Seven books where life and death meet. Some of them feature Day of the Dead celebrations from a dark and moody perspective, others in a heartwarming way.
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I welcome November with a very special list!
More than a holiday, the Day of the Dead (Día de Los Muertos) is a cultural identity. It is a tradition to remember those who have left us, but we keep them in our hearts. Homes are filled with the aroma of incense. Families usually set up an 'ofrenda' where they place bread of the dead, Cempasúchil flowers, Calaveras (sugar skulls), photographs, and the deceased's favorite food.
Typically, this celebration takes place the first two days of November, although some families usually put their offerings days before. Want to get in the Day of the Dead mood? I've compiled seven book titles where life and death meet. Some of these feature Day of the Dead celebrations from a dark and moody perspective, others in a heartwarming way, but all of them incorporate elements of Latinx culture. I also divided them by genre!
1. MEXICAN GOTHIC // SILVIA MORENO-GARCIA
Set in 1950s Mexico, it centers on a young woman named Noemi investigating her cousin's claims that her husband is trying to murder her.
[Spanish version: Gótico]
Felipe Montero is employed in the house of an aged widow to edit her deceased husband's memoirs. There, Felipe meets her beautiful niece, Aura. His passion for Aura and his gradual discovery of the relationship between Aura and her aunt propel the story to its extraordinary conclusion.
Juan Preciado promises his mother at her deathbed to meet his father for the first time in Comala, only to come across a ghost town populated by spectral figures. They reveal details about their own lives and about Juan's father: Pedro Páramo.
[Original version: Pedro Páramo]
YOUNG ADULT FICTION
4. CEMETERY BOYS // AIDEN THOMAS
This paranormal romance centers on a gay, trans, teen named Yadriel. When his traditional family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo.
[Spanish version: Los chicos del cementerio]
5. THE TEQUILA WORM // VIOLA CANALES
When Sofia is singled out to receive a scholarship to an elite boarding school, she longs to explore life beyond the barrio, even though it means leaving her family to navigate a strange world of rich, privileged kids. It's a different mundo, but one where Sofia's traditions take on new meaning and illuminate her path.
5. GUSTAVO, THE SHY GHOST // FLAVIA Z. DRAGO
Gustavo is good at walking through walls, making objects fly, and glowing in the dark. But Gustavo is shy, and some things are harder for him to do, like getting in a line to buy eye scream or making friends. Whenever he tries getting close to them, he realizes they just can’t see him. Now that the Day of the Dead is fast approaching, what can he do to make them notice him and to share with them something he loves?
[Spanish edition: Gustavo, el fantasmita tímido]
7. DÍA DE LOS MUERTOS (CELEBRATE THE WORLD) // HANNAH ELIOT
At the end of October each year, it’s time to celebrate an ancient tradition: Día de los Muertos! With vibrant illustrations by Golden Globe–winning Mexican illustrator Jorge Gutierrez, this festive board book teaches that Día de los Muertos honors ancestors and loved ones who have passed.
Have you read any of them? Which one would you like to read?