In today’s world, it can be difficult to find empowerment as a young woman. It can be even worse if you’re a young Latina, especially if you’re a First Generation American.
Being a Young Latina in today’s society can feel like you are constantly being pulled in different directions. The pressure from both society and family expectations is enough to make anyone want to hide away. However, knowing that there are others who have gone through similar experiences is what keeps many strong-willed young latinas going.
I’ve personally always felt more than one culture at once; sometimes even now as an adult, these two worlds clash inside of me. Whenever there is a tension between them or someone makes assumptions based on stereotypes about who I am—not just what we are—it feels overwhelming!
Latinas are often faced with adversity, uncertainty, and fear. They often find the motivation to keep going on their own. As it is not easy finding role models that look like them do the things they want to achieve. However, the numbers keep rising. According to research, “The Latina share of the female population in the United States will increase from 16.4 percent today to 25.7 percent in 2050.”
As our number grow so do our power. The growth of Latina’s influence only strengthens their voices on matters dealing with policies affecting them such as education, jobs opportunities and healthcare access among others where it has been historically lacking. This growth should remind you every day that you are capable of doing whatever you set your mind to and to have no fear.
Here are 10 Inspirational Books Every Young Latina Should Read That will Remind you of the Power you Hold:
A Cup of Water Under My Bed by Daisy Hernández
A Cup of Water Under My Bed is a daughter’s exploration into finding herself and her community. While she also is creating a new life for her.
It is a story about finding oneself and creating one’s own identity. The path to self-discovery begins understanding that everyone is different, but at our core, there is so much in common. This book teaches you to never forget where you came from and who made up your childhood memories – family!
The author, Daisy Hernández, chronicles her family’s teachings in this coming-of-age memoir. She discusses everything from love, money and race that the women of her Cuban-Colombian family taught her.
It rooted deep these experiences within their migration experience, which gives readers an understanding of what being a woman is like in an immigrant household.
Almost a Woman by Esmeralda Santiago
Esmeralda Santiago follows the enchanting story of her emergence from the barrios of Brooklyn to a prestigious Performing Arts High School in Manhattan.
There, she struggled between becoming American and staying Puerto Rican. She would go from translating for her mother at the welfare office mornings to starring as Cleopatra in the afternoons to dancing salsa all night long.
Santiago tells an enchanting tale about the two different lives she lived. She grew up with two goals: being an American citizen and remaining culturally connected. She wanted the best of both worlds because that’s what makes up who she is.
My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor
“Most Americans think of me as a Latina woman, but I am also an American. A New Yorker born and raised in the Bronx.”
In her memoir, My Beloved World, Sonia Sotomayor shares the story of how she became a Justice on America’s highest court. Sonia’s story starts as an immigrant from Puerto Rico with big dreams. She explains all the high and lows faced to get to where she was. Circumstances including limited financial support for herself or family members at home to sharing life-changing moments with her loved ones. It is all told in one amazing book by an amazing powerful Latina.
When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago
Another one of Esmeralda Santiago’s classics, “When I Was Puerto Rican,” is a masterpiece of storytelling and self-discovery.
The author remembers how she struggled to find a stable cultural identity which would allow her to live in America while retaining some of her traditional roots.
Esmeralda is the oldest of eleven children. She must learn new rules, a new language and eventually her identity in just one year’s time when she moves to New York City from Puerto Rico with her family at age 7 years old.
Esmeralda brilliantly recreates these experiences through three memoirs that span nearly twenty-five years of living between two worlds: those on either side of an ocean. When I was Puerto Rican is the firs one.
Handbook for an Unpredictable Life by Rosie Perez
Rosie Perez is a multi-talented woman who has experienced many highs and lows in her life.
Many in her circumstances would have been defined by these harrowing experiences. However, with the intense determination that became her trademark, Rosie overcame the odds and made an incredible life for herself.
She brings her journey vividly to life on each page of this memoir. From with vibrant Brooklyn streets to tumultuous years at a Catholic home where she learned about survival skills. From there it is off onto film sets and TV screens as well as hip-hop scenes in different cities around the country.
The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande
In this inspirational and unflinchingly honest memoir, acclaimed author Reyna Grande describes her childhood torn between the US and Mexico.
This story tells the tale of a Mexican girl who illegally immigrated to America in pursuit of her American Dream. What she finds instead is an experience riddled with violence and abuse. As a result, leaves her feeling hopelessly disconnected from those around her—including herself.
She describes how difficult it is for people living between two countries – especially those without citizenship papers – after leaving their home country at an early age or being born abroad into families that have crossed borders to seek better opportunities like Reyna’s own family.
She shines a light on the experiences, fears, and hopes of those who choose to make the harrowing journey across borders in search of a better life.
Rita Moreno: A Memoir by Rita Moreno
Rita Moreno’s memoir is a humorous and emotional journey about her life as an actress. She talks openly about the realities of being Latina in Hollywood, dealing with rejection from family members who wanted other careers for her, and how she never felt like she belonged on television or Broadway because it was “too white.”
Rita speaks frankly to readers throughout this book- taking them through every step of the process: what got her started; auditioning (both locally & nationally); her early successes; landing The King And I opposite Yul Brynner – but also challenges common stereotypes people have when they think Latino roles are limited to maids/cooks/housewives only.
American Chica by Marie Arana
In her father’s Peruvian family, Marie Arana was taught to be a proper lady. Meanwhile, in her mother’s American family she learned how to shoot and break horses. She shuttled seamlessly between these two cultures for years. Eventually, immigrating with her family to the United States where she came face-to-face with this duality of identity that had been haunting all along – half north (Peru), half south (United States).
Coming into terms with this split is at the heart of what makes up this thoughtful narrative about being an immigrant child who “was a North South collision.” She becomes an American Chica.
Havana Real: One Woman Fights To Tell The Truth About Cuba Today by Yoani Sánchez
This book will teach you how to find the value in what you have instead of focusing on all that is wrong.
Blogger Yoani Sánchez talks about her experiences of living under the Cuban government. She lives under surveillance 24/7 with the chance of only getting to speak out in disguise at tourist hotspots.
Despite challenges faced, she is a fighter for freedom. She took her passion for writing to share her story of what it means to live in Cuba under such an oppressive regime.
Examples including, chronic hunger from food shortages, difficulty shopping because of high prices on everyday goods; attempting repairs on ancient appliances that are hard-to-find if not broken down entirely; living life constantly monitored by propaganda machine telling citizens how they should behave publicly as well as privately.
Take heart, you are not alone. Many of us have had to go through the same struggles and feelings as you. Living the life of a young Latina can be a difficult one.
The feeling that no one else understands what it’s like is something many people experience at some point in their lives. However, you shouldn’t worry. There will always be someone who has gone through a similar time with whom they can share experiences or offer support! My hope with these books is that you see that.