sway to the rhythm of her story. You ache for Miel and Sam’s troubles, ball up your fists at The Bonner Girls, feel embraced in Miel’s sister’s warmth… No other book I’d read had concisely written out the anger and betrayal a queer Latina might feel at being manipulated and abused by white women. There’s a particular cruelty to white women and how they weaponize the purity of their womanhood against marginalized people, especially brown folks. Beneath all the flowery prose that makes you swoon, there’s an indictment of such behavior. That instantly endeared me to McLemore’s literary powers.
  2. Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore: As an extension, Wild Beauty further reinforced my love for Anna-Marie’s words. This especially after the fact that the Nomeolvides girls were all bisexual, all brown, all great. A metaphor for land rights, objectification of brown bodies, exploitation of labor, and white supremacy, Wild Beauty went above and beyond what I would’ve expected from the author. It firmly cemented her as a mainstay in my own literary canon.
  3. La Pasión Segun Antígona Pérez by Luis Rafael Sánchez: If there’s one book (that I actually read in high school) that I can point to and say shaped me, it’s this one. A modern retelling of the Greek tragedy Antigone, Sánchez painted the atmosphere in which many Latin American countries under military dictatorships were living in at the time of it being penned. Its protagonist: a woman who’s been imprisoned for wanting to give her friends a proper burial after being executed for their radical leftist politics. It was the first time I saw a Latina protagonist that was speaking against a government’s tyranny and oppression, and though it’s still tragic, it made me want to be like her.
  4. Merci Suárez Changes Gears by Meg Medina: No other book I’ve read has cut up my heart with regards to the loss of a loved one in the way this one did. It had me sobbing in bed at 3am, because Merci’s allowed to be angry and upset over the people she loves hiding her grandfather’s condition from her. Though I didn’t experience my grandparents’ slow descent in the same way she did, I felt connected to her feelings and felt identified with her.
  5. Como agua para chocolate/Like Water for Chocolate by Laura Esquivel: This book was one of the few books I read in high school that I really loved. The way the author used humor and magical realism to talk about how internalized misogyny can get passed even in a household that’s incredibly matriarchal, all while still maintaining a forbidden lovers plot, made me incredibly happy as a teen. Also, that scene at the wedding where everybody starts crying and feeling sick was hilarious, especially since I read it around the height of Bridesmaids, which was one of my favorite movies at the time.
  6. The Ruby Oliver/Boyfriend series by E. Lockhart: I know this choice might come as a surprise, but this series helped me a lot when I was coming to terms with the fact that I have anxiety and depression. I read this series when I was still in high school, but it has resonated with me until today. If you don’t know much about the series, it’s about a girl who starts getting panic attacks in high school and decides to start visiting a therapist to cope with her feelings. It showed me that therapy is a good thing, and that it’s a way to pinpoint what’s causing you most distress. Ruby might think her problems are superficial, but it helped me realize that no problem is superficial when it comes to your body and your responses to them are valid.  
  7. Esperanza Rising by Pam Muñoz Ryan: This book was probably (I’m pretty certain) the first book I’d read with a Latina protagonist in it. I’d been a fan of many books, but this one I held so close to my heart. The fact that it was written by a Latina and its protagonist had a Spanish name… blew my mind. I don’t remember much about it now or my reaction to it then, but it’s impacted me until now. It’s the book that turned me onto accepting that there could be people like me in the thing I liked to do the most, which was read all day every day.
  8. We Are Okay by Nina LaCour: A lot of books are either plot-driven or character-driven, and though many would characterize this story as a character-driven story, I would describe it as an emotion-driven story. Not many books focus on the actual feelings of their characters, and this was so different from anything I’d ever read. Since the MC had tamped down all her feelings and she runs away from all the bad stuff happening around her, there’s an uncovering of feelings and the readers goes along with the MC as she rediscovers old and new emotions.
  9. Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova: In Zoraida’s book I found so many firsts: the first fantasy book by a Latina that I’d read since I read Isabel Allende’s Aguila & Jaguar trilogy as a teenager, and the first book with a bisexual Latina as a protagonist that had a love triangle and it wasn’t really questioned. So I found myself represented in Alex Mortiz’s journey and her own existence, all while reading about magic and family, which are some of my favorite things to read about. Even though Isabel Allende’s series already existed in my mind, it was still from a boy’s perspective, which I didn’t care much for. Thus, Alex’s adventure helped me in my rediscovery of Latinx literature (I’d been reading mostly books by white authors), and in accepting myself as a bisexual Latina.
  10. From Twinkle with Love by Sandhya Menon: This is more specific, but when I was in middle/high school I had a really rough friendship breakup that really left sad and feeling isolated, but it made me make rely on new friends, much in the same way that Twinkle had to in the book. I had a very emotional making-up with that friend about two years after the whole fallout, and we’re still best friends, but seeing Twinkle go through basically the exact same thing I went through was so incredible. I think teen-Me would have really cherished this and helped her go through those tough times.
  11. A Crown of Wishes by Roshani Chokshi: Even though I’d read The Star-Touched Queen, it was this story that made me fall in love with Roshani Chokshi’s words. It was funny, romantic, heart-warming, exhilarating… All of the things I love and it just made me sign my life away to the Chokshiheads (that’s not a real word, I just made it up).
  12. Antología Poética by Julia de Burgos: In college I discovered Julia’s works, all thanks to a short story by Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro, and I haven’t been the same. The fact that a Puerto Rican woman was known for her words, especially as a Nationalist, feminist figure who dealt with mental illness and poverty and many other obstacles, and made the most important words in my life… I’ll never give up her writing. I’m gonna share the poem that I love the most from her. I loved it so much I had it on my college graduation cap: It’s titled “Yo misma fui mi ruta”:

Yo quise ser como los hombres quisieron que yo fuese:

un intento de vida;

un juego al escondite con mi ser.

Pero yo estaba hecha de presentes,

y mis pies planos sobre la tierra promisora

no resistían caminar hacia atrás,

y seguían adelante, adelante,

burlando las cenizas para alcanzar el beso

de los senderos nuevos.

 

A cada paso adelantado en mi ruta hacia el frente

rasgaba mis espaldas el aleteo desesperado

de los troncos viejos.

 

Pero la rama estaba desprendida para siempre,

y a cada nuevo azote la mirada mía

se separaba más y más y más de los lejanos

horizontes aprendidos:

y mi rostro iba tomando la expresión que le venía de adentro,

la expresión definida que asomaba un sentimiento

de liberación íntima;

un sentimiento que surgía

del equilibrio sostenido entre mi vida

y la verdad del beso de los senderos nuevos.

 

Ya definido mi rumbo en el presente,

me sentí brote de todos los suelos de la tierra,

de los suelos sin historia,

de los suelos sin porvenir,

del suelo siempre suelo sin orillas

de todos los hombres y de todas las épocas.

 

Y fui toda en mí como fue en mí la vida…

 

Yo quise ser como los hombres quisieron que yo fuese:

un intento de vida;

un juego al escondite con mi ser.

Pero yo estaba hecha de presentes;

cuando ya los heraldos me anunciaban

en el regio desfile de los troncos viejos,

se me torció el deseo de seguir a los hombres,

y el homenaje se quedó esperándome.

Hope this was fun to read, and if you decide to do this exercise please let me know! I’d love to read your experiences with books and those you absolutely want others to read.

I also wanna announce that I won’t be near a computer for almost an entire month for the holidays. I have another post that will be automatically posted, and I’ll have some scheduled tweets for #ReadLatinx on my account. I’m gonna try to be disconnected for this time, spending time with my family as I travel! If you’d like to contact me, feel free to send me an email.

Happy holidays!

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