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Latino Heritage Month: Non-Fiction

Updated: September 21, 2020

Latino/Hispanic culture is part of North and South America, Central America, the Caribbean, and Spain. 

Always running : la vida loca, gang days in L.A.
Rodriguez, Luis J., 1954-
Call Number: 301.450972 R695 2005

Luis J. Rodriguez, Poet Laureate of Los Angeles 2014 - 2016,  bravely, boldly recounts his life as a young Chicano gang member in East Los Angeles, with all of the violence, sadness and hopelessness that were part of that life.  He found a way out, through education and has made it his mission to help others.

The art of Pere Joan : space, landscape, and comics form
Fraser, Benjamin,
Call Number: 740.964 J62Fr

The comic artist Pere Joan Riera, aka Pere Joan, is known for his underground comics which satirize politics and social customs. LAPL owns several children's picture books that he has illustrated.

Baca: Art, Collaboration & Mural Making
Ontiveros, Mario.
Call Number: 759.14 B116On

Judith Baca, American Chicana artist and activist, created the world’s longest mural, the Great Wall of Los Angeles, inspired by Diego Rivera, David Alfaro Siqueiros, and Jose Clemente Orozco.

Before Night Falls
Arenas, Reinaldo
Call Number: 863 A681A

One of modern Cuba's major writers, Arenas holds back little in this candid autobiography. Originally a young guerrilla fighter with Castro, he then spent 20 years in prison under the regime he had supported.  Finally making his way to the United State he fought a more desperate battle with AIDS.

Before the rain : a memoir of love and revolution
Torregrosa, Luisita Lopez.
Call Number: 071.092 T6892

While covering the 1986 Philippine Revolution, Puerto Rican journalist Luisita Lopez Torregrosa falls in love with another writer, Elizabeth.  The love affair is overwhelming and changes Torregrosa's life forever.

California's Spanish Place-Names: What They Mean and How They Got There
Marinacci, Barbara.
Call Number: 979.4 M337 1997

The name of our city, Los Angeles, is a shortened version of El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles. This books explores other place-names with roots in Spanish.

The Crusades of Cesar Chavez
Pawel, Miriam, 1958-
Call Number: 331.8813 C512Pa-1

This expansive and well-researched book may be the most complete biography of Cesar Chavez, labor leader and founder of the United Farm Workers.

Cuban ballet
Roca, Octavio, 1949-
Call Number: 793.32097291 R669

Ballet in Cuba is world-renowned because of prima ballerina assoluta Alicia Alonso, who is the focus of this book.

Days of obligation : an argument with my Mexican father
Rodriguez, Richard, 1944-
Call Number: 818 R6964

The memory of  a discussion with his father prompts Richard Rodriguez's collection of thought-provoking essays about Mexico and the United States with their intertwined and conflicted histories.

The death of Aztec Tenochtitlan, the life of Mexico City
Mundy, Barbara E,
Call Number: 972.014 M965

Tenochtitlan was the capital of the Aztec empire, built on an island, it was one of the largest cities in the world. In 1521, Hernando Cortes declared to the Spanish King, Charles V, that he had destroyed the city. Art historian Barbara Mundy’s research proves that was not the case, and highlights other aspects of this extraordinary city.

Diego Rivera
Hamill, Pete, 1935-
Call Number: 759.174 R621Ha

This lavishly illustrated biography of Diego Rivera is an excellent overview of the artist's productive, turbulent life as an artist and political activist.

Fernando Bujones : an autobiography : with memories by family and friends
Bujones, Fernando, 1955-2005.
Call Number: 793.324 B932

Cuban-American Fernando Bujones was a richly talented ballet start with the American Ballet Theatre.  He was the youngest principal dancer in the company and the first American dancer to win a gold medal at the Varna International Ballet Competition.

For all of us, one today : an inaugural poet's journey
Blanco, Richard, 1968-
Call Number: 811 B6395B

Richard Blanco was the fifth poet selected to read an original poem for a United States Presidential Inauguration. As an openly gay man and Cuban immigrant this was a very special event, which he recounts with humor, insight and reverence. 

Frida Kahlo : a biography
Schaefer, Claudia, 1949-
Call Number: 759.174 K12Sc

Great suffering and achievement were equal parts of Frida Kahlo's life. This biography is a concise and interesting introduction to her life and art.

From coveralls to zoot suits : the lives of Mexican American women on the World War II home front
Escobedo, Elizabeth Rachel.
Call Number: 301.4129794 E746

World War II opened up jobs for women and minorities, and for Mexican American women the opportunities caused a type of revolution in their personal lives, shaking up traditional customs and ideas about women going out into the world unprotected.

From My Land to the Planet
Salgado, Sebastiao, 1944-
Call Number: 770.91874 S164-6

Brazilian photographer Sebastião Salgado has traveled the world documenting the best and worst of what humanity has done to itself and to the environment. The winner of many awards, he is UNICEF’s Goodwill Ambassador. In this semi-autobiography Salgado discusses his most important photographic assignments. His other books can be found here.

From our land to our land : essays, journeys, and imaginings from a native Xicanx writer
Rodriguez, Luis J., 1954-
Call Number: 813 R696R-1

Luis J. Rodriguez, former Poet Laureate of Los Angeles, explores current issues of race, freedom of speech, identity, and the layers of culture that unite more than divide us.

Hell and good company : the Spanish Civil War and the world it made
Rhodes, Richard, 1937-
Call Number: 946.08 R477

Many artists, writers, doctors, nurses, many who were not Spanish, volunteered to fight, help, or report on the Spanish Civil War, 1936-1939.  Art, novels, journalism, medical and military technology developed  from the conflict.  Rhodes' premise is that this conflict was a testing ground for World War II and other 20th century conflicts that followed.

Hollywood's Latin lovers: Latino, Italian and French Men Who Make the Screen Smolder
Thomas, Victoria, 1956-
Call Number: 809.23 T462

Hollywood’s dream factories, the motion picture industry, created images of passionate men who challenged the all-American images of the blonde, blue-eyed male actors.

Hunger of memory : the education of Richard Rodriguez : an autobiography.
Rodriguez, Richard.
Call Number: 410 R696 1983

What price for assimilation and a university education?  In this candid autobiography, Richard Rodriguez recounts his childhood, knowing hardly any Englsh, and eventually earning a Ph.D, and becoming a Fullbright scholar at the Warburg Institute in London.  However, along the way he lost connections to his past, his family and his culture. 

"I'm Not Gonna Die in This Damn Place": Manliness, Identity, and Survival of the Mexican American Vietnam Prisoners of War
Coronado, Juan David,
Call Number: 959.704 C822
During the late 1960s there were two main conflicts for the United States: the battle for civil rights and the Vietnam War. This new book gives voice to the Chicano experience in the war and as POWs.

Jaime Escalante : inspirational math teacher
Schraff, Anne E.
Call Number: 370.92 E74Sc

Jaime Escalante was an inspirational math teacher who proved to students and others that inner-ctiy students were capable of great achievements, including passing AP calculus exams. The movie Stand and deliver is based on his life. 


Jose Marti : a revolutionary life
Lopez, Alfred J., 1962-
Call Number: 92 M378Lo

Poet, political thinker, journalist, revolutionary, José Marti is one of the great heroes of Latin America. He is beloved and hailed by Castro, and those who oppose him, the exiled Cuban community. Alfred Lopez workd for many years on this new biography, gaining access to original Cuban and U.S. sources.

Mexican American Baseball in Los Angeles
Balderrama, Francisco E.
Call Number: 796.231 B176

"Latino baseball flourished in Southern California from the early 1900s to the 1970s. It was a popular sport, but it was also something more. Latino baseball leagues helped create a cohesive and vibrant Latino community and they were a source of community pride. The games became a place for meetings across the region and were integral to discussion and eventually political organization within the communities."  Photographs and narrative provide a vivid history. See the Latino Baseball History Project for more information.


Mexican American Baseball in the Central Coast
Santillan, Richard.
Call Number: 796.231 S235

"Latino baseball flourished in Southern California from the early 1900s to the 1970s. It was a popular sport, but it was also something more. Latino baseball leagues helped create a cohesive and vibrant Latino community and they were a source of community pride. The games became a place for meetings across the region and were integral to discussion and eventually political organization within the communities."  This book chronicles the lives of players who worked and lived in the central part of California.

Mexican papercutting : simple techniques for creating colorful cut-paper projects
Trenchard, Kathleen.
Call Number: 747.1 T793

Finely detailed Mexican papercutting can be traced back to the pre-Columbian period. The paper is traditionally used for window coverings, hangings and in other decorative ways, and this book provides clear instructions.

Most Scandalous Woman: Magda Portal and the Dream of Revolution in Peru
Wallace Fuentes, Myrna Ivonne,
Call Number: 861 P842Wa

Peruvian poet, journalist and revolutionary politician, Magda Portal was the only female founder of the non-Communist, leftist organization American Popular Revolutionary Alliance (ARPA).

The motorcycle diaries : notes on a Latin American journey
Guevara, Che, 1928-1967.
Call Number: 92 G939-2 2004

This new edition features original photographs, a new translation and a preface from Aleida Guevara, Che's daughter. These are the adventures of the young man, twenty-four-year-old Ernesto Guevara, in 1951 taking a break from medical school at the University of Buenos Aires. We see the growth of a carefree fellow who witnesses poverty and deprivation which will change the future of his life. He travels with his buddy, Alberto Granado, on their Norton motorbike, La Ponderosa II.  What begins as a roadtrip adventure story, proceeds to be the awakening of a future world revolutionary, impatient with social and political injustices.

My beloved world
Sotomayor, Sonia, 1954-
Call Number: 347.092 S718

In this engaging memoir, explore one woman’s life and learn how she overcame barriers of poverty, race, and illness to achieve great success.

Photographic: The Life of Graciela Iturbide
Quintero, Isabel
Call Number: 770.9174 I91Qu

Isabel Quintero's graphic novel biography of Graciela Iturbide will appeal to all ages. Quintero interviewed the 76-year-old photographer whose pioneering work in photographing indigenous cultures is as remarkable as her own life. Other books by Iturbide can be found here.

Postcards from the Rio Bravo border : picturing the place, placing the picture, 1900s-1950s
Arreola, Daniel D. (Daniel David), 1950-
Call Number: 741.68 A774

Daniel D. Arreola has one of the largest collections of Mexican border town photo postcards, covering the early 1900s through the 1950s.  In the early part of the twentieth century the post cards were used to promote the quiet border towns as tourist destinations. The images are illuminating cultural pieces.

Rigoberta Menchu Tum : defending human rights in Guatemala
Silverstone, Michael.
Call Number: 972.81 M5355Si

The Nobel Peace Prize 1992 "in recognition of her work for social justice and ethno-cultural reconciliation based on respect for the rights of indigenous peoples"

The roots of style : weaving together life, love and fashion
Toledo, Isabel, 1961-
Call Number: 746.52 T649

In her autobiography, Isabel Toledo, Cuban-American fashion designer, writes about her passion for design and fashion. In 2009, First Lady Michelle Obama wore Toldedo's lemon-green dress and coat ensemble for the inauguration of President Obama.


The Sagrada Familia: The Astonishing Story of Gaudi's Unfinished Masterpiece
Van Hensbergen, Gijs,
Call Number: 720.964 G267Va-1

An exploration and analysis of Antoni Gaudi's iconic architectural masterpiece, the Basilica and Expiatory Church of the Holy Family in Barcelona. Known for its sensual design, for having survived world wars, a civil war, years of economic deprivation, and not being completed for over 100 years. 

Spare parts : four Mexican American teenagers, one ugly robot, and the battle for the American dream
Davis, Joshua, 1974-
Call Number: 621.80973 D262

Four Mexican American boys, some of whom are in the U.S. illegally, compete in the Mate Center competition to develop robots. Is there any chance these disadvantaged guys have a chance to win anything?  What will happen to some of them if they do win and get a lot of notoriety?  With nothing to lose and something to gain, the young men give it their all.

Tastes like Cuba : an exile's hunger for home
Machado, Eduardo, 1953-
Call Number: 641.097291 M149

Cuban-American playwright Eduardo Machado's memoir of his Cuban roots is centered around food, family and places, and is interspersed with recipes, and black and white family photographs. 

LAPL has a collection of his plays.

Thoughts without cigarettes : a memoir
Hijuelos, Oscar.
Call Number: 813 H639H

Oscar Hijuelos' autobiography is poignant and humorous as he retraces his life growing up in Manhattan's Morningside Heights in the 1950s to Cuban immigrant parents, and eventual development into a writer whose novel The mambo kings play songs of love became a best seller. His most recent novel is Twain & Stanley enter paradise.


Unbreakable : my story, my way : a memoir
Rivera, Jenni.
Call Number: 789.14 R621

Jenni Rivera was strong, determined, talented and very smart. This is her autobiography told her way, as she did everything else, including damaging choices in men.  She toughed it out to succeed in the male-dominated world of banda and norteño music to become an international sensation.


Violet Isle
Webb, Alex, 1952- photographer.
Call Number: 770.914 W365-1

Because of its vividly colored soil, Cuba is known as the violet isle. Photographers Alex Webb and Rebecca Norris Webb capture the gritty street life and wild and domestic animals. Pico Iyer's essay is poetic and informative.

When I was Puerto Rican : [a memoir]
Santiago, Esmeralda.
Call Number: 301.45097295 S235 2006

Esmeralda Santiago was one of eleven children who grew up in a tin-can of a house in Puerto Rico, surrounded by quarreling parents and poverty. While living in Brooklyn with her grandmother, Santiago's ambition and hard work resulted in a Harvard education, and a successful career as a writer and film producer.