12 Hispanic Authors Who Target Young Adults and Teens
Latino and Hispanic authors are the creators of treasured literary gems in the Spanish-speaking world.
Young adult literature by Hispanic authors brings multiple benefits to Spanish learners. The genre offers narratives that target specifically those who are coming of age and are between their mid teens to early twenties.
Hispanic authors often share their own personal experiences on the road to adulthood. They have the ability of crafting relatable fictional tales and enjoyable short stories.
Reading Hispanic literature opens doors to entirely new perspectives of the world for young adults. It enables them to understand culturally relevant aspects of Spanish-speaking countries while improving their Spanish reading abilities with new concepts. Furthermore, it allows them to pick up new vocabulary and contextualize as they advance as Spanish learners.
This list of 12 Hispanic authors who write for young adults includes their brief biographies and recommended books to add to your 2021 reading list!
1. Julia Alvarez – Dominican Republic
Julia Alvarez was born in New York on March 27th in 1950, to parents from Dominican Republic. Shortly after her birth, the family decided to relocate and move back to their home country, where they enjoyed a lavishly comfortable lifestyle.
Unfortunately Julia and her family were forced to return to New York in exile. Both her grandparents and father were against Rafael Trujillo’s Military Dictatorship and were threatened for their participation in the resistance.
Julia and her family arrived back in New York in 1960, and established themselves in a small apartment in Brooklyn. Their arrival in the United States presented Julia and her family with a completely different lifestyle from their life of luxury in República Dominicana.
Julia continues to write inspiring novels and has earned literary awards such as the National Book Critics Circle Award. Her childhood journey from Dominican Republic to life in the United States inspired her first book, How the García Girls Lost their Accents (Como las hermanas García perdieron sus acentos.)
Como las hermanas García perdieron sus acentos places Julia Alvarez among valued female Hispanic authors. The book explores the hardships and struggles of the García sisters and their parents as they settle into American life. Julia Alvarez narrates a collection of easy-to-read short stories that focus on Carla, Sandra, Yolanda, and Sofía’s adaptation to American culture. The many ups and downs the sisters experience ultimately lead them to forget their Spanish.
This book has a feeling of nostalgia as it uncovers childhood memories, the value of family, and examines the impact a change of location and culture has on young adults and teenagers.
- How the García Girls Lost their Accents (Como las hermanas García perdieron sus acentos)
- In the Time of Butterflies (En el tiempo de las mariposas)
- Before We Were Free (Antes de ser libres)
2. Julio Cortázar – Argentina
Born in Belgium in 1914, Julio Cortázar was the son of Argentinian diplomats. He was one of the founders of the Latin American literary boom and continues to influence dozens of Hispanic authors.
Cortázar grew up in Argentina and studied letters and philosophy. Even though he didn’t complete his studies, he still managed to become a professor of literature. On top of that, he worked as a translator and writer, which led him to collaborate with multiple culture specialized magazines. In the 1950s’, he briefly relocated to Paris and spent time in other European countries.
His biggest success as a Hispanic author was Hopscotch (Rayuela) in 1963. The novel brought him international success among hispanic young readers due to the fun dynamic of reading it out of structured order. It breaks traditional novel narrative and even though it was originally intended for an older audience, Rayuela became a staple of Latin American youth.
Rayela focuses on the story of two characters, Horacio Oliveira and La Maga. It follows their tale as they connect in Paris and continue their journey in Argentina. This form of anti-novel is definitely for advanced Spanish learners. It uses complex language and tells a tale of love, freedom, art, humour, and madness within each character. The book is a symbol of Julio Cortázar’s generation and embodies a literary revolution in Spanish because it leaves room for interpretation depending on the way you choose to read it.
3. Sandra Cisneros – Mexico
Sandra Cisneros is a Mexican-American female author born in 1954. She’s the third of seven siblings and only surviving daughter in her family. Sandra spent her childhood moving back and forth between Chicago and Mexico City, this forced her to spend a not so stable upbringing in which she constantly changed schools.
Growing up with six brothers, Sandra often felt lonely and excluded from her conflictive family. This loneliness was key in shaping her as a writer and Hispanic author, as she would take solace in books.
Sandra’s initiation in literature manifested in poetry during her highschool years. She studied a Bachelor degree in arts and dabbled in creative writing, while also holding multiple teaching jobs while she attended college.
Her first publication, The House on Mango Street (La casa en Mango Street), is inspired by her experience as a Chicano woman growing up in a small Chicago neighborhood.
The novel is written in vignettes and poetic prose that’s easy to understand for Spanish intermediate learners. It focuses on the main character, Esperanza, and her journey towards accepting her Hispanic heritage. The House on Mango Street is an essential novel for young Hispanic people. It adresses relevant topics like cultural identity, prejudice, and discrimination inmigrants encounter in a foreign country.
The novel is highly entertaining, has astonishing cultural value, and touches base on relevant topics like women empowerment and equality.
- The House on Mango Street (La casa en Mango Street)
- Caramelo (Caramelo )
- Woman Hollering Creek: And Other Stories (El arroyo de la llorona y otros cuentos)
4. Gabriel García Márquez – Colombia
Gabriel García Márquez is considered one of the top Hispanic authors of our time. His contributions to Latin American literature are countless and earned him a Nobel Prize in 1982. He’s associated with the magical realism (realismo mágico) genre that combines reality with magical scenarios.
García Márquez was born in Colombia in 1927 in the Caribbean town of Aracataca. He grew up with his grandparents surrounded by folk tales and superstition, elements that are key to his narrative and literary style.
His background is in law and investigative journalism. His work led him to be exiled from Colombia and spend time in Europe, where he continued to write short stories. He’s known for his activism and advocacy for social justice.
One hundred years of solitude (Cien años de soledad) is his masterpiece and is considered one of the best books written by Hispanic male authors. The novel’s plot takes place in the fictional town of Macondo, inspired by his hometown of Aracataca. It tells the story of the Buendía family over seven generations and their tragedies, obsessions, and struggles.
This book is essential for young adults in the Spanish-speaking world. It’s mandatory in the majority of high schools due to its capacity for awakening imagination and creativity. It has multiple characters and tells fascinating stories around them. The book has sold fifty million copies around the world and transports the reader to a world that defies logic and fantasy.
- One Hundred Years of Solitude (Cien años de soledad)
- Chronicle of a Death Foretold (Crónica de una muerte anunciada )
- Love in the Time of Cholera (El amor en los tiempos del cólera)
5. Joaquín “Quino” Salvador Lavado – Argentina
Joaquín Salvador Lavado, also known as Quino, is an Argentinian author and graphic humorist. He was born in 1932 in the province of Mendoza in Argentina.
His family started to call him Quino to distinguish him from his uncle Joaquín. He studied in Mendoza’s school of fine arts with the hope of becoming a comic book author. Quino only attended school briefly, eventually he gave up on his studies and moved to Buenos Aires to pursue his chosen profession. Although he knocked on many doors searching for opportunities, he ultimately failed and moved on to Military service.
Quino’s success came when he was hired to create a comic book meant to advertise for Mansfield home appliances. In the end, the campaign didn’t happen, and Quino held onto his creations. He used his comic strips as inspiration for his most emblematic character: Mafalda.
The first Mafalda comic strip was published in 1964 in Buenos Aires. After that, Quino and Mafalda became unstoppable.
She became his most loving character, an incredibly relatable little girl who’s known for hating soup and being outspoken. Mafalda’s humour is known for her non-conformity in humanity and for keeping faith in her generation.
Quino’s tales of Mafalda are known for their critical posture on politics and society. Her character is rebellious, idealist, and generous. Mafalda’s books are a must for young adults. They’re easy to read and are full of jokes and puns.
- Human is Born (Humano se nace)
- Ten Years with Mafalda (Diez años con Mafalda )
- This is Not Everything (Esto no es todo)
6. Mario Vargas Llosa – Perú
Mario Vargas Llosa is one of the most remarkable Hispanic authors. He is the author of fifteen novels that are keystones of Latin American literature and was also a political figure.
Mario Vargas was born in the city of Arequipa, Peru in 1936. He attended military school in Lima and spent his childhood living between Peru and Bolivia. In 1958, he earned a scholarship and traveled to Madrid to study a PHD in Philosophy and Letters, and also worked as a journalist and translator. He spent time in Paris, where he intensified his literary work and writing. It was in 1963 that he published the novel The Time of the Hero (La ciudad y los perros.) This literary classic places him among the top Hispanic authors of our time.
La ciudad y los perros tells the story of a group of Peruvian teenagers who attend military school and struggle to survive in its aggressive environment. The novel is for advanced Spanish learners due to its complex structure and multiple narrative voices. At the time it was published, the book was not well received by Peruvian authorities, as hundreds of copies were incinerated.
The novel is proven to be a cult classic for young adults, it questions the brutality, hostility, and pressure young men undergo during their school years, while inviting the reader to reflect on coming politics and stereotypes.
- The Time of the Hero (La ciudad y los perros)
- The Festival of Chivo (La fiesta del Chivo )
- Hard Times (Tiempos recios)
7. Virgilio Rodriguez Macal – Guatemala
Virgilio Rodriguez Macal was born in Guatemala in 1916. He began his literary career in Guatemala City as a poet and wrote for different newspapers.
His father served as an ambassador for Guatemala in Chile, where Virgilio was able to expand his literary horizons. He also spent time in Honduras, New York, Argentina, and Spain.
The author’s calling was always in Guatemala. His literary style is known as criollismo. This form of narrative is characterized for highlighting ethnic singularity, geography, and biodiversity of recently independent Latin American countries.
Virgilio Rodriguez lived in the Maya Biosphere Reserve in Guatemala and used it as an ideal scenario for awakening his creativity. His experience in the Guatemalan jungles served as inspiration for his different literary masterpieces.
The Serpent Bird’s Mansion (La mansión del pájaro serpiente) is his most awarded work. The novel tells the tales of Pedro Culán, a Maya Kaqchiquel hunter and his adventures as he encounters different animals. The book uses all sorts of Guatemalan slang and Mayan dialect words, it comes with maps, a glossary, and is highly elaborate on the descriptions of the animals and their habitat. It shows the reader respect for all different life forms and the value of a balanced ecosystem.
- The Serpent Bird’s Mansion (La mansión del pajaro serpiente)
- Carazamba (Carazamba )
- The Green Mystery World (El mundo del misterio verde)
8. Pam Muñoz Ryan – United States and Mexico
Pam Muñoz Ryan was born in Bakersfield, California to an American mother and Mexican father. As a child, she changed her last name so it could match the name of her parents and became Pamela Bell.
Pam attended San Diego University and earned a Bachelor’s degree. After she got married, she became a teacher and started a family. She also got a Master’s degree in post-secondary education with the ultimate goal of teaching children’s literature. As soon as she graduated, she became interested in writing and re-connecting with her Mexican heritage. Once again, she changed her last name and began writing stories for children and young adults.
Pam has written over forty different titles for young adults which have earned her different awards. Although she doesn’t write in Spanish, she’s fluent in the language and some of her most emblematic novels have been translated to reach a Spanish-speaking audience.
Esperanza Rising (Esperanza renace) is the favorite book among her readers. The story is told in the third person and focuses on Esperanza, a young wealthy Mexican woman who loses everything and is forced to migrate to the United States. The novel is exciting, easy to read, and perfect for beginner Spanish learners.
9. Cristina García – Cuba
Cristina García was born in Cuba in 1958. She established herself in the United States in 1960 during the first wave of Cuban emigration. Cristina attended Barnard College, Johns Hopkins University, and worked as a reporter for Time Magazine.
She is one of the first Hispanic female authors to have published a novel written in English. Her work focuses on reflecting the character and sensibility of Cuban Americans and how their loyalties drift between both countries.
Dreaming in Cuban (Soñar en Cubano) is her most celebrated title and tells the heartwarming story of a family experiencing the Cuban revolution and divided by political perspectives. The book has a touch of magical realism and an intimate, powerful narrative that captures the essence of Cuban culture. I recommend giving it a chance if you’re an advanced Spanish learner, the book mixes both Spanish and Cuban slang.
- Dreaming in Cuban (Soñar en Cubano)
- The Agüero Sisters (Las hermanas Agüero )
- A Handbook to Luck (Las caras de la suerte)
10. Carmen Laforet – España
Carmen Laforet is a female Hispanic author born in Barcelona, Spain in 1921. She spent most of her childhood in Gran Canaria with her family. When she turned 18, she moved back to her hometown of Barcelona and started studies in Letters and Philosophy. She also pursued a degree in Law in Madrid, but in the end college wasn’t part of her destiny.
Carmen began her career in literature in 1945 when she published the novel Nothing (Nada), a post-war critique novel, that allowed her rise to fame. She’s also the writer of short novels, story books, and essays. Carmen passed away in 2004 and left a literary legacy worth admiring.
Nada, her most famous novel, describes post-civil war Spain society through the story of Andrea. The main character arrives in Barcelona to begin a new life and study. Andrea’s illusions and hopes collide with her new family and put her through a series of coming of age experiences. This novel is hard to put down, Andrea’s story makes you root for her and fills you with hope.
11. Yolanda Reyes – Colombia
Yolanda Reyes is a female author born in Bucaramanga, Colombia in 1959. She is a journalist, reading promoter, and educator.
The author studied a Bachelor’s degree in Educational Sciences in Bogota and has graduate studies in Spanish language and literature. She is famous for specializing in literature for children and young adults.
The whole world met Yolanda Reyes when she started writing children’s books for the prestigious editorial house Alfaguara. Her novel Passenger in Transit (Pasajera en tránsito) tells the story of Maria Fernanda, a young Colombian woman who moves to Madrid for a study abroad experience. This captivating tale where characters come and go, showcases the hardships of saying goodbye to relationships while political turmoil unfolds around the characters. The book is short and written in easy to understand Spanish vocabulary and words.
- Passenger in Transit (Pasajera en tránsito)
- How Strange that Federico Calls Me (Que raro que me llame Federico)
- The Terrible Years (Los años terribles)
12. Isabel Allende – Chile
Isabel Allende is a Chilean author born in 1942 to a family of diplomats. She grew up attending prestigious schools in Peru, Bolivia, Lebanon, and Chile. Allende worked for the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Chile and started a family with her partner, Miguel Frías.
Her godfather, Salvador, was the first socialist president of Chile. Following his assasination in a coup d’etat, the government forced the female author to go into exile. She spent time in Venezuela, where she worked as a journalist and wrote her award winning novel: The House of Spirits (La casa de los espíritus.)
She’s one of the most read female Hispanic authors of our time and has sold millions of books. The majority of her narrative involves magical realism using a simple, clear language.
Isabel Allende has written books for readers of all ages. La casa de los espíritus is absorbing and combines a passionate love story, magic, politics, and social struggles. It focuses on the powerful Trueba family and their triumphs and misfortunes.
This book is perfect for allowing young adults to reflect on relevant topics and do some critical thinking in Spanish. It educates the reader about social differences and double standards. The book’s popularity has also inspired a film adaptation.
- The House of Spirits (La casa de los espiritus)
- The City of Beasts (La ciudad de las bestias)
- The Kingdom of the Golden Dragon (El reino del dragón de oro)
Read the Masterpieces of Hispanic Authors!
I hope you find this list of Hispanic authors and their quintessential creations for young adults useful and enlightening.
Reading in Spanish is fantastic for enhancing your fluency and conversation abilities. Take advantage of your urge to learn and sign up for a free class with our certified, Spanish-speaking teachers from Guatemala.
People who are bilingual have the capacity of communicating with more people and have a better understanding of cultural diversity. Allow yourself to expand your views of the world and set a goal for becoming an experienced Spanish speaker.
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