25 Empowering Books Every Strong, Badass Latina Boss Lady Should Read
We are strong Latinas, hear us roar! Some of the most inspiring insight into empowerment, womanhood, and strength comes from the pages of authors like Esmeralda Santiago, Isabel Allende, Julia Alvarez, and many, many more. Whether the authors are Latina, black, white, purple, yellow, or somewhere in between, these 25 reads by female authors will have you feeling proud to be a woman and Latina — and maybe even push you to finally lean in. Keep scrolling to see our picks, then check out 10 powerful quotes you'll want to Pin immediately.
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In the Time of the Butterflies
Julia Alvarez's In the Time of the Butterflies centers on three sisters who grow up in the Dominican Republic under the dictatorship of Rafael Trujillo — and eventually overthrow him. While there are tragic moments (and a heartbreaking ending), this novel shines a light on three women who find their strength in one another, despite their machista surroundings.
The House on Mango Street
Sandra Cisneros's central character Esperanza Cordero is the kind of character you will root for on every page. The author weaves together short vignettes that illustrate Esperanza's journey to make it out of her Chicago Latino community. Whether you're reading The House on Mango Street for the first time or rereading the classic, you'll close this book wishing there was more.
Roxane Gay's hilarious collection of essays, Bad Feminist, details her life as a feminist who also happens to love certain things that aren't necessarily cause-friendly. It's a reminder that at the heart of all of us is a woman looking to define herself — and that the word feminist can have many definitions — it doesn't always have to mean marching with picket signs.
A Cup of Water Under My Bed
The author (formerly the editor of Colorlines Magazine) powerfully shares her personal story growing up in a Cuban and Colombian household — and accepting her place in the world as both a woman and bisexual woman in A Cup of Water Under My Bed.
Dreaming in Cuban
Dreaming in Cuban is about three generations of clairvoyant women on the island — the author's home country — and was a 1992 finalist for the National Book Award. It's easy to see why: the novel dreamily illustrates how in most families, women will come out on top, even when they've been forced into exile.
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf
For Colored Girls Who Have Considered Suicide When the Rainbow Is Enuf is series of monologues and one of the theater world's most popular adaptations for a reason: the minority women in each story heartbreakingly describe the trials and tribulations life has dealt them, ranging from death to sexuality. While the characters are typically interpreted as African-American, their stories are ones that all women — but especially women of color — can relate to.
The second of three of Cisneros's books on this list, Caramelo is her semi-autobiographical novel about Lala, a young Mexican outcast in Chicago. But surrounding Lala are many other heroines, spanning from Chicago to Mexico City. It's a page-turner that will remind you that no family could survive without women as their backbone.
The Ladies of Managua
There's a certain draw to stories of women staying strong in the aftermath of tragedy: it shows our uniquely feminine ability to stand tall and keep our heads held high — and our families together, as told through The Ladies of Managua, a story about a Nicaraguan family rebuilding after the death of their patriarch.
Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories
Woman Hollering Creek and Other Stories is a collection of short stories that reflect on the author's own experiences growing up as an American woman, but maintaining her strong Mexican roots. It's a struggle familiar to many of us, and each story will remind you of how far Latino Americans have come in this country, and how far we still have left to go.
We Should All Be Feminists
If the title We Should All Be Feminists isn't convincing enough, this book is small but mighty, a short and quick read that will leave you breathlessly passionate about fixing the inequalities women face around the world, as adapted from Adichie's famous Ted Talk. (You might even recognize the now famous quote borrowed by Beyoncé for "Flawless.")
The Dirty Girls Social Club
Just because The Dirty Girls Social Club is chick lit doesn't mean it's not feminist: a favorite beach read amongst Latina readers, Valdes's characters each battle their own personal challenges and demons, learning how to support one another along the way (with a little scandal mixed in because, hey, it is chick lit, after all).
How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents
Another one of Alvarez's works influenced by the Trujillo regime in the Dominican Republic, How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents looks more acutely at the struggles Latina immigrants face when they move to a new country and try to grow up as teenage women amidst oppression, sexism, and racism. This is a classic must read.
The Feminine Mystique
The author of The Feminine Mystique might not be Latina, and you won't find many mentions of Hispanics specifically here, but Friedan's book is credited with sparking the second wave of feminism in this country, making it an important account of our history as women in the United States. While it was meant to chronicle the issues of women in the '50s and '60s, you might notice that many of the topics Friedan wrote about are still just as relevant today.
When I Was Puerto Rican
We often read about men who take on big adventures, but in When I Was Puerto Rican, Santiago writes about her own jump, leaving her homeland in Puerto Rico for life in the United States, ending with a cliffhanger.
Almost a Woman
The sequel, Almost a Woman, picks up where When I Was Puerto Rican left off, and is a timeless coming of age story that can make any woman nostalgic for her youth — but also glad to be all grown up. We continue with Santiago as she settles from her journey from Puerto Rico to life as a Brooklyn teen finding her way.
The House of Spirits
All hail Isabel Allende! She's the queen of magical realism and a fierce feminist. The House of Spirits is her most well-known book, and especially relevant for female readers because of its amazingly intricate cast of characters — especially Blanca, the novel's most mysterious, but strongest, character.
Paula is Allende's memoir, a tribute to her daughter Paula, who died after falling into a coma. It will bring you to tears and fill you with sorrow but also pride for the author's fortitude as a woman, writer, and mother.
My Beloved World
If you're looking for some inspiration from a real life feminist and resilient Hispanic role model, look to My Beloved World, the biography of the first Latino Supreme Court Justice, who also happens to be Bronx born and have a really intriguing story of pulling herself up from her bootstraps all the way to Capitol Hill.
Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo
She's one of the original independent women! Brush up on your knowledge of one of the most badass feminists there ever was: Frida Kahlo, an artist who was never afraid to be exactly who she was, express herself, or live her life on her own terms, with or without a man's help in Frida: A Biography of Frida Kahlo.
The Book of Unknown Americans
The Book of Unknown Americans is about a couple who emigrates from rich surroundings in Mexico to a more modest life in Delaware, and will leave you feeling all the feels for wife Alma and her special needs daughter, Maribel.
The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba’s Greatest Abolitionist
The Lightning Dreamer: Cuba's Greatest Abolitionist is the story of one of the earliest Latina feminists we know about: Tula, who openly opposed slavery in Cuba during the nineteenth century, a dangerous move for any citizen, but especially a woman. Read on for an exceptional, brave story.
Like Water For Chocolate
Like Water For Chocolate by Mexican author Laura Esquivel tells the tale of many Latina families: daughters who are expected to either marry well or just care for the family. Tita is proof that women have greater dreams and deserve to live them.
How to Be a Chicana Role Model
How to Be a Chicana Role Model is the author's hilarious, tongue-in-cheek book of essays on her own life as a Chicana feminist and how she got to where she is today. It's a fun, breezy, but at times deep and insightful read that you'll want to pass along to your friends.
The Feminist and the Cowboy: An Unlikely Love Story
The Feminist and the Cowboy: An Unlikely Love Story is the author's personal story about falling in love with a machismo cowboy and a guilty, entertaining pleasure. It proves that we all have something to teach one another.
This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color
Moraga is well known in the world of feminist chicana literature for This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color, a collection of thoughtful essays from women of color on feminism in the '80s.