One Book, One Chicago Spring 2009
Titles available in both English and Spanish are noted.
The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao
La breve y maravillosa vida de Óscar Wao
By Junot Díaz
Riverhead Books, 2007
Oscar is a hopeless, fantasy-reading, role-game-playing, overweight nerd with dreams of finding love and writing the next Tolkienesque masterpiece. It’s not going so well, and it might have something to do with the fukú (ancient curse) on his family. In his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, Díaz uses his truly original, no-holds-barred voice to take us through the woes of Oscar and his family, spanning two countries and decades of history.
By Oscar Casares
Back Bay Books, 2003
Casares delivers a collection of nine stories set in the border town of Brownsville, Texas. Each story paints a portrait of the Mexican American experience through rich, down-to-earth characters whose everyday struggles may be unique to their setting and culture, but are universal in the humanity they portray.
Coffee Will Make You Black
El café te hará negro
By April Sinclair
Sinclair’s debut novel, set against the backdrop of the emerging civil rights movement, tells the story of Stevie, a young African American girl coming of age on the South Side of Chicago. During a racially charged period in history, Stevie struggles to find her identity as she also copes with her transition from childhood to adolescence.
Dreaming in Cuban
Soñar en Cubano
By Cristina García
A finalist for the National Book Award, García’s debut chronicles the story of three generations of a Cuban family, following them from Havana to Brooklyn across 50 years. Incorporating an array of writing styles, she captures the tumultuous and often magical history of one family traversing two countries and two cultures.
By Junot Díaz
Vintage Books, 1997
Set in New Jersey and the Dominican Republic, this collection of 10 stories garnered much critical acclaim for Díaz. Many of the stories are linked by the voice of a young narrator whose life bears a resemblance to that of the author, most notably in “Fiesta, 1980” and “Negocios,” in which themes of familial relationships, growing up in dual cultures and immigrant struggles run deep.
How the García Girls Lost Their Accents
De como las muchachas García perdieron el acento
By Julia Alvarez
Algonquin Books, 1991
Exiled from the Dominican Republic in the 1960s, the four García girls—Carla, Sandra, Yolanda and Sofia—find a new home in the Bronx. Not surprisingly, the move is an adjustment for the whole family, although the girls, eager to acclimate to their new life, fare better than their parents. Through episodic vignettes, the girls share their experiences, illuminating the challenges they face in reconciling their newly adopted American mindset with their Dominican culture.
The Joy Luck Club
El Club de la Buena Estrella
By Amy Tan
Jing-Mei “June” Woo takes her recently deceased mother’s place at the Joy Luck Club, a weekly gathering of women who enjoy mahjong, dim sum and conversation. In alternating chapters, the members and their American-born daughters reveal their storied pasts, allowing both generations to connect as they share their experiences.
The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fist Fight in Heaven
By Sherman Alexie
Atlantic Monthly Press, 1993
While the lives portrayed in these linked stories set on a Spokane Indian reservation are often filled with sadness and despair, Alexie manages to inject humor and compassion into these tales. Narrated by several characters with distinct voices, the book explores the relationships within the reservation and those outside its confines, depicting the clash between not just two cultures, but between two generations.
A Tree Grows in Brooklyn
By Betty Smith
This classic novel introduced the world to Francie Nolan, a young girl coming of age during the early 1900s. Francie grows up in a run-down part of Brooklyn, but her intelligence and strength of character allow her to surpass her humble beginnings as she ventures away from her neighborhood to pursue a better life.
When Luba Leaves Home
By Irene Zabytko
Luba Vovkovych lives in Chicago’s Ukranian Village, and while she longs to escape it and participate in a “real” American life, her family and friends need her. She tries to pull away from her immigrant neighborhood—which she thinks seems stuck in another time—by going to college and buying a car, but she finds it difficult to turn her back on her tight-knit community.
I Sailed with Magellan
By Stuart Dybek
Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2003
Dybek once again returns to his hometown with 11 stories tied together by the voice of Perry Katzek, a young narrator who navigates the city’s South Side through both childhood and adolescence. With his vivid descriptions and obvious love of the city, Dybek’s Chicago becomes another living, breathing character in his most recent collection.
More by Sandra Cisneros
Mango Publications, 1980
Illustrated by Terry Ybanez
My Wicked, Wicked Ways
Third Woman Press, 1987
Vintage Books, 2004
Titles available in both English and Spanish are noted. For more titles available in Spanish only, see the recommended reading list in the Spanish version of this guide.
Chicago: City of Neighborhoods
City of Dreams: Latino Immigration to Chicago
By Wilfredo Cruz
University Press of America, 2007
Division Street: America
By Studs Terkel
Pantheon Books, 1967
Never a City So Real: A Walk in Chicago
By Alex Kotlowitz
Crown Journeys, 2004
Streetwise Chicago: A History of Chicago Street Names
By Don Hayner and Tom McNamee
Loyola University Press, 1988
Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy
Nieve en La Habana: Confesiones de un Cubanito
By Carlos Eire
The Free Press, 2003
The Devil’s Highway: A True Story
By Luis Alberto Urrea
Little, Brown, 2004
Harvest of Empire: A History of Latinos in America
By Juan Gonzalez
Translation Nation: Defining a New American Identity in the Spanish-Speaking United States
By Héctor Tobar
Riverhead Books, 2005
Dying to Cross: The Worst Immigrant Tragedy in American History
Morir en el Intento: la Peor Tragedia de Inmigrantes en la Historia de los Estados Unidos
By Jorge Ramos
Rayo/Harper Collins, 2005
Once Upon a Quinceañera: Coming of Age in the USA
By Julia Alvarez
The Power of Writing
Bad Boy: A Memoir
By Walter Dean Myers
HarperCollins Publishers, 2001
The Freedom Writers Diary: How a Group of Extraordinary Teens Used Writing to Change Themselves and the World Around Them
By The Freedom Writers with Erin Gruwell
Writing Women’s Lives: An Anthology of Autobiographical Narratives by Twentieth Century American Women Writers
Edited by Susan Cahill
The below resources are available in English only. For resources available in Spanish, please see the recommended reading list in the Spanish version of this guide.
Connect to these articles from home, school or work with a Chicago Public Library card.
Sandra Cisneros’ Process and Influence
“Talking in Our Pajamas: A Conversation with Sandra Cisneros on Finding Your Voice, Fear of Highways, Tacos, Travel and the Need for Peace in the World”
By Ruth Behar
Michigan Quarterly Review, v. 47, i. 3 (2008)
"Intersections: When Languages Collide" [Interview with Sandra Cisneros]
By Felix Contreras
Morning Edition, May 3, 2004
Latina Feminist Takes on The House on Mango Street
“‘Writing Will Keep You Free’: Allusions to and Recreations of the Fairy Tale Heroine in The House on Mango Street”
By Kelly Wissman
Children’s Literature in Education, v. 38, n. 1 (2007)
“The ‘Dual’-ing Images of La Malinche and La Virgen de Guadalupe in Cisneros’ The House on Mango Street”
By Leslis Petty
Melus, v. 25, i. 2 (2000)
Immigration to Chicago
“Immigration to Chicago”
By John Powell
Encyclopedia of North American Immigration
Facts on File, 2005
Books for Kids
Titles available in both English and Spanish are noted.
Becoming Naomi León
Scholastic, 2004 (Ages 10-13)
Yo, Naomi León
Scholastic en Español, 2005 (Ages 10-13)
By Pam Muñoz Ryan
Threatened by the unexpected return of her dysfunctional mother, Naomi Soledad León Outlaw sets out for Mexico with her brother and great-grandmother to locate her father, an Oaxacan woodcarver from whom she has inherited her artistic talent.
Atheneum, 2004 (Ages 7-10)
Lectorum, 2006 (Ages 7-10)
By Campbell Geeslin, illustrated by Ana Juan
Longing to follow in the footsteps of her family’s artistic traditions, Elena creates music with her pipe and the images in the songs appear as beautiful glass figurines.
Family Pictures/Cuadros de Familias
By Carmen Lomas Garza, introduction by Sandra Cisneros
Children’s Book Press, 2005 (Ages 7-10)
In My Family/En mi familia
By Carmen Lomas Garza
Children’s Book Press, 2000 (Ages 7-10)
Both of these books are teeming with life and provide snapshots of the author’s life growing up in a very loving Mexican-American family.
By Sandra Cisneros, illustrated by Terry Ybanez
Dragonfly, 1997 (Ages 3-6)
This very special vignette from The House on Mango Street is tenderly illustrated to create a loving read-aloud experience.
By Gary Soto, illustrated by David Diaz
Harcourt, 2005 (Ages 9 and up)
By Gary Soto, illustrated by Annika Nelson
Harcourt, 2007 (Ages 9 and up)
These evocative poems capture the joy and energy of growing up in a community.
Poems to Dream Together/Poemas para Soñar Juntos
By Francisco X. Alarcón, illustrated by Paula Barragán
Lee & Low, 2005 (Ages 9-12)
This is a vibrant collection of 19 bilingual poems all celebrating family, community and the world around us.
The Smell of Old Lady Perfume
By Claudia Guadalupe Martinez
Cinco Puntos, 2008 (Ages 9-12)
Chela can’t wait to start sixth grade, but nothing goes the way she had imagined, especially when her beloved father has a stroke and her grandmother comes to stay.
Snapshots from the Wedding
By Gary Soto, illustrated by Stephanie Garcia
Putnam, 1997 (Ages 4-8)
You’re invited to share the excitement of the big day with Maya, a flower girl at a family wedding, complete with mariachi music, pollo con mole and naughty cousins.
The Storyteller’s Candle/La velita de los cuentos
By Lucía M. González, illustrated by Lulu Delacre
Children’s Book Press, 2008 (Ages 6-9)
This is the inspiring true story of how one special librarian many years ago, Pura Belpré, showed all the children in her community that “la biblioteca es para todos.”
The Tequila Worm
By Viola Canales
Random House/Wendy Lamb, 2005 (Ages 9-13)
From the barrio to a fancy school in the big city, Sofia stays true to her family and Mexican-American culture, while having fun all along.
Books for Teens
Baseball in April and Other Stories
Harcourt, 2000 (Ages 12 and up)
Béisbol en Abril y otros cuentos
Alfaguara, 2007 (Ages 12 and up)
By Gary Soto
Guys and girls and growing up is what these true-to-life tales are all about.
Cool Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Growing Up Hispanic in the United States
Edited by Lori Carlson, introduction by Oscar Hijuelos
Holt, 1994 (Ages 13 and up)
Sandra Cisneros and many other writers contributed to this hot collection.
Scholastic, 2000 (Ages 12-14)
Scholastic en Español, 2002 (Ages 12-14)
By Pam Muñoz Ryan
This story of Esperanza’s journey from Mexico to a new life in the United States is a winner of the Pura Belpré Medal for the book that “best portrays, affirms and celebrates the Latino cultural experience.”
By Malin Alegria
Simon & Schuster, 2006 (Ages 12 and up)
As her family prepares for the big day, Estrella must move back and forth between cultures, and between her damas and Speedy, the guy she really likes.
Knopf, 2004 (Ages 12 and up)
En busca de milagros
Laurel Leaf, 2006 (Ages 12 and up)
By Julia Alvarez
Milly’s high school life is changed forever, and for the better, when Pablo arrives from a troubled country that she discovers to be part of her own history.
Parrot in the Oven: Mi Vida
HarperCollins, 1996 (Ages 12 and up)
By Victor Martinez
Life is tough in Manuel Hernandez’s family and neighborhood, but it won’t stop him as he tries to become a man.
Wáchale!: Poetry and Prose About Growing Up Latino in America
Edited by Ilan Stavans
Cricket, 2001 (Ages 14-18)
Twenty-nine Latino writers have contributed experiences to relate to, learn from and be inspired by.