Editor’s post-publication note: It was great to see so many authors on this list who had been working hard on their first books for years. Rich Villar has always been one of the strongest advocates for Latinx literature and by this time he had elevated the poetry scene in New York City while making sure that Latinx authors were represented. elena minor had spent years publishing the works of other writers. And Tony Mena had literally gone through a war before publishing his collection.
1) Rudy Ruiz tops the list this year, and with reason. Not one sentence in Seven for the Revolution sounds like it comes from a debut fiction author. The tension in each is well-crafted, making the reader want to turn each page as quickly as possible.
2) In Gaby, Lost and Found: A Wish Novel, Angela Cervantes has written one of the best young adult novels of the year. In fact, it’s one of the best in the last few years, as it tackles the difficult subject of immigration, telling the story of a young girl whose mother is deported.
3) Rich Villar’s debut poetry collection, Comprehending Forever, has rhythms that can be heard in trumpets, drums and saxophones. The only thing missing from this book is an accompanying CD.
4) Gerardo “Tony” Mena has joined an elite list of veterans, like the contemporary Brian Turner, who have served in the military and have captured their tremendous sacrifices in stunning, powerful poems. The Shape of Our Faces No Longer Matters adds an important face to this genre.
5) Adriana Paramo’s My Mother’s Funeral (Memoir) is a touching, fascinating memoir about a mother and a daughter, about Colombia and the U.S., about the complexity of love and loss.
6) Meg Medina is quite the talent, and she shows it off in a major way in Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass. This is not her debut novel, but it is absolutely her best work, as attested by the distinction of the Pura Belpre Award.
7) Maria Andreu’s young adult novel, The Secret Side of Empty, provides a unique but timely perspective on undocumented immigrants. It tells the tale of a blonde, light-skinned immigrant girl who blends in—almost too easily, and learns about others and herself as she opens up about her status.
8) In elena minor’s debut poetry collection, TITULADA, she demonstrates her skill as a wordsmith and as a poet who constructs intelligent juxtapositions through her creative use of words.
9) In Still Dreaming, Luis Gutierrez provides an inspiring and enlightening look at his rise to Congress. This is an ideal book for anyone wishing to learn more about politics in the U.S. and the drive necessary to be successful.
10) Daisy Hernandez is not afraid to experiment with style in her memoir, A Cup of Water Under My Bed: A Memoir, and the result is a work that is thought-provoking and intriguing.