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Books From the Border

Lupita Leyva, Senior Librarian, Robert Louis Stevenson Branch Library,
Collage of books

In recent days, the literary world has been rocked by controversy. At its heart, the controversy involves a book that is, on the one hand, a commercially successful book, currently, 400+ on the waiting list and counting in our library system alone, but one that has also been heavily criticized by writers, librarians, readers, and others as being culturally inauthentic and insensitive, propagating harmful stereotypes, and lifting scenes and images from other works by writers from the community that this book is ostensibly about. However, over the course of the last couple of weeks, the conversation has grown beyond simply one title and one author (and one media superstar) and now encompasses the entire publishing industry, including its marketing practices—which some critics condemn as practically preordaining what books end up being commercial bestsellers—and its acknowledged lack of diversity. It also speaks to bigger questions about personal identity, authorship, and cultural appropriation.

This is not the first time these issues come up when talking books. The We Need Diverse Books movement and #OwnVoices movement may have started with children’s and young adult books, but the current controversy shows that these issues are alive and well in the world of books for adults.

As a reaction to this state of affairs, librarians across the country are assembling lists of titles to read in place of or in addition to (or while you wait for your name to move up the holds list). Here, then, is a list of some fabulous titles that deal with border communities and experiences that many readers may not be aware of. All these titles are available via the Los Angeles Public Library, whether in print or digital format.

Recommended Reading for Adults and Young Adults

The Distance Between Us
Grande, Reyna

The Devil's Highway: A True Story
Urrea, Luis Alberto

Lost Children Archive
Luiselli, Valeria

Into the Beautiful North: A Novel
Urrea, Luis Alberto

Borderlands: The New Mestiza = la frontera
Anzaldua, Gloria

Enrique's Journey
Nazario, Sonia

Across a Hundred Mountains: A Novel
Grande, Reyna

The Tijuana Book of the Dead: Poems
Urrea, Luis Alberto

Tell Me How it Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions
Luiselli, Valeria

Signs Preceding the End of the World
Herrera, Yuri

Homelands: Four Friends, Two Countries, and the Fate of the Great Mexican-American Migration
Corchado, Alfredo

The Boy Kings of Texas: A Memoir
Martinez, Domingo

The Gringo Champion
Xilonen, Aura

Recommended Reading for Children

My Shoes and I
Colato Lainez, Rene

Amado, Elisa

From North to South/Del norte al sur
Colato Laínez, René

Bilingual Spanish/English

Between Us and Abuela: A Family Story From the Border
Perkins, Mitali

Two White Rabbits
Buitrago, Jairo

Caravan to the North: Misael's Long Walk
Argueta, Jorge

Somos como las nubes = We Are Like the Clouds
Argueta, Jorge

Breaking Through
Jimenez, Francisco

The Circuit: Stories From the Life of a Migrant Child
Jimenez, Francisco

My Diary From Here to There/Mi diario de aqúi a allá
Pérez, Amada Irma