This piece is a part of the A Sprinkle in Spirits Blog Tour! If you wanna know how you can win a copy of A Sprinkle in Spirits, scroll all the way to the end. Or, you know, continue reading my post ’til the end.
Bruja! Bruja, brujita!
If you’re Latinx and writing something even remotely witchy, chances are El Gran Combo’s Brujería is on your playlist. We might be dancing our way through what is arguably El Gran Combo’s most famous song, but why are witches now getting more traction in the kid lit arena? One could argue that Latinx saw ourselves as the Other, marginalized by society for our culture and traditions, which is why it’s easier to channel Latinidad through magic systems.
I’m not well-versed in the art of witchcraft, Wicca, santería, or other faith-based religions that are deemed “pagan” by certain factions. However, I am quite familiar with Latinx kidlit, which is why I’m bringing Witchy Books by Latinx the blog.
The first book that comes to mind is considered the breakthrough for Latinx in kidlit genre fiction: Labyrinth Lost by Zoraida Córdova. Many say it’s a quintessential text, but the fact is that the quality of the writing is excellent and the characters and plot leave you wishing to know more about this family. Magic is passed on through generations in the Mortiz family, but the best thing that Córdova does is weave a tale of family (whether they’re close or not) and how the relationships with them and the connections you form, have their own sort of magic.
The theme of connection with magic through its relation to self and others around you is a running one through the six books I mention in this piece. When it comes to these books, the connections with family go beyond the mortal plane. In Labyrinth Lost, Alex saves the family she banished only through the power of her love as well as her acceptance of her family and their roots; that included appreciating all the brujas that came before her and letting their magic flow through her.
Family can be a powerful thing in Latinx households. In fact, my mother taught me that first comes God and then comes family; everything else comes second. The power of family is a theme that runs through many books by Latinx who are writing for young readers, be that the family you’re related to by blood relation or the family you create for yourself.
When something tragic happens in Latinx families, there is a lot of grief in the air. Grief can be potent too, especially in how you deal with it. Some families might celebrate the life of a lost loved one, others turn to reflection and prayer. Both are valid ways to mourn and can often intermingle. In Claribel Ortega’s Ghost Squad, a Middle Grade to be released in the Fall from Scholastic, Lucely Luna attempts to bring back the spirits of her ancestors after a devastating storm ravages her town. When Lucely turns to her ancestral magic, it is both a way to celebrate her ancestors through power and through memory. Magic is the one thing that can connect her to the family that has been beside her through all sorts of occasions. Magic is her connection to family and a way to cope with her grief. Another example of using magic as prayer and as a conduit of grief is in Lily Anderson’s Undead Girl Gang. In it, Mila Flores resorts to a little bit of Wiccan magic to bring her best friend back to life (and, in the process, brings back two of her bullies as well). These unforeseen consequences come attached to certain magic systems, or in the way language can be twisted; intention matters
In the case of Anna Meriano’s Love Sugar Magic series, we see its protagonist, Leonora, use her powers as a way to self-reflect on her own family and celebrate her heritage through the magic she shares with them. However, her magic tends to backfire due to her inexperience. Leo’s and her family’s magic is not just folded into their food, but their matriarchal powers allow them to connect with friends, family, and lost loved ones. However, Leo’s attempts to fix things with magic always end up in catastrophic results. In the first book, A Dash of Trouble, Leo’s spells tend to have unintended outcomes, as witnessed when she accidentally shrinks a classmate when trying to fix a love spell. It’s only through the help of family, alive and dead, as well as the help of her best friend, that she’s able to reverse the work she did. Her sisters guide her, allowing her a space to explore her identity as a bruja, while still letting her be a messy twelve-year-old. Her dead Abuela helps Leo repair her mistakes, not directly, but with a nudge in the right direction. The generational love and the power of such connections grant Leo the space to learn that magic comes with a price.
It does in Labyrinth Lost, Undead Girl Gang, and the Love Sugar Magic series. It does in unreleased books like Ghost Squad and Michelle Ruiz Keil’s All Of Us With Wings, where a grieving young girl uses ritual and unintentionally summons magical creatures that terrorize San Francisco.
However, as Latinx, we’re aware of said consequences. We’re told about them through stories, rituals, and traditions. Through these books, we explore the different meanings of magic in families, love, traditions, and all the things that connect us to each other. I hope there’s more to come.
(This post is brought to you thanks to the release of Love Sugar Magic: A Sprinkle of Spirits by Anna Meriano and the works of the people at Walden Pond Press. Thank you for this opportunity!)
About A SPRINKLE OF SPIRITS:
The second book in this breakout series that’s been called “charming and delectably sweet.” (Zoraida Córdova, award-winning author of the Brooklyn Brujas series)
Leonora Logroño has finally been introduced to her family’s bakery bruja magic—but that doesn’t mean everything is all sugar and spice. Her special power hasn’t shown up yet, her family still won’t let her perform her own spells, and they now act rude every time Caroline comes by to help Leo with her magic training.
She knows that the family magic should be kept secret, but Caroline is her best friend, and she’s been feeling lonely ever since her mom passed away. Why should Leo have to choose between being a good bruja and a good friend?
In the midst of her confusion, Leo wakes up one morning to a startling sight: her dead grandmother, standing in her room, looking as alive as she ever was. Both Leo and her abuela realize this might mean trouble—especially once they discover that Abuela isn’t the only person in town who has been pulled back to life from the other side.
Spirits are popping up all over town, causing all sorts of trouble! Is this Leo’s fault? And can she reverse the spell before it’s too late?
Anna Meriano’s unforgettable family of brujas returns in a new story featuring a heaping helping of amor, azúcar, and magia.