Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Mexican Independence Day

Photo courtesy of iivangm/Flickr
September 16 is Mexican Independence Day, and in celebration I've put together a brief list of some of my favorite books about Mexico and Mexican people.

I will admit I haven't read as much as I might have in Mexican literature, a lapse I'd like to correct, so please leave your suggestions in the comments!

Like Water for Chocolate, by Laura Esquivel. When I was in college everyone loved to watch the film version in our dorm's common room, but the book is even more magical than the movie. It's about a young woman who channels her feelings into the food she makes for her family. According to a family tradition she's not allowed to marry, but that doesn't stop her from loving, or from her family's fortunes from changing along with her country.

The Adventures of Don Chipote, by Daniel Venegas. This book was
originally published in the 1950s, then translated into English in 2000. It's about an early-20th century migrant named Don Chipote who comes to the United States for a better life, only to find that life is anything but better. It's witty and full of jokes, but a current of anger is unmistakable. Now it's considered a "rediscovered classic" of Chicano literature.

Caramelo, by Sandra Cisneros, is a big, engrossing coming of age story about Lala, a girl living between a Mexican and American identity, who spends part of the year with her father's family in Mexico City and part of the year in Chicago. Lala also tells us her grandmother's story, which is fascinating. The book is slow and colorful and wonderfully immersive.

The Son by Philipp Meyer. Set in Texas but covering the overlapping fortunes of two families- one American, one Mexican-over the course of the 20th century, I think this book fits the theme even if it's not a perfect fit. The McCulloughs and the Garcias will come together time and again- in love, in violence and death, in reconciliation-maybe. Their clashes mirror the course of history and the story is epic and unforgettable.

I'm sorry I don't have more books for you, but these are all books I loved. Please leave your suggestions for great Mexican reads in the comments so I can do better next time!