- Hopscotch(1963) by Julio Cortazar: The title of the novel refers to Cortazar’s brilliant use of structure. It boasts 155 chapters, which readers can either take chronologically or skipping between them, resulting in a few different endings. Narrator Horacio Oliveiera meanders through Paris nightlife, engaging in philosophical, bohemian discussions with his lover and friends, contemplating the nature and value of existence itself.
- One Hundred Years of Solitude(1967) by Gabriel Garcia Marquez: Easily one of the most recognized, beloved and studied works of Latin-American literature, the lush One Hundred Years of Solitude blends the tenets of the modernist, magic realist and Vanguardia movements into one memorable novel. Drawing from Colombian history — especially as it pertains to the city of Macondo — he weaves the intricate tale of seven generations. All of them experience some form of bizarre hardship in a way that mirrors the city’s real-life struggles.
- Conversation in the Cathedral(1969) by Mario Vargas Llosa:As Odria’s dictatorship plagues Peru, characters hailing from vastly different sociopolitical backgrounds intertwine. Through discussions at a bar known as the Cathedral, two men express their own experiences and opinions regarding the volatile political climate. Along the way, they also attempt to untangle the complex issues surrounding the role one’s father played in the death of a major underworld instigator.
- The Obscene Bird of Night(1970) by Jose Donoso: Slowly, deftly, this novel explores questions of time and its intimate, essential relationship with life. Magic realism, a staple component of many notable Latin-American works, relays the traditional Chilote tale of the Imbunche — driving home its eerily supernatural theme. Existential crises, it seems, can bring out the ravaging monster in many people.
- I, the Supreme(1974) by Augusto Roa Bastos: Like many highly regarded Latin-American authors, Paraguayan Augusto Roa Bastos found narrative inspiration in his nation’s tempestuous history and layered culture. His exceptionally experimental, frequently lauded novel questions the validity and stability of a dictatorship, pulling elements directly from then-current politics. Although he understandably took some liberties with reality, the result eventually defined an entire genre.
- Kiss of the Spider Woman(1976) by Manuel Puig: This tense stream-of-consciousness novel is also an essential read for those who enjoy or want to learn more about LGBTQIA literature as well. Taking place almost completely in dialogue, the narrative focuses on a gay window-dresser and a political revolutionary sharing a Buenos Aires prison cell. Deep philosophical discussions help the pair pass the time and learn more about the world around them, which eventually leads to both romance and tragedy.
- Like Water for Chocolate(1989) by Laura Esquivel: Fans of magic realism and amazing food would do well to pick up this acclaimed tale of forbidden romance. Heroine Tita de la Garza and ranch hand Pedro want to wed one another very much, but family traditions that the youngest daughter must remain unmarried in order to care for her mother. In her grief, the heartbroken young woman turns to the culinary arts for comfort and personal expression.
- The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao(2007) by Junot Diaz: Curses and comics define the life of the doomed eponymous protagonist, who manages to persist through his brutal existence with surprising grace and tenacity. Through the narration of his former roommate and sister’s lover, the dramatic history of the de Leon family before, during and after the Trujillo Regime gradually comes to life. Readers who pay close attention to the myriad footnotes will get a detailed, thoroughly intriguinglesson in the history of the Dominican Republic.
9. Yo-Yo Boing!(1998) by Giannina Braschi: This experimental novel was the first to ever be published in Spanglish, offering up a literary testimony to the perpetual blurring between languages and cultures on the American continents. Not only does the language “yo-yo,” but the topics at hand do as well. Braschi blows through everything from sex to philosophy to pop culture to current events to literature to art. Though such a structure occasionally dizzies the m ind, it certainly punctuates the overarching theme.
- Dreaming in Cuban (1992) by Cristina Garcia: Narrators, epistles and timelines shift throughout three generations of women before, during and after immigration to the United States. It portrays life in Cuba during the nation’s most critical years of political upheaval, juxtaposing it with the struggles of descendants in the adopted homeland.
11. The House on Mango Street(1984) by Sandra Cisneros:Young Esperanza Cordero comes of age in one of Chicago’s Puerto Rican and Chicano ghettos. Her lyrical vignettes highlight the socioeconomic plight of the urban impoverished, the importance of family, sexual awakening and gender roles. All of Esperanza’s stories intentionally connect in the thinnest possible fashion, but do an excellent job of highlighting her growth as a person.
12. The Old Gringo(1985) by Carlos Fuentes: The renowned author found inspiration in the story of American satirist Ambrose Bierce, who utterly disappeared during the Mexican Revolution. In this adaptation, an elderly man flees from his disappointing life with the hopes of either dying or discovering a renewed purpose. What follows is a heavy tale of cultural exchange and politics against a backdrop of a devastated nation.
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