A blue and silver sombrero.

Celebrating Cinco de Mayo: Five YA Titles Highlighting Hispanic Heritage

Are you celebrating Cinco de Mayo this year? Although Cinco de Mayo officially commemorates a victory for the Mexican army at the Battle of Puebla during the Franco-Mexican War, it’s evolved into an international celebration of Mexican culture and heritage. Regardless of your background or your plans this Cinco de Mayo, if you’re like most of us at Ooligan Press, any good day of celebration somehow involves a refreshing drink paired with a relevant new read. We may not know your drink preference, but we’ve compiled a list of YA titles highlighting Hispanic heritage that are perfect for celebrating this cultural holiday.

  1. I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika Sanchez
  2. Published in 2017, I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter tells the story of Julia Reyes, a teenage girl growing up in a low-income Chicago neighborhood with her older sister Olga and her undocumented parents. Olga is the perfect Mexican daughter, and Julia is . . . not. Olga still lives at home, wears modest clothes, doesn’t date, and has a respectable job. Julia, however, is extremely independent, rebellious, and dreams of going to college in NYC. After Olga dies in a tragic accident, Julia discovers her older sister had a secret life. Unfortunately, just as Julia feels like she’s starting to understand Olga better, life gets even more complicated when Julia gets her first boyfriend and her parents react by sending Julia to stay with family in Mexico.

  3. With the Fire on High by Elizabeth Acevedo
  4. After getting pregnant her freshman year of high school, Emoni Santiago’s life has been about hard choices that prioritize taking care of her daughter and her abuela. The only place she’s able to relax and let everything go is in the kitchen, where Emoni adds that extra something special to everything she cooks. Emoni dreams of working as a chef after she graduates, but she knows it’s impossible because she has to take care of her family. Despite knowing her chances of “making it” are poor, once Emoni starts cooking, she can’t stop her talent from breaking free.

  5. Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet by Laekan Zea Kemp
  6. Somewhere Between Bitter and Sweet is a story told through the alternating perspectives of Penelope Prado and Xander Amaro, two teenagers living in Austin, Texas. Penelope’s dream is to open a pastry shop next to her father’s restaurant, Nacho’s Tacos, and Xander is a new-hire at Nacho’s who’s looking for a chance at a normal life. This unlikely pair first comes together because of food, and they quickly find themselves working together when Xander’s immigration status and the restaurant are both threatened.

  7. The Go-Between by Veronica Chambers
  8. Camilla del Valle’s mom is a glamorous telenovela actress, her dad is famous for voice-over work in blockbuster films, and every teenage girl in Mexico City wants to be her. Needless to say, Cammi’s life is pretty glamorous. But when her mom gets cast in an American sitcom and the family moves to LA, her life doesn’t feel quite so glamorous anymore. Her mom’s new TV role is as a maid, her dad struggles to find work, and Cammi’s new friends assume that she’s only able to attend their expensive private school because of a scholarship. At first Cammi plans to use their mistake as a way to teach her friends a lesson, but the more she lies about where she’s from, the more she struggles to know where she belongs.

  9. The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros
  10. Originally published in 1983, The House on Mango Street is a critically acclaimed and best-selling coming-of-age classic that tells the story of Esperanza Cordero through a series of vignettes portraying life in a Latino community. Esperanza is a young girl living in Chicago who uses poems and stories to express her oppression and feelings of disconnection to her own life while growing up on Mango street.

Happy Cinco de Mayo!