I don’t know about you, but I loved the stories that were told to me by my abuelita. I remember sitting down with her at the kitchen table in her Brooklyn apartment as she shared away. I often envisioned her stories as the books that I read from my library. Why couldn’t I see myself in any of the books I read? My abuelita needed to share her story for everyone to read, I thought. But her stories were told straight from her corazón and never got to reach the paper.
Abuelita shared stories of when she was growing up in Arecibo, Puerto Rico. She told me of how she walked to school every morning and washed her family’s clothes by hand. After a certain age, school was no longer afforded to her, and she was the “mujercita de la casa”. She told stories of when she met my abuelito at a young age and how her life and responsibilities changed when she became a madre. Oh how I wish those stories were in books so I could read them to my own children now.
I miss my abuelita and her stories terribly. If she were still alive today, she’d share her own stories with us, of course, but here are four books that I would have loved for her to read to me and my own children as well.
In My Family/En Mi Familia by Carmen Lomas Garza
Lomas Garza’s magnificent paintings jump off of each page of this book. These warm and personal stories depict the memories of her growing up in the traditional Mexican-American community of her hometown of Kingsville, Texas. I love the way this author placed her memories into words and paintings. I really enjoy that it’s translated, for someone like me who is a bit self-conscious when reading Spanish, but also to accommodate a Latino grandparent like my abuelita who only knew how to read Spanish. This book reminded me of certain times of life that my abuelita described to me, including becoming a woman and leaving the home with your husband. What a great read for grandparents to share their stories with their nietos.
Abuela by Arthur Dorros
This literature selection sounds so fitting for what I’m reminiscing about in this post. For this New York City native, it also brings back that warm feeling of when I would walk the streets of East New York, Brooklyn with my abuelita, hand-in-hand. Whether it was a stroll to the local bodega or when she would babysit us for my mom, walking with her created beautiful memories for me. The character in the story envisions flying around New York City with her abuela. She really gives you a sense of the connection they have and it genuinely warmed my heart. Through reading, I got to relive what it was like to have my abuela right by my side. I especially love the dictionary in the back for those not fluent in Spanish.
Cool Salsa by Lori Marie Carlson
Growing up Latino in America isn’t always so easy. It takes a lot to speak two languages, almost living a double life, and learning to understand the rules of two very different cultures. Cool Salsa celebrates the tones, rhythms, sounds and experiences of that double life we live. There are poems about la familia and parties, harsh insults and sad memories, hot dogs and mangos, the Spanish language and the rough edge of the English language. Carlson really does a great job of incorporating the glory and the struggle being Latino-American. It’s a great way for grandparents to share their stories and triumphs of how they made it through coming from their native land to make it in the United States.
Sonia Sotomayor: A Judge Grows In The Bronx/La juez que creció en el Bronx , by Jonah Winter
This beautiful story about the life of Sonia Sotomayor has so much detail. As relatable as can be, we hear our own stories of not being granted the most expensive things and having to work really hard to get to a better place. Sonia grew up in a low income area where only her mom raised her because her dad passed away at a very young age. Many Latinos can relate because we often grow up without both parents, and we can´t usually afford to live in high-end areas. We work with what we have and know that our family does the best they can to provide for us and leave us their legacy. Another great read for grandparents to share their stories and to serve as proof for young children that anything is possible with hard work, dedication and perseverance.
Do you remember stories from your grandparents or specific titles that they may have read to you? Share below!