As a bookseller, I get asked for recommendations a lot—it’s the best part of the job. So far, in three years, my favorite customer request has been this: a dad, milling about in the graphic novel section tells me his twelve year-old has recently come out and he’s looking for some comics to give her. Not necessarily coming out stories, but books to show her support, to validate who she is and introduce her to characters she can relate to. Is your heart melting? Because I was basically a puddle on the floor. Happy belated father’s day to this loving, supportive, super cool dad.
Since giving that recommendation, I’ve thought of so many more comics I wish I’d handed him. I may not have the opportunity to recommend him and his daughter more books, but I do have a platform on the internet; and I figure there are other parents (or kids or childless adults) out there who are looking for similar recommendations. So I’ve complied a few of my favorite comics that also happen to have LGBTQ+ characters. Spoiler Alert: some characters aren’t explicitly queer in the first issues/trades of these books, but I believe in queer until proven otherwise, so also not really a spoiler?
Lumberjanes by Shannon Watters, Grace Ellis, Noelle Stevenson, and Brooke A. Allen
Is the internet sick of hearing the praises of Lumberjanes sung near and far? I really hope not because this comic rings all my bells and I will never stop recommending it until everyone in the world also feels as if they are best friends with main characters April, Molly, Ripley, Mal, and Jo. If you haven’t heard of Lumberjanes my quick pitch is: five friends meet at a girl scout-like camp for hardcore lady-types, go on adventures, fight mythical creatures, and make friendship bracelets. Relationships blossom, and they’re not all platonic. It’s a book about friendship and embracing your and everyone else’s differences. Plus it has a ton of fun feminist references and did I mention TWEENS BATTLING MYTHICAL CREATURES. It just doesn’t get better than Lumberjanes.
Goldie Vance by Hope Larson and Brittney Williams
I can’t believe this comic has been out a year and I only recently read it. Titular character Goldie Vance is a 16 year-old detective who can hot-wire a car. Parents, if you’re worried about teaching your children bad habits—like stealing and hot-wiring cars—she only did it to save very valuable information from falling into the wrong hands. Goldie Vance is a great influence and a true American. Also, she has great taste in ladies—her crush can navigate backroads in the dark during a high-speed car chase like nobody’s business.
Princeless by Jeremy Whitley and Mia Goodwin
I don’t think I’ll ever tire of the-princess-saves-herself stories. In this one, Princess Adrienne and her sisters have been locked in separate towers so they can be rescued by (and wed to) a prince—a tradition Adrienne finds ridiculous. So she breaks out of her tower and decides to rescue her other sisters—with the help of her dragon and newfound friend Bedelia, the blacksmith’s daughter (and a badass blacksmith in her own right). Princeless has action, humor, and a diverse cast of characters.
Drama by Raina Telgemeier
Raina Telgemeier is a gateway comics artist for many young readers, and for good reason. Her books are funny—she’s awesome at drawing goofy and accurate facial expressions—insightful, and, believe it or not, weirdly controversial. Drama was #2 on the ALA’s 2016 Most Challenged Books list. Why? Well, for the same reason I’d recommend Drama to a kid figuring out their sexuality: because it features gay kids and embraces them, even as they struggle to figure out their sexuality. And that’s actually just a side plot. Drama is about putting on a play, making new friends, and, yeah, navigating those weird, new, tingly feelings. I’m here for it, in fact I want more of it.
Princess Princess Ever After by Katie O’Neill
Reading this comic is like eating a rainbow cupcake while supporting Planned Parenthood. Did that simile land? It’s super cute, super queer, and feminist as all get out. It begins with Princess Amira rescuing Princess Sadie from her tower, and it (spoiler alert) ends in a wedding—as your prototypical love stories are wont to do—but not before the two princesses find personal fulfillment, one as a hero and the other a queen. It began as a web comic and has since been published in hardcover, but you can still read it in full on Katie’s website.
Joyride* by Jackson Lanzing, Collin Kelly, and Marcus To
Imagine a near future where Earth is controlled by a fascist government, there is a gun on the moon—large enough to blow up whole cities—pointed at our planet, and the sky has been covered by a metal bubble for our ‘protection.’ Uma Akkolyte lives in this world—her parents, once part of the resistance, have been killed. All Uma wants is to see the stars. So she risks her life, steals a spaceship, and runs away. But of course that’s just the beginning. There are space adventures, an epic bid to save her home, and—obviously—another girl who doesn’t quite belong. After Saga, Joyride is currently my favorite si-fi comic.
Nimona* by Noelle Stevenson
NIMONA. She was one of my firsts and still one of my favorites. When it comes to fantasy comics, Nimona has it all: knights, dragons, villainy, heroism, and a shapeshifting sidekick. I love Nimona because it focuses on the “villain” and makes you seriously question the good/evil dichotomy. Plus it has magic AND science; I love it when those two can live in harmony. Nimona started off as a webcomic too; you can’t read it in its entirety online anymore, but the first three chapters are still available on Noelle’s website.
Giant Days* by John Allison, Lissa Treiman, and Whitney Cogar
This is one of my all-time favorite comics, and I will recommend it to anyone/everyone given the opportunity. It’s just about three young women who meet and become friends at University, but it’s as funny and addictive as your favorite sitcom. I wish Daisy, Esther, and Susan were real so I could befriend them; when the newest trade came out, I literally sat in a corner and whispered “it’s like seeing my best friends again” as I flipped through the pages and my co-workers looked on awkwardly. Parental Warning: sex and drugs do make an appearance in this comic—the dad I was recommending it to didn’t care, but you may.
Skim* by Jillian and Mariko Tamaki
Jillian and Mariko Tamaki are among my favorite artist/writer duos; when it comes to illustrating the awkwardness and discomfort of growing up they nail it every time. Skim is sixteen, dealing with a crush on her teacher, the suicide of a classmate, and the usual emotions and fears that come with being an outcast in high school. “Being sixteen is officially the worst thing I’ve ever been” she writes in her journal. Skim—despite being chock full of 90s nostalgia—is ageless; it will remind adults of adolescence and commiserate with teens working through their own.
Looking for more recommendations? We’ve got multiple posts on LGBTQ books for middle grade readers and YA readers with a good mix of comics and fiction.
*Please note that we all have different ideas of what is and is not appropriate for 12+ readers so I’ve added an asterix to titles that are technically meant for teens and older; if you’re concerned, give these books a read first.
Book Riot Deals is sponsored today by The Graphic Canon of Crime & Mystery, edited by Russ Kick from Seven Stories Press.
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The Scotiabank Giller Prize is one of Canada’s most prestigious literary awards. Jack Rabinovitch founded the award in 1994 to honour his late wife, Doris Giller. The prize offers the largest reward of any literary prize in Canada. In 2005, they partnered with Scotiabank to further increase the prize and ensure its longevity.
So, Can Lit: it often gets a bad rap for being dry, cold, grim, and very… local. Much of it is loved by Canadians, but that love doesn’t always stretch beyond our borders. Over the years, what Can Lit means has been growing and broadening, encompassing a wider array of genres. It’s not all small town winters, okay?
There have been many acclaimed writers from Canada–L.M. Montgomery, Margaret Atwood, and Yann Martel to name a few. Sometimes, however, the Canadianness doesn’t translate. For the past few years, the Giller Prize has brought us winners that are not just beloved nationally, but have also been recognized abroad.
In 2015, the prize was awarded to Fifteen Dogs by Andre Alexis. A modern allegory, Fifteen Dogs is the tale of a bet between Hermes and Apollo–what would happen if they gave fifteen dogs human intelligence?
In 2016, the prize went to Madeleine Thien and her novel Do Not Say We Have Nothing, a story of a family in Canada and their ties to the massacre at Tiananmen Square. Do Not Say We Have Nothing won the Governor General’s award, was shortlisted for the Man Booker Prize, and was longlisted for the Andrew Carnegie Medal.
While a book’s Canadianness might sometimes cut it off from the literary scene at large, it often makes it beloved by Canadians. Such Canadian book nerds love to get together and discuss. We’re much more than a polite nation with a bit of an identity crisis–we’re a complex group of peoples who take pride in our art and are learning to embrace our history (even the dark bits).
That’s why Canadian awards like this are so important–to embrace and promote literacy and the written word, especially in a Canadian context, brings us together and reflects our (somewhat fractured) culture. Community and art are, of course, so important.
This year, on November 20th, groups gathered in major cities across Canada to celebrate and stream the award ceremony live. I attended the event this year in Halifax, Nova Scotia, for a reception and a lively panel of local luminaries. These events celebrate Canadian literature and heritage, and also raise money for Frontier College, an organization that promotes literacy.
This year’s Giller Prize brought together a wide range of talent and speakers. Each nominated title bringing about a discussion of the changing literary landscape of Canada, while also, sometimes, harkening back to its roots.
This year’s finalists (all of whom, I’m sad to say, are still holding a place on my TBR) are: Transit by Rachel Cusk, Minds of Winter by Ed O’Loughlin, Bellevue Square by Michael Redhill, Son of a Trickster by Eden Robinson, and I Am a Truck by Michelle Winters.
This year’s winner was an emotional Michael Redhill, breaking down in his acceptance speech, clearly overcome. I’ve yet to read Bellevue Square, but really do plan to. It sounds right up my alley: a literary thriller about doppelgangers, identity, mental health, and community.
“My doppelganger problems began one afternoon in early April.” Thus begins the story of Jean Mason. One day she hears from two different people who are adamant they’ve seen her in Bellevue Square, a park in the Toronto neighbourhood Kensington Market. Curious, she goes to check things out for herself. As she investigates, she finds that things aren’t always what they seem–and might be more dangerous, too.
While this years’s winner is set in the Canadian city of Toronto, it’s stereotypical Canadianness ends there–while still being, well, Canadian. According to the jury, Bellevue Square has “complex literary wonders,” “mysterious elements” (as you can tell from the description), but is ultimately “warm and funny and smart.”
The Giller Prize seeks to highlight the best fiction Canada has to offer–and we have some world class books.
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There are so many great books being released, all the time. How to choose? And the lists! Library hold lists are so lonnnnnnng. As the late, great Tom Petty sang, “The waiting is the hardest part.” So here are ten great books coming out in the beginning of 2018 you should absolutely sign up for RIGHT THIS MINUTE.
The Immortalists by Chloe Benjamin
The four Gold children learn visit a psychic who claims to know when people will die. Readers follow along as we see how the information they are given shapes their lives. My spidey senses are telling me that this is going to be one of the biggest debuts of 2018. (Jan. 9)
The Woman in the Window by A. J. Finn
Finn tries his hand at Hitchcock in this thriller about a woman with agoraphobia who thinks she has witnessed a murder across the street. Set to be the big “Gone Girl from the Train with the Dragon Tattoo” of early 2018. (Jan. 23)
The Wedding Date by Jasmine Guillory
If you are in the mood for something light and fun (and who isn’t these days) check out this utterly charming novel about a fake wedding date that turns into real sparks when Alexa and Drew actually hit it off. (Jan. 30)
This Will Be My Undoing: Living at the Intersection of Black, Female, and Feminist in (White) America by Morgan Jerkins
Jerkins is one of the smartest young writers of her generation, and this insightful, revelatory collection of personal essays about a variety of today’s important issues is fantastic. (Jan. 30)
The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
Seventeen-year-old Alice must discover who has kidnapped her mother. Well, scratch that – she knows who took her mother, but it seems impossible, since the man claims to be from the imaginary land Alice’s late grandmother wrote about in a book. This is going to be a huge young adult title for 2018. (Jan. 30)
Feel Free: Essays by Zadie Smith
A new essay collection! I was a big fan of Smith’s last novel, Swing Time, but I am so ready to her some truths from Queen Zadie. (Also, it has been said that her next novel, coming in 2019, is her first try at historical fiction. YES PLEASE.) (Feb. 6)
The Belles by Dhonielle Clayton
Camellia is a Belle in Orleans, where beauty is a commodity. But Camellia wants more: She wants to be the Queen’s favorite Belle. But as she will learn, dreams have a price. I have been anticipating this book for so long, and I can’t wait to get my hands on it! (Feb. 6)
The World Only Spins Forward: The Ascent of Angels in America by Isaac Butler and Dan Kois
An oral history about the importance of Angels in America, from the artists involved with its Broadway creation to the people involved in the film adaptation. Timed to be released with the 2018 Broadway revival. (Feb. 13)
Sunburn by Laura Lippman
Lippman’s latest is racking up starred reviews left and right. It’s about two strangers who meet at a bar and become dangerously ensnared in each others lives. But who is the cat and who is the mouse? (Feb. 20)
I’ll Be Gone in the Dark: One Woman’s Obsessive Search for the Golden State Killer by Michelle McNamara
True crime fans, raise your hand! This is a painstaking researched book about the Golden State Killer, by the woman who gave him that nickname. Sadly, it will be as sought after for its subject as it will for the fact that McNamara passed away right before its completion. (Feb. 27)
“I’m going out,” I say to my husband.
It’s a sunny August day, a little over two months since our move to Toronto. Because I work from home and, quite frankly, because nothing makes me happier than staying in and cuddling with a book, we’ve yet to explore much of the city. It’s nothing personal: Toronto is amazing. But I like to read during my free time. I’ve been told by multiple people that this is odd. After all, I’m a Millennial, and my generation is one notorious for spending money on experiences, rather than on things.
I don’t think it’s odd at all. Every book I read provides me with an unmatched experience. And they are things. Win-win.
“Okay,” my husband says. “Is Baba coming with us?” (Baba is Babaganoush, our English Bulldog.)
I recognize his good-sport smile: he’d rather stay in, too. It’s Tuesday, aka new releases day on iTunes. Tuesdays evenings are happy evenings: a movie is selected, popcorn is popped, wine is poured. If the movie is boring, I read. This is what happens when two homebodies fall in in love and get married.
“Not we,” I say, giving him a quick peck on the cheek. “Me. I have book club tonight.”
“You do?” His frown conveys curiosity. He’s never heard of this book club before.
“I found it on Meetup,” I say. “It’s called The Girly Book Club.” I wrinkle my nose at the sound of that: Girly Book Club.
Forgive me for judging, but the idea of a group of women using the word girly to define their literary predilections strikes me as horribly un-feminist, possibly undignified. Still, I’ve read their August title (What Alice Forgot by Liane Moriarty) and loved it. In fact, I just finished Truly Madly Guilty, by the same author.
“This month’s book is by Liane,” I say. Like many bookworms, I am on a first-name basis with my favorite authors—though I haven’t met most of them.
“Okay, have fun,” he says. His smile is now relaxed, supportive. It’s also a little relieved. He’ll get to stay in and work. (He is a workaholic—work is to him what reading fiction is to me. Say what you will: at least my thing is fun.)
Before leaving, I sneak a glance at the tableau before me: my husband typing away at his computer, Baba snoring on the couch. I picture myself curling up in the armchair to read Behold the Dreamers by Imbolo Mbue. A tempting idea, but even bears come out of hibernation during the summer. I put my shoes on, and close the door behind me.
My destination: The Merchant, a restaurant in downtown Toronto that I assume is named after Shakespeare’s A Merchant of Venice. I arrive at 6:50pm, ten minutes early. I tell the hostess that I am looking for a book club, and she points me in the direction of the mezzanine. I ask if I’m the first one here. She shakes her head in a way that is borderline maniacal and laughs. A proper, full, ha-ha-ha sort of laugh, too. How strange, I think—not to mention annoyingly unresponsive. But as soon as I make my way up the stairs I, too, appreciate the comicality of my question: the place is packed.
My eyes scan the group of women sitting in three large, rectangular wooden tables, chatting amicably. A mirror doubles as a sign:
welcomes our friends from
THE GIRLY BOOK CLUB
I cringe when I see the club’s name. The writing is in blue, but the club’s name is in pink. Of course it is. I’m surprised it hasn’t been covered in glitter or bedazzled. My brain scrambles to find suitable alternative names for this club that I haven’t even joined yet: The Toronto Ladies Book Club. Women’s Literary Fiction Club. Lit Ladies Book Club. All awful ideas, I concede.
Determined to ignore the club’s sexist name, I scan the room for empty seats. I find one beside a woman with long, glossy brown hair.
“Is this seat taken?” I ask.
She turns around. Do I know this person? She seems so familiar… But I hardly know anyone in Toronto. Then it hits me: this woman is famous!
The words tumble out of my mouth clumsily, “Has anyone ever told you that you look like Emily Blunt?” No Hello, I’m Cecilia. It’s nice to meet you. Great. She probably thinks I’m a weirdo.
To my relief, she nods, her face brightening up with a friendly, warm smile. Her name is Louise. Before I can say anything else (could she maybe be Emily’s sister?), the host gets up and introduces herself. We listen to a brief explanation on the GBC’s history: Erin Woodward started the club in August 2008, after moving to England and finding herself eager to meet new friends. Now it has 60,000 members in 70 cities across the world. Impressive, I think. It is an undeniably interesting story. Still, I have to sit on my hand to keep from raising it and asking about the name.
Then, the host proposes an ice-breaker.
“In the spirit of this month’s book,” she says, gesticulating with the enthusiasm of someone who is comfortable being in the spotlight, “We’ll each say our names and share what we would tell our younger selves, if we could.”
It’s a fitting question: Alice, the main character in Liane’s novel, hits her head and forgets a decade of her life, including the three children she’s had. She is basically a 39-year old who thinks she’s 29.
People share all sorts of things:
No brainer: party less, study more!
I would convince my younger self to work out. It’s too hard now that I’m older.
I’d tell myself not to take everything so seriously.
Ten years ago I was… eleven. So…I guess I’d tell myself to eat less candy.
I would definitely tell myself not to stress over getting pregnant. I’d say: ‘Don’t worry, it’ll happen, and sometimes [pauses for good-natured chuckle] you’ll even wish it hadn’t.’
I feel myself loosening up (though that particular feat could be credited to the wine). Most remarks are witty, some are sad, but all of them sound honest, heartfelt. I can’t remember the last time I was surrounded by an all-woman group of strangers who seem so… in sync.
When it’s my turn to share I realize that I haven’t used the time to think of a nice and proper new-member response. And so, I catch myself sharing something quite personal: I’d tell myself not to go to Law School…. to pursue my dream of becoming a novelist instead. I explain that this is what I’m doing now.
Once introductions are over, the lady sitting next to Louise reaches out to me. She wants to know how I started writing: she is also a writer. (I will later find out that she is a damn good one, too). They congratulate me on my courage to pursue a new career. It doesn’t feel brave, I tell them. It feels a little crazy, but mostly terrifying. A woman with the prettiest eyes I’ve ever seen shares her story. She’s also going through a big change, an unexpected occurrence in her personal life. We weigh in on what might have caused it. Her story reminds me of my story, I tell her. I share my own theory (not to brag or anything, but time proves me right).
Soon we’re all talking, sharing. We chat about the novel, but also about ourselves. In between discussing character motivations and plot points, I learn where they are from—none are from Toronto (I will quickly learn that this is fairly common: I’ve met a total of one born-and-bred Torontonian since moving here), though most are from Canada. Louise, like her doppelgänger, is from England. I learn the basic outlines of their lives: what they do for a living, how old they are, how long they’ve been coming to the GBC (I am relieved when I hear them using the initialism), who are their favorite authors. The book we’ve read acts as a mutual friend. It allows us to connect on a deeper, closer level. I lose track of how many glasses of wine I order. I am having a great time.
It’s been sixteen months since that day. Sixteen months since I’ve met a group of ladies who, somehow, have gotten me to travel to Muskoka and to Prince Edward County, to take surfing lessons, drink cider, cut back on meat, work my way out of a rather intimidating escape room, use random fake names for no reason at all, drink dirt-colored wine, have a kitchen dance party (it’s exactly what it sounds like), and get on a boat with two elderly strangers (yes, total strangers). Not bad for a proud homebody.
Most of all, these ladies have shown me the remarkable power of female friendships. Together, we’ve shared so much: Ups and downs. Happy tears and sad tears. Accomplishments and setbacks. Hugs. Toasts. Uncontrollable laughs. Books (naturally). A lap dance (a joke, I promise). I even petted one of them while I was asleep (I thought she was Baba!). The Girly Book Club has blessed me with a group of strong, independent women who never cease to dazzle me with their generosity, empathy, support, and love.
Its name—Girly Book Club—still isn’t one I love. But there is nothing sexist or un-feminist about it. On the contrary: to me, it’s been a feminist haven, a place where thoughtful, intelligent women who nurture and inspire one another can gather and talk about one of the best things in life: books.
And so, if I could say one thing to my younger, 2016 self, it would be this: Go ahead and leave your apartment on that Tuesday evening in August. You won’t regret it.
True fact: I own four copies of Pride and Prejudice and two full sets of Jane Austen’s novels. It’s funny because I’m actually more of a Brontë girl and yet I only own two copies of Jane Eyre. I don’t know why, but there’s something about Austen’s books that makes me want to hoard as many copies as possible.
If you’re anything like me, you’ll probably enjoy these beautiful Jane Austen book sets.
This luxurious slipcased set from The Folio Society features illustrations by Anna and Elena Balbusso, Philip Bannister, Sam Wolf Connelly, Deanna Staffo, Jonathan Burton, and Darya Shnkina. It also features introductions by Sebastian Faulks, Elena Ferrante, Fay Weldon, Siri Hustvedt, Val McDermid, and Lucy Worsley.
Penguin’s original classics collection may not as visually stunning as some of the other sets on this list, but it’s my favorite because of what’s on the inside. The first three books in this set feature new introductions and the original Penguin introductions written by Tony Tanner in the 1960s. Tanner’s introductions are so good I once wrote an entire blog post about them. Though not pictured here, this series also includes Lady Susan, The Watsons, and Sandition in one volume.
I bought a different Heirloom box set for my nephew a few years ago and I was really impressed with the quality to price point ratio. Unfortunately, this set had a limited run. You can still buy it on Amazon, but the price has skyrocketed with rarity. You can buy the entire set on Kindle though for only $5.99, and it includes the original four-color illustrations by Jacqui Oakley.
Juniper Books offers two different Jane Austen book sets. This one is my favorite and it also comes in pink for those who prefer a more overtly feminine look. Beneath the custom jackets are Everyman’s Library hardcover editions, which I think is an excellent choice. In my experience, Everyman’s editions are very high quality and can survive almost anything. (I once dropped my Everyman’s copy of Parade’s End in the bathtub and the ink didn’t even smudge a little.)
These gorgeous Penguin hardcovers were designed by the award-winning Coralie Bickford-Smith. Tactually, they’re not my favorite. I find the spines stiff and the foil-stamped design prone to wearing off, but if you’re looking for shelf candy, you can hardly go wrong with these.
This is where it gets confusing. There are three different Vintage Classics Jane Austen sets. One is American, one is from the U.K., and the third seems to be available everywhere and features a design that is exclusive to Jane Austen’s work (in other words, there are no books by other authors in the series). The American version is my favorite and I especially love the cover of Persuasion.
The U.K. version of Vintage Classics (known for their red spines) features bold patterned cover illustrations. Though not my favorite, they certainly win points for style.
These pretty little Vintage editions were designed by Leanne Shapton and feature introductions by Alexander McCall Smith, Lynne Truss, Amanda Vickery, Francesca Segal, P.D. James, and Andrew Motion.
And here we come to the Everyman’s Library hardcover editions. As I mentioned before, they are extremely durable and will weather any abuse. I absolutely love Everyman’s matching jacket designs, but these sturdy little volumes also look gorgeous naked. They feature introductions by Peter Conrad, Marilyn Butler, Judith Terry, and Claudia Johnson.
When it comes to paperback design, I think Penguin English Library is right up there with the U.S. Vintage Classics. I don’t have any Austen in my small English Library collection, but all the books in the series share beautiful design and flexible spines that won’t crack.
Which of these delicious sets is your favorite?
As most know, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico on Tuesday, September 20, 2017. It was the worst storm the island has seen in 89 years. Words like catastrophic and apocalyptic work well to describe the aftermath. There was damage to the entire electrical grid, and there are still very limited communications. This is along with flooding, ridiculous amounts of wind and water damage, and agriculture being wiped out. It would be an understatement to say it will take a long while to recover.
I’m Puerto Rican. On the island are family members and a lot of people I care about. The island is a place I love. I have not lived there since before third grade, but it doesn’t just leave you. It lingers, and in some ways it will always be home. I’m devastated about the state of Puerto Rico, and about the way everything has been handled after this disaster.
To counteract my immense sadness, I’m remembering the beautiful aspects that make up Puerto Rico and its people. This has made me realize that I hardly ever see anything about Puerto Rican writers. I mean, I rarely see news about anyone from Puerto Rico unless it’s a tiny group of celebrities.
The intellectual and creative culture of the island isn’t something a lot of people get to learn about. But it’s rich, and there is a deep history of people using their minds and words to spread ideas, and create stories. I want to try and spread some Puerto Rican culture. Plus, I want to try to show that we are more than the fiery personalities or ample curves that are so often highlighted in media depictions.
Puerto Ricans are complex people, defined by a complicated history. There is no singular Puerto Rican viewpoint, perspective, or character. We’re artists, we’re farmers, we’re musicians, we’re revolutionaries, we’re storytellers, we’re survivors, and we’re a million other things.
Puerto Rican Writers
One of the best ways to show the life of a culture is through reading its writings. So, I’ve compiled a list of some Puerto Rican writers.
This is by no means an official, complete list, but it might help you find an author whose writing you want to check out. I’ve tried to include writers of different formats and genres, so hopefully there is someone for everyone. I think it can’t hurt to expand your reading horizons, especially when it leads to a better understanding of other cultures.
Novelist, also known for her memoirs.
When I Was Puerto Rican
Victor Hernandez Cruz
Poet. Part of the Nuyorican Movement.
Snaps, The Mountain Sea: Poems
Quiara Alegria Hudes
Playwright and composer.
Elliot, A Soldier’s Fugue
Novelist, playwright, newspaper columnist, critic.
Yolanda Arroyo Pizarro
Novelist, short story writer, and essayist.
Ojos de Luna (Moon Eyes)
Poet. Co-founder of the Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe.
Time’s Now/Ya Es Tiempo
Manuel Zeno Gandia
Novelist, also a medical doctor.
The Pond (generally acknowledged as the first major Puerto Rican novel)
Alejandro Tapia y Rivera
Novelist, poet, playwright, essayist.
Feminist, labor organizer, anarchist, writer. Interesting fact: known as the first woman in Puerto Rico to wear trousers. She was actually arrested for wearing trousers when she went to Cuba.
A Nation of Women: An Early Feminist Speaks Out; Mi Opinion Sobres Las Libertades, Derechos y Deberes de la Mujer
Maria Bibiana Benitez
First female poet of Puerto Rico. Also a playwright.
La Ninfa de Puerto Rico, La Cruz del Morro
Eleanor Parker Sapia
A Decent Woman
Judith Ortiz Cofer
Poet, novelist, essayist.
Silent Dancing: A Partial Remembrance of a Puerto Rican Childhood
Short story writer, novelist, essayist, critic.
Eccentric Neighborhoods, The House on the Lagoon
Playwright, co-founder of the Nuyorican Poet’s Cafe.
Novelist, cartoonist, performance artist.
Flaming Iguanas: An Illustrated All-Girl Road Novel Thing
Zoe Jimenez Corretjer
Poet, short story writer, novelist, academic essayist.
Cantigos del Lago
Poet, novelist, essayist, dramatist.
Poet, novelist, essayist, literary critic, professor of literature.
Eugenio Maria de Hostos
Novelist, lawyer, sociologist.
La Peregrinación de Bayoán
Luz Maria Umpierre
Poet, literary critic.
The Margarita Poems
Poet, also know for his memoir. Part of the Nuyorican movement.
Down These Mean Streets
Novelist, children’s book author, playwright, short story writer. First Hispanic woman to have her work published by the major publishing houses in modern times.
El Bronx Remembered
Marta Moreno Vega
Memoirist. Founder of the Caribbean Cultural Center African Diaspora Institute.
When the Spirits Dance Mambo: Growing Up Nuyorican in El Barrio
Memoirist, often writes about generational trauma and reproductive rights.
The Ladies’ Gallery: A Memoir of Family Secrets
Jose de Diego
Journalist, poet, lawyer.
Cantos de Rebeldía
Julia de Burgos
Song of the Simple Truth: The Complete Poems of Julia de Burgos
Short story writer, playwright.
The Oxcart/La Carreta
Cultural anthropologist, archaeologist, Puerto Rican scholar.
Discovery, Conquest and Colonization of Puerto Rico, 1493–1599
I seem to be hitting that phase in life where everyone around me is having babies.
Typically I am far out of my comfort zone when it comes to small humans. Though I was once a babysitter/nanny extraordinaire, that was over a decade ago, and I’ve lost my knack for it completely. Now, I’m that awkward adult who tries to make small talk with a two-year-old as if they were coworkers at the office—how was the traffic getting here, child?
This is probably why I turn to books in these situations.
Because as it turns out, even without any children (or plans for them) in my future, I have very strong opinions on the books you should be collecting when you’re expecting.
Go, Dog. Go by PD Eastman
This is the apparently lesser-known title from Are You My Mother? author PD Eastman, and another wonder of non sequitor storytelling, featuring dogs of all colors and sizes in an unpredictable range of delightfully absurd situations. Beyond that is a saga of a dog and her hat that is bound to stick with you.
This book inspired at least one essay on individualism, and in my family, it also inspired the longstanding quip, “Go around again,” for no particular reason that any of us can really identify, other than that it is a line that exists in this book.
Eloise by Kay Thompson and Hilary Knight
No book collection is complete without a few standout misbehaving girls. Eloise is the queen of these characters.
From her wild imagination, brash attitude, and penchant for crossing the line, she has no respect at all for authority in any form.
Most of all, I like to think about what happened to Eloise when she grew up. A collection of traits that may not make her a model young woman by society’s measure but would damn sure be great to have as a boss. Hopefully she found her corner office.
If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Numeroff
I once thought this book to be as ubiquitous as the Cat in the Hat. Sadly I have discovered over many very awkward references that no one understood that an “if you give a mouse a cookie situation” is really not something understood by just anyone.
It continues to be an excellent measuring stick for identifying kindred spirits, however.
It’s my favorite time of year: The time to start scouring Etsy for literary gifts for my beloved friends. In my long searches, I found a handful of wonderful Great Gatsby gifts.
If you need more ideas for your literary shopping, check out these bookish gifts for $20 or less. Or get decadent with some jewelry from The Great Gatsby.
The Great Gatsby cover poster — $5, varying sizes + prices
The Great Gatsby cover printed on antique page — $8
The Green Light candle — $18
The Great Gatsby earrings — $10
The Great Gatsby brick bookend — $40
“So we beat on” coffee mug — $18
The Great Gatsby text scarf — $42
The Great Gatsby book locket — $8
The Great Gatsby old sport cufflinks — $19
The Great Gatsby book cover pin — $11
The Great Gatsby book cover magnet — $4
This Great Gatsby book clutch (that I will be dreaming about for the rest of my life) — $181
“3 On A YA Theme” is sponsored by Haven by Mary Lindsay.
Rain Ryland has never belonged anywhere. He’s used to people judging him for his rough background, his intimidating size, and now, his orphan status. He’s always been on the outside, looking in, and he’s fine with that. Until he moves to New Wurzburg and meets Friederike Burkhart.
Freddie isn’t like normal teen girls, though. And someone wants her dead for it. Freddie warns he’d better stay far away if he wants to stay alive, but Rain’s never been good at running from trouble. For the first time, Rain has something worth fighting for, worth living for. Worth dying for.
I did not appreciate a good coffee drink until well into my college life, when it was less about appreciating how delicious it was and more about needing to keep myself awake for a few more hours of work.
In honor of National Espresso Day, which is this week, here’s a round-up of YA books featuring coffee somewhere on the cover. If you know of others, I’d love to see ’em in the comments.
I don’t know about you, but I really can smell these delicious drinks from here.
Being Friends With Boys by Terra Elan McVoy
Charlotte and Oliver have been friends forever. She knows that he, Abe, and Trip consider her to be one of the guys, and she likes it that way. She likes being the friend who keeps them all together. Likes offering a girl’s perspective on their love lives. Likes being the behind-the-scenes wordsmith who writes all the lyrics for the boys’ band. Char has a house full of stepsisters and a past full of backstabbing (female) ex-best friends, so for her, being friends with boys is refreshingly drama-free…until it isn’t any more.
When a new boy enters the scene and makes Char feel like, well, a total girl…and two of her other friends have a falling out that may or may not be related to one of them deciding he possibly wants to be more than friends with Char…being friends with all these boys suddenly becomes a lot more complicated.
The Espressologist by Kristina Springer
What’s your drink of choice? Is it a small pumpkin spice latte? Then you’re lots of fun and a bit sassy. Or a medium Americano? You prefer simplicity in life. Or perhaps it’s a small decaf soy sugar-free hazelnut caffe latte? Some might call you a yuppie. Seventeen-year-old barista Jane Turner has this theory that you can tell a lot about a person by their regular coffee drink. She scribbles it all down in a notebook and calls it Espressology. So it’s not a totally crazy idea when Jane starts hooking up some of her friends based on their coffee orders. Like her best friend, Em, a medium hot chocolate, and Cam, a toffee nut latte. But when her boss, Derek, gets wind of Jane’s Espressology, he makes it an in-store holiday promotion, promising customers their perfect matches for the price of their favorite coffee. Things are going better than Derek could ever have hoped, so why is Jane so freaked out? Does it have anything to do with Em dating Cam? She’s the one who set them up! She should be happy for them, right?
With overtones of Jane Austen’s Emma and brimming with humor and heart, this sweet, frothy debut will be savored by readers.
My Lost and Found Life by Melodie Bowsher
Ashley’s world is perfect—until her mother disappears, accused of embezzling a million dollars. Left completely on her own, Ashley ends up living in a camper behind a gas station. Her friends have abandoned her, bills are piling up, and she can’t understand why her mother doesn’t come home.
Ashley survives by taking a job in a quirky San Francisco coffee shop, where she finds the friends, the confidence, and the courage to start putting her life back together. But there is still one piece of her former life that just doesn’t fit into her new one. What really happened to Ashley’s mother?
When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
Dimple Shah has it all figured out. With graduation behind her, she’s more than ready for a break from her family, from Mamma’s inexplicable obsession with her finding the “Ideal Indian Husband.” Ugh. Dimple knows they must respect her principles on some level, though. If they truly believed she needed a husband right now, they wouldn’t have paid for her to attend a summer program for aspiring web developers…right?
Rishi Patel is a hopeless romantic. So when his parents tell him that his future wife will be attending the same summer program as him—wherein he’ll have to woo her—he’s totally on board. Because as silly as it sounds to most people in his life, Rishi wants to be arranged, believes in the power of tradition, stability, and being a part of something much bigger than himself.
The Shahs and Patels didn’t mean to start turning the wheels on this “suggested arrangement” so early in their children’s lives, but when they noticed them both gravitate toward the same summer program, they figured, Why not?
Dimple and Rishi may think they have each other figured out. But when opposites clash, love works hard to prove itself in the most unexpected ways.
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