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Shelf Care at The Blue Bench: September's Reading List

Welcome to the Shelf Care reading list by The Blue Bench! Every month, we curate a reading list of books showcasing powerful voices and talented storytelling. These books delve into topics related to sexual assault, identity, trauma, healing, hope, community, and resilience.

The books highlighted in this month’s list are b Latinx-identified authors in recognition of Latinx Heritage Month.  

[TW/CW: These books may contain topics related to sexual assault, domestic violence, drug use, racism, violence, eating disorders, school violence, cyberbullying, and other topics that may be triggering]

We are adding a special book every month, a banned book of the month. Books depicting sexual violence often get placed on banned book lists. We believe that silencing authors who’ve written about sexual violence perpetuates stigmas around the issue.

A Cup of Water Under My Bed

By Daisy Hernandez

In this book, Daisy Hernandez writes about growing up as a woman in a Cuban-Colombian immigrant home. She writes about her identity, the cultures that she was raised in, and how they reflect both an American culture and a Latino one. The duality of belonging to both cultures drives her narrative and how she views the world. This coming-of-age memoir highlights this duality, as well as what it is like to grow up queer and Latinx.

Daisy Hernandez is a journalist and author. She has published several fiction and nonfiction books, and has written for The New York Times and The Atlantic.

The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood

By Richard Blanco

This memoir is a coming-of-age story of a the child of Cuban immigrants as he grapples with learning his place in America, and coming to terms with his sexuality. Blanco uses his art as a writer to question his cultural identity, and to find the courage to come out. Lyrical yet funny, this memoir is about discovery of Blanco’s authentic self, and a finding a deeper understanding of what it means to be American.

Richard Blanco is an American poet, public speaker, author, and civil engineer. He was a the first openly gay Latino U.S. inaugural poet.

Native Country of the Heart: A Memoir

By Cherríe L. Moraga

This memoir is a mother-daughter story, of Elvira and her daughter Cherrie, and how their lives are woven together. Elvira was hired out as a laborer in California as a child, and left to work as a cigarette girl in the late 1920s in California. Cherríe, her daughter, is a brilliant queer Latina feminist. Cherríe documents her mother’s journey through life and in turn discovers her own gender-queer body and Lesbian identity. She writes about the loss of connection to her culture she feels as her mother battles Alzheimer’s. This book is poetically written and reckons with white American history and intergenerational trauma.

Cherríe L. Moraga is a Chicana writer, activist, poet, essayist, and playwright. She currently is part of the faculty at University of California, Santa Barbara. She also is a founder of the group La Red Chicana Indigena, which advocates for Indigenous rights as well as education equality.

The Poet X

By Elizabeth Acevedo

This book is centers around the protagonist Xiomara Batista, a young teen growing up in Harlem. She feels unheard and at the same time, unable to hide—especially as she grows into a mature body. She has plenty to say, and writes about all of her frustrations. Though Xiomara’s mother wants her to stick close to the church’s values, Xiomara is drawn to expressing herself through the art of slam poetry.

Elizabeth Acevedo is an Afro-Dominican poet, author, and performer. This September, she was named the Young People’s Poet Laureate by the Poetry Foundation. She is the author of several young adult novels.

Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza

By Gloria E. Anzaldúa

Written in a lyrical mixture of both Spanish and English, this book explores the lives of those living between cultures and languages through a poetic lens. As she walks through her own heritage, she also describes the condition of Chicanos living in Anglo culture, women in Hispanic culture, and lesbians in a straight world. From family memories, to the Aztec religion, to the plight of undocumented migrant workers, this poetic work describes the culture from many angles.

Gloria E. Anzaldúa was a scholar, feminist theorist, and queer theorist. A majority of her work theorizes about the marginal, in-between, and mixed cultures that exist along borders.


The House on Mango Street

By Sandra Cisneros

The House on Mango Street is a coming-of-age novel telling the story of Esperanza Cordero, a 12-year old Chicana girl growing up in a Hispanic neighborhood of Chicago. The book follows one year of her life as she enters adulthood as she starts to recognize the realities of being a young woman in a poor and patriarchal community. Commonly banned for discussing class, race, sexual assault and harassment, identity, and gender, this book is often recognized as a classic in Chicano literature.

Sandra Cisneros is an American author, best known for writing about her own experiences with cultural hybridity and economic inequality.

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