Summer Reading List

Looking for some summer books to read by the beach, pool, or on the road? Why not take this time to read recovered manuscripts from our collections? Here is a sampling of books that include fiction, poetry, and history for your summer road trips. Be sure to also browse Arte Público Press for contemporary books for adults, children, and young adults. Happy reading!

Las aventuras de Don Chipote, O, Cuando los pericos mamen by Daniel Venegas

Las aventuras de Don Chipote, o, Cuando los pericos mamen (The Adventures of Don Chipote, Or, When Parrots Breastfeed) is the first novel of Mexican immigration to the United States. Originally published in 1928, Don Chipote was written by journalist Daniel Venegas. Don Chipote is an unknown classic of American literature, dealing with the phenomenon that has made this nation great: immigration. It is the bittersweet tale of a greenhorn who abandons his plot of land (and a shack full of children) in Mexico to come to the United States and sweep the gold up from the streets. Together with his faithful companions, a tramp named Pluticarpio and his dog, Don Chipote (whose name means “bump on the head”) stumbles from one misadventure to another. Along the way, we learn what the Southwest was like during the 1920s: how Mexican laborers were treated like beasts of burden, and how they became targets for every shyster and lowlife looking to make a quick buck. The author, himself a former immigrant laborer, spins his tale using the Chicano vernacular of that time. Full of folklore and local color, Don Chipote is a must-read for scholars, students, and all who would become acquainted with the historical and economic roots, as well as with the humor, of the Southwestern Hispanic community. Kanellos provides an accessible and well-documented introduction to this important novel he discovered in 1984.

Available in Spanish and in English (The Adventures of Don Chipote, or When Parrots Breastfeed).


Firefly Summer by Pura Belpré

Firefly Summer is an enchanting poetic recreation of life in rural Puerto Rico at the turn of the century for children and young adult readers. Returning home to her parents’ plantation for the holidays, a young student rediscovers the quaint customs, music and lore of country folk, and the lush verdant beauty and lure of the tropical hills. Teresa is honored when her family initiates her in their traditional rites and celebrations that mark the seasons of the year as well as the stages in people’s lives.

However this idyllic journey is not without intrigue. Unknown to Teresa and her best friend from school, there is a real-life mystery unraveling concerning the foreman of the plantation who was raised by the family since early childhood. In the course of their sleuthing, the three young people discover the challenges of approaching adulthood. The events of the summer bind the trio in a lasting friendship.


George Washington Gómez by Américo Paredes

In the 1930s, Américo Paredes, the renowned folklorist, wrote a novel set to the background of the struggles of Texas Mexicans to preserve their property, culture and identity in the face of Anglo-American migration to and growing dominance over the Rio Grande Valley. Episodes of guerilla warfare, land grabs, racism, jingoism, and abuses by the Texas Rangers make this an adventure novel as well as one of reflection on the making of modern day Texas. George Washington Gómez is a true precursor of the modern Chicano novel.



History and Legends of the Alamo and Other Missions in and around San Antonio by Adina de Zavala

Traveling to San Antonio, Texas this summer? Why not read up on the history of the missions before visiting them?

Originally published in 1917 by Adina de Zavala, this volume reconstructs the history of the Alamo back to pre-colonial times. Its importance lies not only in its portrayal of Texas’ history as a product of Native American, Spanish, Mexican, and Anglo-American contributions, but also in its focus on the role of Texas women and Texas Mexicans in shaping the historical record. At a time when Texas Mexican women held little influence, de Zavala attempted to rewrite the way Texas history was written and constructed. This milestone literary work includes historical maps, plates, diary accounts and other records.


The Collected Stories of María Cristina Mena

If you’re looking for a quick read, try these short stories by María Cristina Mena.

This volume gathers for the first time Mena’s stories written between 1913 and 1931 and published originally in such magazines as Century, American and Cosmopolitan. In her short fiction Mena writes about Mexico for an Anglo-American audience, and skillfully confronts issues of gender, race and nation.



The Real Billy the Kid by Miguel Antonio Otero

Driving through the US Southwest this summer? Why not pick up a copy of The Real Billy the Kid and get a historical sense of the notorious outlaw?

Published as a limited edition in 1936, Miguel Antonio Otero’s The Real Billy the Kid: With New Light on the Lincoln County War is a landmark biography of the infamous Western outlaw otherwise known as William H. Bonney, Jr.—his brief childhood, gunfights, encounters with the Apache Indians, entanglement in the murderous feud known as the Lincoln County War, and finally his friendship with the man who ultimately killed him, Sheriff Pat Garrett.


Tropical Town and Other Poems by Salomón de la Selva

Tropical Town and Other Poems, de la Selva’s little-known first collection, was written in English while he resided in the U.S.; he employs traditional rhyme, meter, and forms such as the sonnet and quatrain. Some works celebrate de la Selva’s native land, Nicaragua, while others, such as “Finally” and “The Dreamer’s Heart Knows Its Own Bitterness,” speak of the United States with a mixture of admiration and misgiving. Love lyrics intermingle with folk songs and poems observing the war then raging in Europe. All are marked by a graceful verbal music, embodying what poet Grace Schulman has called “a poetry of deep concern for human suffering.” In a thoughtful critical introduction, Silvio Sirias surveys the poet’s life and work, and examines the “poetic dialogues” that de la Selva conducted with Millay and Dario.


Under the Texas Sun/Bajo el sol de Texas by Conrado Espinoza

Originally published in 1926 in San Antonio, Texas as El sol de Texas, the novel chronicles the struggles of two Mexican immigrant families: the Garcias and the Quijanos. Their initial hopes—of returning to their homeland with enough money to buy their own piece of land—are worn away by the reality of immigrant life. Unable to speak English, they find themselves at the mercy of unscrupulous work contractors and foremen: forced to work at backbreaking labor picking cotton in the fields, building the burgeoning Southwest railroad system, and working in GulfCoast oil refineries.

Considered the first novel of Mexican immigration, El sol de Texas/Under the Texas Sun depicts the diverse experiences of Mexican immigrants, from those that return to Mexico beaten down by the discrimination and hardship they encounter, to those who persist in their adopted land in spite of the racism they face.


Who Would Have Thought It? by María Amparo Ruiz de Burton

Who Would Have Thought It? (1872), by María Amparo Ruiz de Burton, is a historical romance which engages the dominant myths about nationality, race and gender prevalent in society in the United States, prior to and during the Civil War. The narrative follows a young Mexican girl as she is delivered from Indian captivity in the Southwest and comes to live in the household of a New England family. Culture and perspectives on history and national identity clash as the novel criticizes the dominant society’s opportunism and hypocrisy, and indicts northern racism.



The Woman Who Lost Her Soul and Other Stories: Collected Tales and Short Stories by Jovita González

Many of the folklore-based stories in this volume were published by González in periodicals such as the Southwest Review from the 1920s through the 1940s but have been gathered here for the first time. Sergio Reyna (editor) has brought together more than thirty narratives by González and arranged them into Animal Tales (such as “The Mescal-Drinking Horse”); Tales of Humans (“The Bullet-Swallower”); Tales of Mexican Ancestors (“Ambrosio the Indian”); and Tales of Ghosts, Demons, and Buried Treasure (“The Woman Who Lost Her Soul”). Reyna also provides a helpful introduction that succinctly surveys the author’s life and work and considers her writings within their historical and cultural contexts.


Women’s Tales from the New Mexico WPA: La Diabla a Pie

At the height of the Great Depression of the 1930s, the administration of US President Franklin Roosevelt instituted a Federal Writers Project as part of the larger Works Progress Administration (WPA), massive national undertakings aimed at getting the nation back to work. New Mexico was among the states participating in this effort, and the project workers there included two women interviewers, Lou Sage Batchen and Annette Hesch Thorp, who in their work placed particular emphasis upon gathering Hispanic women’s stories, or cuentos. The two interviewed many native ancianos, gathering folktales as well as capturing narratives and gleaning vivid details of a way of life now long disappeared. Professors Tey Diana Rebolledo and María Teresa Márquez have combed through long-lost archives to recover these invaluable first-hand accounts, and have prefaced the whole with an introduction delving into some of the problematic cultural issues surrounding these records.

About the Author
Lorena Gauthereau is a CLIR-Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow at Recovering the US Hispanic Literary Heritage at the University of Houston.

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