5 Critical Books for Latin American Literature Studies

Despite Latin American literature being widely known as a rich literary canon—or perhaps because it is such a rich literary canon—there are still works and aspects of Latin American literature that remain under-explored. Here are five books that bring critical works of Latin American literature to English-language audiences for the first time; break new ground in studying canonical Latin American texts; and illuminate how authors look at and represent motherhood, race, memory, and eroticism. 

  1. Juliet of the Tropics by Alejandro Tapia y Rivera, translated by Professor John Maddox
Juliet of  the Tropics: A Bilingual Edition of Alejandro Tapia y Rivera’s <i>La Cuarterona</i> (1867) John Maddox

Alejandro Tapia y Rivera, an abolitionist and women’s rights advocate, is considered the father of Puerto Rican literature. With this translation of La Cuarterona, one of his most important works and the first of his plays to be translated into English, readers are introduced to the tragic love story of Carlos, a young Cuban who falls in love with Julia, a childhood friend and the daughter of an enslaved person. This translation includes a critical introduction and exhaustive biography on Tapia, and is critical to scholars and students of drama, African slavery and its abolition, Puerto Rican studies, and colonial and postcolonial studies. 

2. Contemporary Chicana Literature by Professor Cristina Herrera 

Contemporary Chicana Literature:  (Re)Writing the Maternal Script Cristina Herrera

In this book critical to scholars of Latin American and Chicana Literature, Professor Herrera examines motherhood and maternal relationships in the novels of Sandra Cisneros, Denise Chávez, Ana Castillos, Carla Trujillos, and Melinda Palacio. Even when such relationships appear to be minor elements of these women’s fiction, Herrera shows how they remain central to understanding the protagonists’ shaping of identity amidst interlocking forces of sexism, racism, homophobia, and classism.

3. In(ter)ventions of the Self by Professor Sergio R. Franco

In(ter)ventions of the Self: Writing and the Autobiographical Subject in Hispanic American Literature (1974–2002) Sergio R. Franco

Incorporating close readings and analyses of the autobiographical texts of five canonical Latin American writers—Gabriel García Márquez, Margo Glantz, Pablo Neruda, Severo Sarduy, and Mario Vargas Llosa—In(ter)ventions of the Self examines how these authors explore notions of subjectivity, race, gender, ideology, memory, and eroticism. A valuable resource for literary scholars and graduate students studying these writers, Latin American, or autobiographies and memoirs, this book captures the characteristic traits of these authors’ self-representations from the late twentieth century into the early 2000s.

4. Central American Avant-Garde Narrative by Professor Adrian Taylor Kane

Central American Avant-Garde Narrative: Literary Innovation and Cultural Change (1926–1936) Adrian Taylor Kane

Drawing from several Central American novels and short stories from the wave of literary innovation known as the historical avant-garde, Professor Kane analyzes the relation between cultural changes and experimental fiction written during the 1920s and 1930s. In doing so, Kane brings attention to an overlooked part of the Latin American avant-garde, Central American fiction, in a work important to literature and Latin American studies scholars. 

5. Antón Pérez by Manuel Sánchez Mármol, translated by Professor Terry Rugeley

Antón Pérez: Manuel Sánchez Mármol’s Novel of Race, War, and Passion Terry Rugeley

Chronicling the origins and adventures of its eponymous hero, a poor and ethnically mixed young man from a small town in the remote tropical state of Tabasco, Antón Pérez draws from the author’s personal experiences in the resistance to the French Intervention of 1861–1867. Available for the first time for an English-language readership, this book is important to scholars of Latin American literature, translation studies, literary history, and world literature.

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