By David Burga
Latinx stories run the gamut of themes, plots and ideas. Although each country in Latin America is unique, as is the literature that springs from them, there are some commonalities due to a colonial past and the influence of the Spanish language giants, such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Jorge Luis Borges, Pablo Neruda and Gabriella Mistral. Modern Latinx writers from the USA and Canada weave many different types of narratives: their own experiences as immigrants, the political strife of their native countries, stories that incorporate elements of magical realism, and so much more and this month’s picks are just a small cross section of the amazing work available.
Born in Argentina, Schmucler went into exile in Mexico during Argentina’s Dirty War which targeted political dissidents, and Mexico City is the setting for The Guardian of Amsterdam Street.
Galo has not left his home on Amsterdam Street, not since the day in 1938 when a shocking act of violence split his family apart. His hermitage is made easier by the peculiar design of the street. It is shaped like an ellipse — if you walk it, you will find yourself returning to the same place again and again.
Playing host to Jewish refugees, Spanish exiles, and Latin American revolutionaries, his home becomes the school at which Galo learns about a world he never sees, and the ideals and terrors that shape history. He begins to realize that Amsterdam Street, the site of endless returns, may be the true centre of the world. Appointing himself the street’s guardian, Galo witnesses the decades pass, knowing that everyone who walks away must one day come back.
A novel of rare humanity and grace, The Guardian of Amsterdam Street is a stunning portrait of a neighbourhood where the whole of the twentieth century comes alive and a moving inquiry into how we shape the world, and how it transforms us in turn.
This is the New York Times bestselling author’s seventh novel. It’s a historical, noir tale and different from her past works in that it doesn’t contain SFF elements and is about a daydreaming secretary, a lonesome enforcer, and the mystery of a missing woman they’re both desperate to find.
1970s, Mexico City. Maite is a secretary who lives for one thing: the latest issue of Secret Romance. While student protests and political unrest consume the city, Maite escapes into stories of passion and danger.
Her next-door neighbor, Leonora, a beautiful art student, seems to live a life of intrigue and romance that Maite envies. When Leonora disappears under suspicious circumstances, Maite finds herself searching for the missing woman—and journeying deeper into Leonora’s secret life of student radicals and dissidents.
Meanwhile, someone else is also looking for Leonora at the behest of his boss, a shadowy figure who commands goon squads dedicated to squashing political activists. Elvis is an eccentric criminal who longs to escape his own life: He loathes violence and loves old movies and rock ’n’ roll. But as Elvis searches for the missing woman, he comes to observe Maite from a distance—and grows more and more obsessed with this woman who shares his love of music and the unspoken loneliness of his heart.
Now as Maite and Elvis come closer to discovering the truth behind Leonora’s disappearance, they can no longer escape the danger that threatens to consume their lives, with hitmen, government agents, and Russian spies all aiming to protect Leonora’s secrets—at gunpoint.
Velvet Was the Night is an edgy, simmering historical novel for lovers of smoky noirs and anti-heroes.
3) For Brown Girls with Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts, by Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodriguez (Available on Audible Canada)
For generations, Brown girls have had to push against powerful forces of sexism, racism, and classism, often feeling alone in the struggle. By founding Latina Rebels, Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodríguez has created a community to help women fight together. In For Brown Girls with Sharp Edges and Tender Hearts, she offers wisdom and a liberating path forward for all women of color. She crafts powerful ways to address the challenges Brown girls face, from imposter syndrome to colorism. She empowers women to decolonize their worldview, and defy “universal” white narratives, by telling their own stories. Her book guides women of color toward a sense of pride and sisterhood and offers essential tools to energize a movement.
The Montoyas are used to a life without explanations. They know better than to ask why the pantry never seems to run low or empty, or why their matriarch won’t ever leave their home in Four Rivers—even for graduations, weddings, or baptisms. But when Orquídea Divina invites them to her funeral and to collect their inheritance, they hope to learn the secrets that she has held onto so tightly their whole lives. Instead, Orquídea is transformed, leaving them with more questions than answers.
Seven years later, her gifts have manifested in different ways for Marimar, Rey, and Tatinelly’s daughter, Rhiannon, granting them unexpected blessings. But soon, a hidden figure begins to tear through their family tree, picking them off one by one as it seeks to destroy Orquídea’s line. Determined to save what’s left of their family and uncover the truth behind their inheritance, the four descendants travel to Ecuador—to the place where Orquídea buried her secrets and broken promises and never looked back.