It took me about 20 minutes to figure out how to write this first sentence (which is about writing a first sentence), so I cannot imagine writing an entire novel, as the authors below have done. I’ll always be in awe of the ability to write an entire story, to create that world and those lives and be vulnerable enough to show it to others. In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, I’m highlighting debut authors of Hispanic/Latinx decent that you should have on your TBR. We have horror, thrillers, romance, literature and more, so there should be something on this list for all readers!
The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas
This book has gotten many comparisons to Du Maurier’s Rebecca, but other than them both being whirlwind romances between a mysterious widower and a young woman located in a remote place, I find that to be an oversimplification of this story. Also, this one is better (sorry, not sorry, to my high school English teacher). This is a gothic story, true, but the actual hacienda itself is a character, and one that is truly unsettled. Living in a tumultuous time in Mexican history, Beatriz, who recently lost her father, finds herself married to Rodolfo and suddenly very alone in a house that seems to dislike her as much as those that reside inside it. Pick this one up. You won’t regret it.
Olga Dies Dreaming by Xochitl Gonzalez
If this cover doesn’t excite you, then hopefully the idea of a literary romance about a famous wedding planner who doesn’t believe in love for herself (sounds overdone, I know, but stick with me) and simultaneously a story about her brother, a closeted, code-switching congressman representing a district in Brooklyn fighting against gentrification, does. We also have a mother who only appears in the occasional letter, but not the warm-fuzzy, “how-are-you-doing"-type of letters that one would expect from an absent parent. This story does have love and romance, as promised, but it’s also a deep dive into race, class and sexuality in ways that are empowering and unexpected. And again, have you seen that cover? Perfection.
More Than You’ll Ever Know by Katie Gutierrez
Two women, two families, two countries, too many secrets to keep straight, this book is straight catnip for thriller lovers. It’s gotten lots of good press, including being a Good Morning America Book Club pick, and it’s totally deserved. This story will grab you from the beginning, and the alternating timelines will keep you questioning, “What is happening?” (but I promise not in a “What is happening?” kind of way), throughout. Secret families are always compelling, but rarely do we see it where the woman is the anchor, this time with deadly consequences. Add in another strong female lead in the form of true crime reporter, and this adds up to (two!) a perfect thriller for everyone.
A Proposal They Can’t Refuse by Natalie Caña
If you can sit down to read this book and not end up starving, then you’re a much stronger person than I am. This delightful rom-com takes place in Chicago and is both an enemies-to-lovers and a fake engagement story, so it hits all the right notes when it comes to tropes for me. Kamilah dreams of getting her family’s Puerto Rican restaurant into the 21st century and onto the local foodie tour. Liam dreams of finding satisfaction in his family’s whiskey business in a way he isn’t now. Their grandfathers dream of their grandchildren finally realizing what's in front of them. In order for all of them to achieve their dreams, a fake engagement is a must, as is reading this book for any romance lovers out there.
With Prejudice by Robin Peguero
Peguero’s list of accomplishments is long and prestigious, including Harvard College and Law School and current work for the U.S. House of Representatives investigating domestic terrorism. Adding “first-time author” to the list almost seems like an afterthought. He took all of his legal experience and wrote what he knew in this legal thriller that takes place in a Miami courtroom and focuses on the jury, that group of disparate strangers who hold the fate of Gabriel Soto in their hands. Peguero’s writing leaves you turning pages quicker and quicker to find out what’s going to happen, and if you think that you do, I can tell you you’re probably wrong.
Velorio by Xavier Navarro Aquino
This book is so many things. It’s a story of an island devastated by a hurricane; the story of a cult leader grasping for more and more power; and the story of people who are trying to find footing in unstable times. So often we hear stories of the beauty of humanity that comes out after disasters. Rightly so, as we all need those positives to grasp onto to bring ourselves out of the dark. But what Navarro Aquino does in this novel is show a side of humanity that’s just as compelling: Those who take advantage of our weaknesses and use them to gain power. This book is heartbreaking and beautiful and will show you how rebuilding can be its own devastation.
Here are a few more debuts to check out!
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