Collage of New York Tech community members and book covers


The Hispanic Experience in Literature

September 19, 2022

Pictured top row from left: Felipe Henao and Rosemary Burgos-Mira; middle row: Diana Moronta and Jim Martinez; bottom row: Yllka Valdez and Jalene Valdez

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, six New York Tech community members share book recommendations that help illustrate the Hispanic experience.

Rosemary Burgos-Mira
Director, Public and Technical Services/Librarian III
How the García Girls Lost Their Accents by Julia Alvarez

Though this is not a new book, it was very personal and powerful to me when I first read it. It was the first book I had ever read where the family was from the Dominican Republic and had four daughters, which coincidentally was the same as mine. Julia Alvarez writes a fictionalized account of her true story when her family moved to the United States in the 1960s. Alvarez does an excellent job of writing the story in chronological order from adulthood to early childhood.

This is the story of a family that emigrated to New York City from the Dominican Republic. In a tale that is the same with all first-generation children, we see how the sisters grow and break from their parents, extended family, and customs. However, the story of living in a country with a dictatorship and how the family survives weaves all the members of the family together.

Felipe Henao, Ed.D.
Dean of Students
Fiebre Tropical by Juliana Delgado Lopera

Fiebre Tropical is my new favorite Latinx book written by Juliana Delgado Lopera. Juliana, a queer immigrant woman from Colombia, beautifully captures the struggles and tribulations that many of us face when arriving to the United States at a young age. She brilliantly incorporates Colombian sayings and colloquialisms throughout the novel. She explores topics of family dynamics, religion, and queerness in a funny and accessible manner. Everyone who reads this 2021 Lambda Literary Award-winning book will be entertained and enlightened.

Jim Martinez, Ph.D.
Associate Professor, Humanities
War Against All Puerto Ricans: Revolution and Terror in America’s Colony by Nelson A. Denis

The book provides a history of the Puerto Rican political struggle that is not covered in United States social studies or history curricula. It is a controversial book within the Puerto Rican community as well as outside of it. It presents a narrative of the Puerto Rican colonization and struggles for independence that turns the United States as a political benefactor narrative on its head. It is worth reading during this current moment when Puerto Rico is considering the future of its political status relative to the United States.

Diana Moronta
Librarian II
The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Víllavícencío

As the title suggests, this book is about the lives of undocumented Latin Americans. Written by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio, an undocumented, then DACA recipient and Harvard graduate, it illustrates the complexity of immigration and moves away from the good vs. evil categories in which undocumented people are usually portrayed. As immigrants, first, second, third generation (and beyond) Latinx people all have similarities but different realities, and this book does a great job at highlighting the complicated lives of undocumented immigrants living across the country with compassion and poetry. If this book is not a mirror, it will be a window.

Jalene Valdez (B.S. ’26)
Electrical and Computer Engineering Technology
The Brief Wondrous life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

If I were to recommend a book, it would be The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. This book not only teaches you about Dominican history through flashbacks but draws you into the life of the characters through flashbacks to the Dominican Republic and the present. The book also has a distinct personality as it is written in English and Spanish. Truly an amazing book that you wouldn’t regret reading.

Yllka Valdez (B.S. ’23)
My Broken Language by Quiara Alegría Hudes

The feeling of not belonging to American and Hispanic communities as an immigrant isn’t atypical. This uncertainty, identity confusion, and ostracization is perfectly captured in My Broken Language by Quiara Alegría Hudes, a memoir illustrating the struggles of family separation and cultural alienation. She approaches this by comparing her upbringing in Puerto Rico versus the United States and their respective complexities—facing poverty as her family encounters trials and tribulations in an attempt to be resilient despite inevitable successes and failures. I recommend this because the narrative drives a demand for community in a nation that propels the vulnerable further into the margins.

Find more book recommendations from the New York Tech libraries.