4 Beautiful Books Celebrating the Intersections of Latinx & Indigenous Heritage

Books Are Magic
Oct 9, 2019 · 4 min read

This Monday, October 14, is special day that overlaps the ending of Hispanic and Latinx Heritage Month and celebrates Indigenous People’s Day. While New York City has not yet joined the growing ranks of American cities and states that officially recognize the holiday in place of, or alongside of, Columbus Day, its an important opportunity to acknowledge the history and ancestry of indigenous people that inhabited these lands long before European colonization. Indigenous People’s Day is also a great opportunity to take a moment to reflect on your bookshelves and work to decolonize them a bit. Introduce your shelves to more voices outside of the white, Western canon. It’ll be more than worth it, we promise!

Below are four books we love that honor their authors’ native communities and homelands, challenge accepted narratives, and illuminate the intersections indigenous identity.

Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine

This debut collection and National Book Award finalist centers working class Latinas of indigenous descent in a way that I’ve rarely seen in American literature. Fajardo-Anstine explores the American West as ancestral homeland with beautiful, efficient symbolism in stories that promise and deliver both grit and tenderness. It’s a really special collection that I want to put in everyone’s hands. — Maritza

Eyes Bottle Dark with a Mouthful of Flowers by Skeets Jake

A harrowing and exquisite examination of queer desire, masculine violence, indigenous identity, and the intersections between them. Here, the experiences of Diné men are grafted onto the flora of the Navajo countryside, both rendered with gorgeous, rich imagery in language that is at once precise and unsparing (also like, c’mon, this title! This cover! I weep!). — Serena

When My Brother Was an Aztec by Natalie Diaz

A rigorous, mythical, and monumental debut collection from my personal hero, Natalie Diaz (read in giddy anticipation of her forthcoming POSTCOLONIAL LOVE POEM). Formally accomplished and deeply allegorical, When My Brother Was An Aztec offers a tripartite exploration of the poet’s experiences growing up on the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation with her meth-addicted brother, as well as her experiences loving women. What I love most about Diaz’s writing is that she is unflinching in the face of immense pain and violence, and yet it is undeniable that she moves through these poems from a place of love. I think it is important that many people sit with this collection, and what better time to do it than now (with October holding half of Hispanic Heritage Month + Indigenous Peoples Day, two communities to which Diaz belongs and honors in her writing). — Serena

Borderlands / La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldúa

Beware, reader: this is a dangerous text. So dangerous, that twenty-five years after its original publishing date, it was banned by the Tucson Unified School System in Arizona when enforcing a new law that prohibited teaching Mexican-American studies in the public school system. In this revolutionary and hybrid work, Anzaldúa unites poetry and prose, Spanish and English, her Chicana and lesbian identities, investigating and exposing the very notion of borders — — of the land, the body, and the mind. Our country has long been obsessed with “securing borders” while obliterating families and destroying lives. With the fire and finesse of a poet, Anzaldúa responds, “Borders are set up to define the places that are safe and unsafe, to distinguish us from them…. A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition. The prohibited and forbidden are its inhabitants.” It’s been over a decade since I first encountered Anzaldúa’s rigorous, generous poetics, and I am still quaked, quilted, and expanded by it. — Shira

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