School will start soon, and many Hispanic teenagers will be stuck reading about white people again.
When I taught English at a high school with a predominantly Hispanic population, I struggled to get my students to enjoy any type of book. But it was even tougher to find young adult books with Hispanic characters. Of course, Sandra Cisneros’s The House on Mango Street and Rudolfo Anaya’s Bless Me Ultima are part of the canon. When students were looking for books for independent reading, I steered students toward Gary Soto’s novels – and then I had to recommend non-Hispanic authors.
It’s crucial to get young Hispanics to read. In 2009, 17 percent of Hispanics dropped out of high school, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. Hispanics had the highest dropout rate for any ethnic group, although the rate has been decreasing each year.
Here are a few good resources for finding Hispanic-oriented young adult fiction:
• Houston–based publisher Arte Publico has its own young adult section, which includes You Don’t Have a Clue: Latin Mystery Stories for Teens, a book of 18 short stories, according to AARP VIVA.
• The American Library Association lists several Hispanic-themed books in its 2010 Best Books for Young Adults, including David Hernandez’s No More Us for You and Matt de la Pena’s We Were Here.
• The Austin Public Library’s Connected Youth website features a great list of Hispanic-oriented books for young adults.