Three Must-Read Books from the YES Prep Atlas for Hispanic Heritage Month

By Misti Morgan – English Content Director, YES Prep 

Hispanic Heritage through The Atlas

In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month, we are recommending you add the following three books from our Atlas program, all written by Hispanic authors, to your reading list. Misti Morgan, YES Prep English Content Director, shares the top five reasons why you should read each of these three books for Hispanic Heritage Month.

The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales 

“In the evenings when the cool breeze began to blow, all the families came out to their porches to sit and talk, to laugh and gossip. And that is where and how our barrio became one family.”  – The Tequila Worm by Viola Canales 

Based on her real-life upbringing in McAllen, Texas, author Viola Canales introduces the reader to Sofia, a young girl from a family of storytellers. The tales of growing up in the barrio, full of the magic and mystery of family traditions engage readers and enrich our understanding of this vibrant border culture.

Top Five Reasons to Read The Tequila Worm: The Tequila Worm book cover

  1. Positive portrayal of Mexican-American culture. Canales’ passion about writing a positive narrative is evident in her quote: “We are so tired of stories of gangs and drugs. Tequila Worm really celebrates the positive side of our culture: the family, the spirituality, the food, and the music.”  
  2. Informs or reminds the reader about treasured Mexican-American cultural celebrations and traditions (making Easter cascarones, celebrating el Día de los Muertos, preparing for a quinceañera, rejoicing in the Christmas nacimiento). 
  3. Reminds us all about the importance of family.  
  4. The book challenges the reader to be themselves…in a world where the dominant culture is unquestionably followed, students need to read stories that make them evaluate the status quo and not necessarily go along with it.  
  5. The author is from Texas. Let’s support our Lone Star State authors!

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros 

“I want to be like the waves on the sea, like the clouds in the wind, but I’m me. One day I’ll jump out of my skin. I’ll shake the sky like a hundred violins.”  – The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros 

Chicano-American writer Sandra Cisneros offers us Esperanza, a young Latina girl growing up in Chicago, inventing for herself who and what she will become. This is Cisneros’ most acclaimed text and as one of the most celebrated Latina writers both in the United States and Mexico, readers will dive into each vignette more connected to the characters than the one before.  

Top Five Reasons to Read The House on Mango Street: The House on Mango Street book cover

  1. It’s a collection of vignettes that addresses the real-life topics of racism, sexism, and classism.  
  2. The book teaches us the power of dreams. 
  3. Esperanza narrates as a strong Hispanic female teenager. 
  4. Cisneros’ writing emphasizes the power of words.  
  5. The main character enlightens the reader about the importance of finding their voice. 

Zoot Suit and Other Plays by Luis Valdez  

“El Pachuco: ‘The Press distorted the very meaning of the word zoot suit. All it is for you guys is another way to say Mexican. But the ideal of the original chuco was to look like a diamond, to look sharp.’”  – Zoot Suit and Other Plays by Luis Valdez 

Mexican-American gangster Henry Reyna and others in his group are accused of a murder in which they had no part. They are then rounded up by the police because of their race and their choice of clothing. The gang members are thrown into prison and put through a racist trial. As Henry considers his fate, he has a conversation with El Pachuco, a figure from his own conscience who makes him contemplate a choice between his heritage and his home country. 

 Top Five Reasons to Read Zoot Suit and Other Plays: Zoot Suit and Other Plays Book Cover

  1. It was the first Broadway play written by a Chicano author. 
  2. Valdez received the National Medal of Arts from President Obama in 2015 for “illuminating the human spirit in the face of social injustice.” (PBS NewsHour) 
  3. Although the play is 40 years old, the theme is timeless and highly relevant to today’s societal issues (false imprisonment of minorities, race riots, racism, etc.). 
  4. In its original debut (1978), Zoot Suit was billed as “a rebuke to mainstream American culture for its refusal to allow Mexican-Americans to participate in the American Dream.” (UCSC News) 
  5. The play offers its own unique perspective of what it means to be American.

About the YES Prep Atlas

The YES Prep Atlas is a collection of diverse and purposefully-chosen texts that together form the literary experience YES Prep students engage in from grades 6-12. The title Atlas was chosen because it represents a collection of works representative of a variety of places and worldviews; in an atlas, you can find home and explore new places.

To access or download a digital version of the YES Prep Atlas, please click here.

About the Author: 

Misti Morgan is the new English Content Director with YES Prep. A product of Houston public schools, Morgan began her career teaching middle school English to students who deserved to know more about their African-American and Hispanic heritages. Her career path then took her into administrative leadership in some of Houston’s most challenging schools. Joining YES Prep married both her love of English literature with her passion of equity in educational experiences. “As one who is charged with the responsibility of selecting diverse and rigorous texts for student achievement, I can think of no better way to prepare the next generation of independent thinkers and leaders.”

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