Top Ten Best Non-Fiction Books for 2016

1) Raza Rising, Chicanos in North Texas – Richard J. Gonzalez

The author has written a book on issues facing Chicanos today and more specifically in North Texas. It includes topics such as immigration, economics, politics, health, criminal justice, and education. It also includes many first-hand observations supported by well-documented research and is a must read for anyone wanting to understand the complicated dynamics of the Latino (Chicano) community. During a time (2016) when we have elected a new president who doesn’t appear to be very sympathetic to Latino issues, it is probably more important than ever to obtain an understanding of this ever changing population. The author discusses explanations for Chicano educational lag and provides solutions on how to best move forward. This is quite an informative book and is highly recommend.

2) Latina Authors & Their Muses – Edited by Mayra Calvani, Foreward by Leticia Gomez

This is a collection of interviews with 40 Latina authors. They include both authors that are established and emerging and are from Latin America or of Hispanic descendants and live in the United States and also write primarily in English. The book captures the various genres that these authors write in, as well as provides great insight into their working lives. The interviews provide a snapshot into the writer’s life and their writing struggles. Included are the author’s agents and publishers, which also give the reader some excellent information. This is a valuable tool for anyone trying to get into the writing business world. If you are a serious writer consider having this book on your shelf as a great resource.

3) The Power of Latino Leadership; Culture, Inclusion, and Contribution – Juana Bordas

With over 50 million Latinos in the U.S. and growing, it’s more important than ever to understand the impact that Latino leaders will make in this millennium as well as to understand how they will lead. It would be helpful, whatever your ethnic background, to get a perspective on how these types of leaderships can enhance our movement towards a more positive future. Juana Bordas offers the reader ten principles that Latino leaders use to lead their communities illustrating the positive characteristics of the Latino culture. This is an essential guide for the business community as well as for the political arena.

4) Thoughts Without Cigarettes – Oscar Hijuelos

This is a Pulitzer Prize Latino author who earned critical acclaim for this 1989 novel, The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love. He was born in Manhattan to Cuban immigrants in 1951. In the book Thoughts Without Cigarettes he discusses the interesting sides of his upbringing. His mother wrote poetry and his father worked in a hotel. While visiting pre-Castro Cuba he catches a disease and this event changes his life. In the book he searches for his identity and uses tragedy and humor to tell his story. An absolute must read!

5) Waiting on Zapote Street (Love and Loss in Castro’s Cuba) – Betty Viamontes

If you are interested in history, then this is a must read book. The author does an amazing job of capturing how it was to live under Fidel Castro’s rule and dictatorship. The story is told through the eyes of Laura and Rio who marry and are torn apart due to government sanctions. This book is based on a true story. The story will take the reader on a rollercoaster ride filled with love and also anger that will test your emotions. The story depicts the many tests given to any human being for survival. It is definitely one of the best books I’ve read.

6) Excavation: A Memoir – Wendy C. Ortiz

At the age of fifteen (late 1980s and early 1990s), the author lived with alcoholic parents in Los Angeles, California. She grew up an insecure child getting caught up in a sexual relationship with a private school teacher 15 years her senior. The teacher encouraged her to write, all the while making her promise never to disclose their taboo sexual relationship. This relationship would leave an imprint on the author’s life and in later relationships – queer or straight. This memoir is powerfully written and it will take you into a world most people only see in movies. Just an amazingly strong and powerful book!

7) Black Dove: Mamá, Mi’jo, and Me – Ana Castillo

The author, a writer and a feminist, gives us insight into the life of a single brown mother and the down spiraling of her son’s adulthood, which eventually leads to incarceration. It is a poignant account of what this type of event entails and the emotional turmoil and nightmare for a parent. The book discusses the atmosphere that many people of color are experiencing in this country today, and yet she gives us hope with her strength. What a powerful book!

8) Taking Hold: From Migrant Childhood to Columbia University – Francisco Jiménez

This is the author’s fourth memoir series. In this memoir he discusses how he transgresses from California to attend Columbia University. Mr.Jiménez discusses details of the Latino experience in America as well as the family warmth and resiliency as he moves forward in life to beat the impossible odds. In the book the author discusses how he carries memories of years of poverty, bigotry and prejudice against him, and yet he manages to survive and thrive in a place that is so culturally different than what he has known. He has many questions as he begins his new life, but yet he beats the probabilities. It is a book that provides much hope to students that are facing insurmountable odds to succeed in life. What an uplifting book.

9) Letters To the Poet From His Brother – Maceo Montoya

The author laments over the loss of his brother who succumbed to cancer by using artistic images and poetic words to capture this life changing event to perfection. It is a moving tribute to his brother, but also gives the reader a most prophetic and magnificent entry into magical words that can only be expressed from a true artist. In the process, the author raises questions as to the Chicano/a status and who we are as a people and our contributions overall. The paintings illustrated are both in color and in black and white, and both capture the essence of meaning perfectly. It is beautifully written and illustrated and a most wonderful book and shows the masterful skill and talent of the author. This is a must book to have. I fell in love with it.

10) Diaspora – Frank Varela

The poem collection captures the pains and gains of everyday life, whether they are spiritual or material. The author cleverly and magically uses word structure and sound to bring the reader into his world of longing for those souls that have become spirits such as his Aunt Consuelo or Doña Simona or Don Benacio. He talks about how he can hear them gossiping in the kitchen and how they cluster round his life circle still. He discusses family members and growing up Boricua in Brooklyn using reality and humor. The book is such a treat to read and quite enjoyable. The book is so much more than this short synopsis can capture.

Be sure to check out our previous year’s top 10 lists by clicking here.

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