Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop
On Our Bookshelf: Me Gustan Young Adult Novels

September should mark the beginning of a new school year, but August seems to have invaded late summer plans with earlier start dates. Meanwhile, September 15 marks National Hispanic American Heritage Month. To celebrate this confluence, we’re recommending some fantastic authors to enjoy with the clever teens and young adults in your life. If you only have younger kids, we’ve added a children’s book by our favorite Supreme Court justice. Those who prefer more adult fare will find a classic by the giant of South American literature who once said, “Pienso que leer un libro no es menos una experiencia que viajar o enamorarme.” (“I think of reading a book as no less an experience than traveling or falling in love.”) 

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

by Erika L. Sánchez

Fifteen-year-old Julia is nothing like Olga, the perfect older sister who died tragically last year. Modest, religious, and dutiful, she left behind the snarky, strong-willed kid sister (who dares to dream of becoming a writer) to disappoint their grieving traditional Mexican parents. But as Julia uncovers her saintly sis’s secrets, she realizes Olga wasn’t quite so perfect either — and neither of them could survive within the stifling expectations of a narrow identity. This coming-of-age story is a window into the lives of working-class immigrant families in the US, their expectations, love, and shame — with a Chicana protagonist who is witty, angry, and electrifying. The deft writing, skillfully interspersed with Spanish, will make readers of all identities feel Julia’s plight. If you and your favorite teen both read it soon, you can watch the Netflix adaptation (directed by America Ferrera) together sometime next year. 

(Warning: Themes of suicide, teen pregnancy, and racism make this best for kids 14+.)

Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You

by Sonia Sotomayor

If you’ve read this brilliant and blistering dissent, you know the Supreme Court's first and only Latina justice is a powerhouse when calling out cruel, unconstitutional hypocrisy and defending the powerless. But in her warm, colorful children’s book, she begins with a vulnerable letter about her own childhood diabetes. Other kids were confused when they saw her finger prick to test blood sugar, yet no one ever asked: “I wanted to write this book to explain how differences make us stronger in a good way.” And so, Little Sonia, sitting in a giant red rose and holding a needle, explains her insulin regimen. Grasping his inhaler and a brush, little Rafael paints while telling us about asthma. They’re followed by a boy in a wheelchair, a blind girl, a deaf child, and more — kids who are autistic, dyslexic, and even a stutterer! Each happily explains themselves and their needs, simply and without shame. A lovely lesson about acceptance and straightforwardness from the highest court’s most honest and honorable presence.  

They Both Die at the End

by Adam Silvera

Two teens, Puerto Rican Mateo Torrez and Cuban-American Rufus Emeterio, are officially contacted and informed by the Death-Cast company that, yes, they will die by the end of the day — a normal, though unfortunate, occurrence in the world of this speculative novel. Caught in the same rapidly sinking boat, the mutually doomed strangers connect on the “Last-Friend App” to spend a final day together during which they become far more than friends. Silvera, who became a young YA superstar with this one, mixes perspectives and time periods for a poignant discussion of time, death, and life. Plus, the fact that this is a romance starring two Latinos — a queer Latino romance that just spent a year at #1 on the New York Times YA Fiction Bestseller list half a decade after its original publication — is just as surprising now as it was five years ago. 

(This should be just fine for kids 13+)

We Are Not From Here

by Jenny Torres Sanchez 

Reports of migrants at our southern border, with abstract terms like ”caravans” and “illegals,” obscure the fact that these are people — real people with aching, traumatized bodies and souls. Not just archetypes of desperations or threats. Not just talking points to justify political cruelty. Anyone brave or empathetic enough to peer into the lives of the refugees fleeing the violence and poverty of places like Puerto Barrios (a small Guatemalan town overrun by corruption) should try this tale of Pequeña, Pulga, and Chico. These three teens brave a network of dangerous freight trains and endless walking for an American dream many of our politicians have turned into a nightmare of persecution, imprisonment, and even family separation. Sanchez knows the realities of this world well. She imbues a painful, perilous journey with characters who possess the kind of dignity and grace that just might inspire readers to demand better solutions, or even just a small measure of human kindness, for our immigration quagmire. 

(Definitely 14+)

Nocturna

by Maya Motayne

Though Dominican and Guyanese writer Motayne devoured fantasy novels as a kid, “I never saw myself or my culture in the stories,” she told the American Booksellers Association. “I decided to bring my culture to the forefront of the story. I wanted to show readers that they should never be ashamed of their heritage because their culture is powerful. Their culture is their magic.” And so, Crown Prince Alfie and Finn the thief make an unexpected-yet-dashing duo in Montayne’s high-fantasy Latinx-inspired world where Spanish is the language of magic. 

(13+)

Collected Fictions

by Jorge Luis Borges

Lastly, do you want to celebrate Hispanic American Heritage month, but not feeling the Young Adult genre? Try Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges! (A genius who transcends boundaries and borders.) Is his work philosophy? Fantasy? Science fiction? Magical realism? All that and everything else besides. A genre-shifting, heady meditation on words, dreams, mystical states, histories, existence, the self, epiphanies, Infinities, and tigers…his work defies categorization and will expand your mind further than any mushroom. Start with "The Library of Babel” — a universe structured in perfect order with an endless number of books containing every permutation of 25 basic characters — and “Borges and I,” a two-page short story where he considers his identity as a writer as separate, powerful, and terrifying. 

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?



About

Steven Gutierrez

Steven Gutierrez is an editor, writer, and ghostwriter. He has worked in book publishing and at several major (and some minor) magazines.

On Our Bookshelf: Me Gustan Young Adult Novels

About

Steven Gutierrez

Steven Gutierrez is an editor, writer, and ghostwriter. He has worked in book publishing and at several major (and some minor) magazines.

Darnell Lamont Walker leading Rituals Writing Workshop

September should mark the beginning of a new school year, but August seems to have invaded late summer plans with earlier start dates. Meanwhile, September 15 marks National Hispanic American Heritage Month. To celebrate this confluence, we’re recommending some fantastic authors to enjoy with the clever teens and young adults in your life. If you only have younger kids, we’ve added a children’s book by our favorite Supreme Court justice. Those who prefer more adult fare will find a classic by the giant of South American literature who once said, “Pienso que leer un libro no es menos una experiencia que viajar o enamorarme.” (“I think of reading a book as no less an experience than traveling or falling in love.”) 

I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter

by Erika L. Sánchez

Fifteen-year-old Julia is nothing like Olga, the perfect older sister who died tragically last year. Modest, religious, and dutiful, she left behind the snarky, strong-willed kid sister (who dares to dream of becoming a writer) to disappoint their grieving traditional Mexican parents. But as Julia uncovers her saintly sis’s secrets, she realizes Olga wasn’t quite so perfect either — and neither of them could survive within the stifling expectations of a narrow identity. This coming-of-age story is a window into the lives of working-class immigrant families in the US, their expectations, love, and shame — with a Chicana protagonist who is witty, angry, and electrifying. The deft writing, skillfully interspersed with Spanish, will make readers of all identities feel Julia’s plight. If you and your favorite teen both read it soon, you can watch the Netflix adaptation (directed by America Ferrera) together sometime next year. 

(Warning: Themes of suicide, teen pregnancy, and racism make this best for kids 14+.)

Just Ask!: Be Different, Be Brave, Be You

by Sonia Sotomayor

If you’ve read this brilliant and blistering dissent, you know the Supreme Court's first and only Latina justice is a powerhouse when calling out cruel, unconstitutional hypocrisy and defending the powerless. But in her warm, colorful children’s book, she begins with a vulnerable letter about her own childhood diabetes. Other kids were confused when they saw her finger prick to test blood sugar, yet no one ever asked: “I wanted to write this book to explain how differences make us stronger in a good way.” And so, Little Sonia, sitting in a giant red rose and holding a needle, explains her insulin regimen. Grasping his inhaler and a brush, little Rafael paints while telling us about asthma. They’re followed by a boy in a wheelchair, a blind girl, a deaf child, and more — kids who are autistic, dyslexic, and even a stutterer! Each happily explains themselves and their needs, simply and without shame. A lovely lesson about acceptance and straightforwardness from the highest court’s most honest and honorable presence.  

They Both Die at the End

by Adam Silvera

Two teens, Puerto Rican Mateo Torrez and Cuban-American Rufus Emeterio, are officially contacted and informed by the Death-Cast company that, yes, they will die by the end of the day — a normal, though unfortunate, occurrence in the world of this speculative novel. Caught in the same rapidly sinking boat, the mutually doomed strangers connect on the “Last-Friend App” to spend a final day together during which they become far more than friends. Silvera, who became a young YA superstar with this one, mixes perspectives and time periods for a poignant discussion of time, death, and life. Plus, the fact that this is a romance starring two Latinos — a queer Latino romance that just spent a year at #1 on the New York Times YA Fiction Bestseller list half a decade after its original publication — is just as surprising now as it was five years ago. 

(This should be just fine for kids 13+)

We Are Not From Here

by Jenny Torres Sanchez 

Reports of migrants at our southern border, with abstract terms like ”caravans” and “illegals,” obscure the fact that these are people — real people with aching, traumatized bodies and souls. Not just archetypes of desperations or threats. Not just talking points to justify political cruelty. Anyone brave or empathetic enough to peer into the lives of the refugees fleeing the violence and poverty of places like Puerto Barrios (a small Guatemalan town overrun by corruption) should try this tale of Pequeña, Pulga, and Chico. These three teens brave a network of dangerous freight trains and endless walking for an American dream many of our politicians have turned into a nightmare of persecution, imprisonment, and even family separation. Sanchez knows the realities of this world well. She imbues a painful, perilous journey with characters who possess the kind of dignity and grace that just might inspire readers to demand better solutions, or even just a small measure of human kindness, for our immigration quagmire. 

(Definitely 14+)

Nocturna

by Maya Motayne

Though Dominican and Guyanese writer Motayne devoured fantasy novels as a kid, “I never saw myself or my culture in the stories,” she told the American Booksellers Association. “I decided to bring my culture to the forefront of the story. I wanted to show readers that they should never be ashamed of their heritage because their culture is powerful. Their culture is their magic.” And so, Crown Prince Alfie and Finn the thief make an unexpected-yet-dashing duo in Montayne’s high-fantasy Latinx-inspired world where Spanish is the language of magic. 

(13+)

Collected Fictions

by Jorge Luis Borges

Lastly, do you want to celebrate Hispanic American Heritage month, but not feeling the Young Adult genre? Try Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges! (A genius who transcends boundaries and borders.) Is his work philosophy? Fantasy? Science fiction? Magical realism? All that and everything else besides. A genre-shifting, heady meditation on words, dreams, mystical states, histories, existence, the self, epiphanies, Infinities, and tigers…his work defies categorization and will expand your mind further than any mushroom. Start with "The Library of Babel” — a universe structured in perfect order with an endless number of books containing every permutation of 25 basic characters — and “Borges and I,” a two-page short story where he considers his identity as a writer as separate, powerful, and terrifying. 

“Remembering to be as self compassionate as I can and praying to the divine that we're all a part of.” 
–Aaron

“Prayer, reading, meditation, walking.”
–Karen
“Erratically — which is an ongoing stream of practice to find peace.”
–Charles
“Try on a daily basis to be kind to myself and to realize that making mistakes is a part of the human condition. Learning from our mistakes is a journey. But it starts with compassion and caring. First for oneself.”
–Steve

“Physically: aerobic exercise, volleyball, ice hockey, cycling, sailing. Emotionally: unfortunately I have to work to ‘not care’ about people or situations which may end painfully. Along the lines of ‘attachment is the source of suffering’, so best to avoid it or limit its scope. Sad though because it could also be the source of great joy. Is it worth the risk?“
–Rainer

“It's time for my heart to be nurtured on one level yet contained on another. To go easy on me and to allow my feelings to be validated, not judged harshly. On the other hand, to let the heart rule with equanimity and not lead the mind and body around like a master.”
–Suzanne

“I spend time thinking of everything I am grateful for, and I try to develop my ability to express compassion for myself and others without reservation. I take time to do the things I need to do to keep myself healthy and happy. This includes taking experiential workshops, fostering relationships, and participating within groups which have a similar interest to become a more compassionate and fulfilled being.“
–Peter

“Self-forgiveness for my own judgments. And oh yeah, coming to Esalen.”
–David B.

“Hmm, this is a tough one! I guess I take care of my heart through fostering relationships with people I feel connected to. Spending quality time with them (whether we're on the phone, through messages/letters, on Zoom, or in-person). Being there for them, listening to them, sharing what's going on with me, my struggles and my successes... like we do in the Esalen weekly Friends of Esalen Zoom sessions!”
–Lori

“I remind myself in many ways of the fact that " Love is all there is!" LOVE is the prize and this one precious life is the stage we get to learn our lessons. I get out into nature, hike, camp, river kayak, fly fish, garden, I create, I dance (not enough!), and I remain grateful for each day, each breath, each moment. Being in the moment, awake, and remembering the gift of life and my feeling of gratitude for all of creation.”
–Steven
“My physical heart by limiting stress and eating a heart-healthy diet. My emotional heart by staying in love with the world and by knowing that all disappointment and loss will pass.“
–David Z.


Today, September 29, is World Heart Day. Strike up a conversation with your own heart and as you feel comfortable, encourage others to do the same. As part of our own transformations and self-care, we sometimes ask for others to illuminate and enliven our hearts or speak our love language.

What if we could do this for ourselves too, even if just for today… or to start a heart practice, forever?



About

Steven Gutierrez

Steven Gutierrez is an editor, writer, and ghostwriter. He has worked in book publishing and at several major (and some minor) magazines.

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