Writing Fantasy with Amparo Ortiz {Latinx Heritage Month Series 2020}

For the sixth and final post to wrap up my Latinx Heritage Month Series, today’s feature guest is Amparo Ortiz, an author whose comic appeared in the 2018 Eisner Award-winning anthology titled Puerto Rico Strong and recently released her debut novel, Blazewrath Games.

For today’s post, instead of a full interview we’re doing something a little different to conclude the series and introduce the first ever author-written blog essay here on 24hr.YABookBlog!

However before we delve into her essay, here’s Amparo to introduce a her novel and what it’s all about:

“First of all, thank you for having me on the blog today! As for Blazewrath Games, it’s the story of a seventeen-year-old girl from Puerto Rico who wants to represent her country in the Blazewrath World Cup. The tournament features dragon riders and their steeds, but Lana–my main character–is not a dragon rider and wants to claim the Runner position for her national team. However, there’s a cursed dragon wreaking havoc around the globe, and threatening to unleash more if the Cup isn’t canceled and all dragons are set free from sanctuaries and the Cup itself.”

I then asked Amparo what inspired her debut and whether there was anything in particular she was most excited for readers to discover or see for themselves:

“Sports in general, but soccer in particular! I knew I wanted to write about dragons in our world, but I didn’t know what they would do in our world. It wasn’t until the FIFA World Cup in 2014 that the sport of Blazewrath started to form in my mind. Then it took another year to figure out the “wrath” part of the sport, which also combines martial arts and combat (specifically for Lana’s position).”

“DRAGONS FROM AROUND THE WORLDDDD. Also, a global conspiracy and a magical mystery that was very fun to write!”

· · · ·

Amparo’s piece on fantasy is what she called “more of an encouragement piece” as she discusses her personal journey writing “The Puerto Rican Fantasy Book” and inspiring writers to add to the literary/fantasy canon:

During a recent event for Blazewrath Games promotions, I was told that I’d written The Puerto Rican Fantasy Book. It meant that my debut novel is currently the only contemporary fantasy book for young adults that centers around a Puerto Rican character within a world that blends magical elements and our everyday reality. It meant that whenever other Puerto Rican authors–or Latinx authors in general–want to pitch their stories, they could potentially compare them to mine.

To say that this blows my mind is an UNDERSTATEMENT. Not just because I’m humbled by the thought of helping others find space on shelves for their stories, but because how on Earth is this The Puerto Rican Fantasy Book?? That answer is long and layered. I know. But also, I think it’s worth noting how certain tropes–specifically in fantasy–have been written many times over and lauded as The Best… but they’re quite similar. When I realized I wanted to write about dragons, I knew they would be from my country instead of the myriad of European depictions I’ve grown up with. There was never a moment where I asked myself, “Can I write that?”, but I *did* ask myself, “Do readers want this?”

Then the question changed: “What am I adding to canon fantasy to make it reflect what *I* want to see more of?”

The answer was Blazewrath Games, my unapologetic exploration of a young Puerto Rican girl finding her voice and her power through the world’s deadliest sport. I hope more Latinx magical sports stories hit shelves soon. More Latinx magical stories in general, too, please.

I want my Puerto Rican Fantasy Book to be the worst one out there because everyone else’s stories will level up what readers are looking for, which I have no doubt will happen sooner rather than later. So if you want to write about dragons or witchcraft or any other fantastical thing, go for it. Fantasy is for everyone. The more we can push its boundaries, the better it will be.
” ― Amparo Ortiz, Oct. 16, 2020

To wrap-up today’s post, you can order Blazewrath Games from today’s featured Latinx-owned independent called Kew And Willow Books, located in New York!

Very recently, I also had a fun opportunity joining CW over at The Quiet Pond in my very FIRST INTERVIEW where I talked about book blogging, my 5-year journey, and lots more!! Read my full interview HERE!! 😉📚💞

Thank you so much to Amparo, Lory, and Lilliam for being guests in my first ever Latinx Heritage Month series. Also, a thank you to all you blog readers out there who visited to celebrate and uplift Latine voices, literature, and storytelling during September/October with me! Hoping to plan something again for 2021 because I truly loved this project and sharing it with each one of you means so much. Thank you! 💕

What Latinx books have you read during LHM? & Have you read Blazewrath Games? 🐲✨

Interview With Podcast Creator Lory Martinez {Latinx Heritage Month Series 2020}

For the fifth post in my Latinx Heritage Month Series, today’s guest is Lory Martinez, podcast creator / producer and journalist, based in France! If you’ve been following my blog, you’ll know I’ve adored her audio drama podcast, Mija Podcast and I’m thrilled to be highlighting a Latina creator in the podcasting space! 🎙✨

Here’s Lory to talk more about Mija Podcast and what listeners can expect:

Mija Podcast is an audionovela that tells the story of an immigrant family across generations in the form of short 10 minute episodes. Each story tell the story of a different person, their journey to the host country, their joys, their sorrows, etc. It’s an emotional rollercoaster like your favorite telenovela, but in audio form! Season 1 is about a Colombian American immigrant family, Season 2 is about a Franco-Chinese family, and all episodes are available in English, French, Spanish and Mandarin versions for the world to hear.”

Next, I asked Lory about the inspiration behind her podcast and if there were any memorable moments during the creation process:

“Mija Podcast was inspired by my own family’s immigration journey from Cali and Bogota Colombia to the United States. I wanted to create an audio drama that pays homage to their journey and the journey that so many Latin-American immigrants make to the United States. A memorable moment was interviewing family members for inspiration, I conducted research on the region where they came from, their history and used that as a base for the fiction series. Our producers in Bogota and NYC were wonderful, with their help I was able to document their stories in a very real way. My parents were so excited to be a part of the project and the best moment was when they told me they were proud of me for celebrating our culture through the show.”

What really makes this podcast stand out is through the in-depth, heartfelt character profiles with each episode. Each one delves deep into the larger meaning of family and home! I then asked Lory if there was a particular character in Season 1 she enjoyed writing and what she enjoyed the most while writing about family:

“I really enjoyed writing Tatika’s episode, specifically the scene where she left Bogota. It’s based on my mother’s journey from Bogota to Jackson Heights. In writing it I wanted people to hear all of the emotions she might have had: excitement, sadness, nervousness, and joy. I think a lot of the time we talk about the immigrant journey we only talk about what happens when we get there, not really about leaving so that was particularly fun. I also connected with my mother’s story more, because I myself immigrated to Europe at around the same age. So as I wrote the scenes, I felt like we were feeling the same things during that last day at home.”

As Lory herself drew from her own Colombian background to create the Mija Podcast, I asked her if there were any specific moments she enjoyed writing and what it was like to explore her Colombian heritage through this contemporary story:

“I really enjoyed researching Colombian history. I was born in NYC, to two immigrant parents, and though they transmitted their culture to me as much as they could, there were still a lot of things missing. I never learned Colombia’s history in school, you know?

So for me it was such an honor and a humbling experience to fill those gaps in my knowledge to better tell the story. In terms of particular moments, loved writing about “ El cacumen” it’s a slang word for street smarts, but it ended up becoming the heartbeat of the show ( it was signaled by a drum sound). I also wrote as being much more of a symbol of our hope and resilience as immigrants. El cacumen represents the idea that: YES, we can do it, we have what it takes, and nothing should get in the way of our success. I loved being able to insert that concept into all the episodes to reiterate the point that immigrants are strong and can do whatever they set their minds to.”

Next we discussed: Writing! Each story from Mija’s family members stands on its own, but the further you make your way through the series you begin to see how they all connect. The storytelling is very beautiful and feels personal. I wondered how Lory found the writing voice and style for the show:

“It was a slow process at first, finding the voice of Mija. Initially I drafted a multigenerational fiction with many different voice actors, a kind of 100 years of solitude plot with tons of different characters. But I realized I needed to simplify it to make it not only understandable, but also relatable in translation! So the way I did the writing was outlining all the episodes and then writing them each in order. Each script had to have sound design, and I wanted each character to have a kind of theme sound/song. For example Rocky, the dad, is a “pollo choto,” he’s always with his mom, like a little baby chick. So there was always the little chick sound in his episode. In writing the son, “Mano,” I’d reuse the same sound to show the connection between the characters, he’s like his dad, always with his mama. And the order of the episodes had to be just right, because you need to meet the mom and dad before you meet the son. And then the older generation, for their stories to make sense you have to connect them to the first 4. So there were always these sound links, and moments where you’d see the characters interact.

As you progress through the season and meet everyone you get the sense of family, of how the mother and daughter and grandmother and grandfather would have interacted. So that influenced the stories and anecdotes I chose to focus on in each episode. I always wanted to make sure the episode that preceded the one I was writing introduced some aspect of the next character.”

As not only the creator and writer, but also the voice of Mija in Season 1, she discussed what that experience was like as well:

“It was wild. I speak English, French and Spanish. And though Spanish is my mother tongue, I’d never voiced audio in Spanish before. French, I’d done a little of, in some independent podcasts I’d worked on but never Spanish. I had lived in France for about 4 years at that point and Spanish was less a part of my daily life, outside of calls with my family in Spanish, I wasn’t using it as much. So it was a process of relearning the fluidity of speech. Of rereading phrases out loud until they sounded natural. I still have a slight accent in Spanish, it’s funny, when Colombians hear me, they definitely hear a Colombian accent, but the giveaway is that is doesn’t really belong to a particular region, it’s a kind of mixed thing, that comes from being raised in NYC. There’s also a lot of Spanglish thrown in there. So in voicing the espanol, I rediscovered my mother language. Voicing the Spanish version felt like coming home. And I have to admit, when I recorded that last episode, it was the Spanish version that made me cry.”

Lory then discussed how much it meant to her that despite the Latinx-focus of her podcast that listeners from everywhere connect with Mija’s story:

“I think the main thing I wanted to make sure of was that though it’s Latinx, anybody can listen to Mija. And part of the reason I produced it in English and French as well was to share that message, that immigrant stories are universal, that whether they are in the US, or France or wherever in the world, they are feeling the same things. I especially loved hearing from listeners outside the latinx community, who saw themselves in Mija, because their parents had gone through it too. So for me it was this double intention of : Transmitting latinx culture to the world, and also transmitting the immigrant experience in general.”

Then Lory delved into her experience as a podcast creator, being a Latina podcaster, and any podcast recommendations she has from Latine creators:

“I worked in radio before getting into podcasts so for me podcasting was a medium that gave me the freedom to explore niche topics that weren’t exactly for general audiences. When I first started in podcasting, the topics I was exploring were multiculturalism, and multilingualism and expatriation. It was 2015, and I hadn’t really explored fiction as an option. In reality, one of the first fiction podcasts that I listened to was Welcome to Nightvale, so it was very science fiction. But in making Mija I wanted to make something more realistic. I listened to some old audiodramas in Spanish, like Kaliman, to learn a little more about sound design, and just made my own thing. For fiction I highly recommend Guerra 3 from Podium podcasts in Spain, and for interview format, I highly recommend Latina to Latina. It really gives you the sense that even your idols went through the same doubts and questions on their journey to success!”

What stood out to me about Mija Podcast was that it’s not only told in English, but is also available in Spanish and French, it’s wonderful to know that people from all over can enjoy Mija’s story! I asked Lory whether this was planned early on and what reception has been like seeing her podcast available in many languages:

“Yes, as the flagship show of Studio Ochenta, my podcast production company, mija was always going to be in multiple languages. At Ochenta, our motto is raising voices across cultures, so that was always at the core of every version of the show. The reception has been great. It is still in the Top 5 of Fiction and Drama podcasts in Spain, even a year after it’s release! It also hit number one in drama in France. I’m especially proud that the second season of Mija, which was released in Mandarin, hit #1 across all podcasts in mainland China! For me it’s humbling to see that this latina led production, with a title in Spanish: Mija, a word that means so much for our community, ended up touching so many people around the world. That no matter what anyone says, our stories are worth hearing.”

To conclude our interview I wondered what books or podcasts Lory was currently enjoying:

“I devoured Clap when You Land by Elizabeth Acevedo when it came out. She has such a beautiful way of writing. I also recently read Exhalation by Ted Chiang and have become obsessed with reading his short stories. One of my favorites is about a language actually. It’s called The Great Silence and talks about how humanity is so obsessed with deciphering sounds from space, that we don’t think to decipher those of our animal neighbors. Finally, I spent quarantine re-reading 100 years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. I recently bought the Spanish language edition and am enjoying being able to compare. It’s definitely a book I constantly come back to for inspiration, especially as a Colombian American creator.”

Thank you to Lory for joining me on the final week of my Latinx Heritage Month series! There’s a couple more posts still planned for this week and I just want to say thank you for joining me thus far in the series. It’s been so much fun celebrating Latine voices, stories and creators!

You can listen to Lory’s podcast through: Apple, Spotify and the Studio Ochenta website!

Today’s Latinx-owned indie bookstore I’m highlighting is Mil Mundos located in Brooklyn!

Indie Press Books From Latine Authors {Latinx Heritage Month Series 2020}

Its Week 3 of Latinx Heritage Month and today’s post will be highlighting books from Indie (or independent) presses by Latinx authors!

Indie publishers are releasing such fantastic books and for this week’s bookish list, I’m highlighting 10 Young Adult books from Latine / Latinx authors! Don’t forget to support the smaller presses out there! Enjoy today’s recommendations and let’s chat about them in the comments 📚✨

1. The Disturbed Girl’s Dictionary by NoNieqa Ramos

Available Through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Carolrhoda Lab

Summary: Macy’s school officially classifies her as “disturbed,” but Macy isn’t interested in how others define her. She’s got more pressing problems: her mom can’t move off the couch, her dad’s in prison, her brother’s been kidnapped by Child Protective Services, and now her best friend isn’t speaking to her. Writing in a dictionary format, Macy explains the world in her own terms—complete with gritty characters and outrageous endeavors. With an honesty that’s both hilarious and fearsome, slowly Macy reveals why she acts out, why she can’t tell her incarcerated father that her mom’s cheating on him, and why her best friend needs protection . . . the kind of protection that involves Macy’s machete. 

2. Throw by Ruben Degollado

Available Through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Publisher: Slant Books

Summary: Llorona is the only girl Güero has ever loved. A wounded soul, she has adopted the name of a ghost from Mexican folklore. True to her namesake, Llorona cast Güero away with the coldness of the apparition she has become. But Güero—though he would never admit it to his friends—still wants to get back together with her.

Güero spends time with his friends Ángel and Smiley—members of the HCP (Hispanics Causing Panic) gang—roaming the streets of the South Texas border towns they inhabit, trying to forget Llorona even as she seems to appear around every corner.

Over three days Güero’s increasingly violent confrontations with Llorona’s current boyfriend will jeopardize the lives of Ángel and Smiley and the love he hopes to regain.

As events begin to accelerate toward their conclusion—and gang signs are thrown as both threats and claims of identity—the question arises: will Güero throw the HCP sign, or will he throw off that life? Güero’s life will be irrevocably changed by violence and loss, but who will he lose, and will he—somewhere along the way—lose himself?

3. Secrets Of The Casa Rosada by Alex Temblador

Available Through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Piñata Books (Arte Público Press)

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Martha and her mother move constantly, never staying anywhere for long. So she knows better than to ask if they’ve been evicted again when her mom says they’re going on a “vacation” to meet the grandmother Martha didn’t know existed.

Laredo, Texas, is like no other city she has seen. Driving past businesses with Spanish names and colorfully painted houses with burnt lawns, Martha can’t imagine her mother living somewhere so … Mexican. At her grandmother’s pink house, she’s shocked and hurt when her mom abandons her, even though a part of her had been expecting it.

Suddenly Martha must deal with a way of life that is completely foreign. Her grandmother doesn’t speak English, so communication is difficult, and she’s not the typical, sweet grandma who dotes on her grandchildren. Even weirder, it turns out that her grandmother is revered as a healer, or curandera. And there are tons of cousins, aunts and uncles all ready to embrace her!

At her new school, Martha can’t be anonymous like before because everyone knows she’s Doña González’s granddaughter. Meanwhile, a girl who has it out for her makes things unpleasant. As Martha struggles to adjust to her new life, she can’t help but wonder why her mother left Laredo. No one is willing to discuss it, so she’ll have to unravel the secret herself.

4. Skip by Molly Mendoza

Available Through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Publisher: Nobrow Ltd.
Book Review

Summary: A colorful, unpredictable postapocalyptic world comes alive in Skip, when two unlikely friends, Bloom and Gloopy, find themselves tossed from dimension to dimension. Gloopy is running toward adventure, and away from their home and friends who don’t understand their creative talent. Bloom is desperately trying to return home to their lake, and avoid the terrible violence of the city. Instead, both Bloom and Gloopy find what they need in each other, and bravely return home to challenge their fears and create beauty in their own worlds.

As Bloom and Gloopy skip through dimensions and encounter weeping giants, alligator islands, and a topsy turvy 2D world, they find comfort in each other and learn that sometimes, your greatest fear reveals where your strengths lie.

5. This Train Is Being Held by Ismée Amiel Williams

Available Through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Publisher: Amulet Books

Summary: When private school student Isabelle Warren first meets Dominican-American Alex Rosario on the downtown 1 train, she remembers his green eyes and his gentlemanly behavior. He remembers her untroubled happiness, something he feels all rich kids must possess. That, and her long dancer legs. Over the course of multiple subway encounters spanning the next three years, Isabelle learns of Alex’s struggle with his father, who is hell-bent on Alex being a contender for the major leagues, despite Alex’s desire to go to college and become a poet. Alex learns about Isabelle’s unstable mother, a woman with a prejudice against Latino men. But fate—and the 1 train—throw them together when Isabelle needs Alex most.

6. Tigers, Not Daughters by Samantha Mabry

Available Through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Algonquin Young Readers

Summary: The Torres sisters dream of escape. Escape from their needy and despotic widowed father, and from their San Antonio neighborhood, full of old San Antonio families and all the traditions and expectations that go along with them. In the summer after her senior year of high school, Ana, the oldest sister, falls to her death from her bedroom window. A year later, her three younger sisters, Jessica, Iridian, and Rosa, are still consumed by grief and haunted by their sister’s memory. Their dream of leaving Southtown now seems out of reach. But then strange things start happening around the house: mysterious laughter, mysterious shadows, mysterious writing on the walls. The sisters begin to wonder if Ana really is haunting them, trying to send them a message—and what exactly she’s trying to say.

7. Holly Hernandez And The Death Of Disco by Richie Narvaez

Available Through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Publisher: Piñata Books (Arte Público Press)

Summary: Holly Hernandez, voted “Miss Bright of ’79” and valedictorian at her previous school, is excited to start fresh at Flatbush Technical High School, one of the most competitive public schools in New York City. She’ll be one of thousands; anonymous. But her dreams of a normal school life disappear when her mother, a homicide detective, has to investigate the murder of Mr. Friedman, the social studies teacher.

One of her classmates, Xander Herrera, quickly becomes the primary suspect. The tall, awkward boy is socially inept, but Holly doesn’t think he’s a murderer. She is intent on exonerating him—but he wants nothing to do with her. To Xander, Holly is the overly enthusiastic student who always sits in the front row and answers all the teachers’ questions—correctly. He hates perky people!

Eventually cleared of the crime, Xander is determined to find the killer before Holly. As they race to solve the case, their separate investigations lead to a slew of suspects, including another teacher seen arguing with Friedman and a mysterious person named Steve who met with him several times before his death. Could it have been a disgruntled student? Ultimately, a trophy for a disco-dancing contest leads the intrepid young detectives to the Mission Venus nightclub and a murderer intent on killing again!

8. Furia by Yamile Saied Méndez

Available through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Publisher: Algonquin Young Readers

Summary: An #ownvoices contemporary YA set in Argentina, about a rising soccer star who must put everything on the line—even her blooming love story—to follow her dreams.

In Rosario, Argentina, Camila Hassan lives a double life.

At home, she is a careful daughter, living within her mother’s narrow expectations, in her rising-soccer-star brother’s shadow, and under the abusive rule of her short-tempered father.

On the field, she is La Furia, a powerhouse of skill and talent. When her team qualifies for the South American tournament, Camila gets the chance to see just how far those talents can take her. In her wildest dreams, she’d get an athletic scholarship to a North American university.

But the path ahead isn’t easy. Her parents don’t know about her passion. They wouldn’t allow a girl to play fútbol—and she needs their permission to go any farther. And the boy she once loved is back in town. Since he left, Diego has become an international star, playing in Italy for the renowned team Juventus. Camila doesn’t have time to be distracted by her feelings for him. Things aren’t the same as when he left: she has her own passions and ambitions now, and La Furia cannot be denied. As her life becomes more complicated, Camila is forced to face her secrets and make her way in a world with no place for the dreams and ambition of a girl like her.

9. Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz

Available Through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Page Street Kids

Summary: Lana Torres has always preferred dragons to people. In a few weeks, sixteen countries will compete in the Blazewrath World Cup, a tournament where dragons and their riders fight for glory in a dangerous relay. Lana longs to represent her native Puerto Rico in their first ever World Cup appearance, and when Puerto Rico’s Runner—the only player without a dragon steed—is kicked off the team, she’s given the chance.

But when she discovers that a former Blazewrath superstar has teamed up with the Sire—a legendary dragon who’s cursed into human form—the safety of the Cup is jeopardized. The pair are burning down dragon sanctuaries around the world and refuse to stop unless the Cup gets cancelled. All Lana wanted was to represent her country. Now, to do that, she’ll have to navigate an international conspiracy that’s deadlier than her beloved sport.

10. Cecilia’s Magical Mission by Viola Canales

Available Through The Book Depository
Publisher: Piñata Books (Arte Público Press)

Summary: Everyone in fourteen-year-old Cecilia’s Mexican-American community has a don—a special gift or talent. Her father, who’s named after St. Anthony, helps people find things, or parts of themselves, that they’ve lost. Paco, the janitor in the building where she lives, can tell fortunes. Cecilia can’t figure out hers, and she really needs to since her confirmation is coming up.

The truth is, Cecilia doesn’t really believe people have celestial gifts. Her opinion begins to change when she gets apprenticed to Doña Faustina, who has a magic way with coffee. Soon Cecilia realizes that her apprenticeship involves something more sinister than a mystical brew! And on a trip back to the special Mexican village of Santa Cecilia, she and her friends Julie and Lebna learn something about friendship, community and the powers of good and evil.

Thank you for joining me in the 3rd post of my Latinx Heritage Month series! Next week, you can expect another bookish list and ICYMI: I interviewed Lilliam Rivera about her newest book NEVER LOOK BACK! (WordPress actually hid this post from the tags/Reader for a few days so if your able to check it out, I’d appreciate it) 🌿✨

Any Indie authors or books your looking forward to reading from this list? 📚💖

For today’s post I’m recommending the Puerto Rican bookstore: The Bookmark PR

Author Interview With Lilliam Rivera Featuring Never Look Back {Latinx Heritage Month Series 2020}

For the second post in my Latinx Heritage Month Series today’s guest is Lilliam Rivera, award-winning author of YA novels such as The Education Of Margot Sanchez and Dealing In Dreams! Her latest novel Never Look Back released just last week and this modern-day retelling follows 2 Afro-Latinx teens navigating love, identity, and much more! 🌿🌺

Here’s Lilliam to introduce what Never Look Back and what its all about:

“Never Look Back is a modern retelling of the Greek myth Orpheus and Eurydice set in New York with Pheus, a wannabe bachata singer who meets and falls in love with Eury, a Puerto Rican displaced from her home by Hurricane Maria and followed by an angry spirit. It is a story about generational trauma, faith, and love.”

Next, I asked Lilliam what inspired her novel and she shared that at its root, this a novel about hope:

“My novel is inspired by Hurricane Maria and how it affected my family living on the island. I needed to find a way to write about the rage I felt during that time while I watched our government do nothing to help those on the island. Never Look Back was my way of searching for hope.”

I also recommend reading Lilliam’s phenomenal essay from Elle titled “One Year After Hurricane Maria, We Are Still Picking Up The Pieces.”

All 3 of Lilliam’s novels have been set in the Bronx, so she delved into what unites these stories:

“My first novel The Education of Margot Sanchez is a contemporary coming of age story. Dealing In Dreams is a dystopian tale set in a world where girl gangs rules the streets. And finally, Never Look Back is my retelling. What unites them is that they are all love letters to the place I was born and raised.”

Never Look Back is told through dual POV, so I then asked Lilliam what inspired this and whose she enjoyed writing the most:

“I wrote them in alternating POV because I wanted to challenge myself. I had a lot of fun writing Pheus. It was the first time writing from the POV of a boy. Eury was harder to write because she was shy and dealing with many difficult emotions.”

Lilliam’s contemporary novel delves into magical realism and is also a retelling! So I then asked her if there was any particular element of these genres she enjoyed writing the most (mini spoiler):

“I didn’t really think about the different craft elements I was introducing. I only thought about the story and what the characters wanted to say. Although I don’t have a favorite, it was a lot of fun to explore the underworld.”

Alongside that, I asked Lilliam what she was most excited for readers to discover about her new novel:

“I just want them to follow the journey Pheus and Eury take and to root for them. I love these characters and I hope readers love them too.”

To conclude our interview, I had to ask Lilliam if there are any Latine/Latinx YA books she recommends:

“These novels are coming out this year and should be on everyone’s radar:

Mark Oshiro’s Each Of Us A Desert

Yamile Saied Méndez’s Furia

Amparo Ortiz’s Blazewrath Games

Zoraida Córdova’s Wayward Witch

Thank you to Lilliam for joining me on the blog today and hope you’ll all join me for next week’s 3rd post in my Latinx Heritage Month Series!

You can order Never Look Back from Rivera’s local independent bookstore Skylight Books or from today’s featured Latinx-owned indie called The Lit Bar located in the Bronx! 💖📚

Latinx YA Fantasy Recommendations {Latinx Heritage Month Series 2020}

Here at 24hr.YABookBlog, I’m celebrating Latinx Heritage Month with a series of weekly posts that will highlight Latine/Latinx literature and storytelling via bookish lists, even featuring some wonderful interviews!

I’ve never planned a series of this scale before, but this year especially has given me time to reflect on how my content can continue to celebrate and uplift inclusive voices. As a Latina book blogger, I was struck with immediate inspiration on launching a series of posts during September 15 – October 15 to highlight Latinx stories and creators!

I hope you check out all the weekly posts that are planned here on the blog and join me! My goal is to inspire you to seek out and celebrate these wonderful Latinx stories. Today’s post highlights 10+ YA Fantasy titles!

Young Adult fantasy has easily become one of my go-to categories for reading in recent years. Latinx authors are crafting such a diverse range of tales and magical worlds for us to transport ourselves to! This list will feature both a mix of secondary world fantasy and contemporary fantasy, however there will be a focus on more specific fantasy in a future list. Enjoy the recs and lets chat about them in the comments 📚✨

1. Sweet Black Waves by Kristina Pérez (SBW #1)

Available through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Publisher: Imprint (Fierce Reads)

Summary: Not you without me, not me without you.

Two proud kingdoms stand on opposite shores, with only a bloody history between them.

As best friend and lady-in-waiting to the princess, Branwen is guided by two principles: devotion to her homeland and hatred for the raiders who killed her parents. When she unknowingly saves the life of her enemy, he awakens her ancient healing magic and opens her heart. Branwen begins to dream of peace, but the princess she serves is not so easily convinced. Fighting for what’s right, even as her powers grow beyond her control, will set Branwen against both her best friend and the only man she’s ever loved.

Inspired by the star-crossed tale of Tristan and Eseult, this is the story of the legend’s true heroine: Branwen.

2. Beneath The Citadel by Destiny Soria

Available through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Publisher: Amulet

Summary: In the city of Eldra, people are ruled by ancient prophecies. For centuries, the high council has stayed in power by virtue of the prophecies of the elder seers. After the last infallible prophecy came to pass, growing unrest led to murders and an eventual rebellion that raged for more than a decade.

In the present day, Cassa, the orphaned daughter of rebels, is determined to fight back against the high council, which governs Eldra from behind the walls of the citadel. Her only allies are no-nonsense Alys, easygoing Evander, and perpetually underestimated Newt, and Cassa struggles to come to terms with the legacy of rebellion her dead parents have left her — and the fear that she may be inadequate to shoulder the burden. But by the time Cassa and her friends uncover the mystery of the final infallible prophecy, it may be too late to save the city — or themselves.

3. We Set The Dark On Fire by Tehlor Kay Mejia (WSTDOF #1)

Available through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Katherine Tegen Books (Harper Teen)

Summary: At the Medio School for Girls, distinguished young women are trained for one of two roles in their polarized society. Depending on her specialization, a graduate will one day run a husband’s household or raise his children, but both are promised a life of comfort and luxury, far from the frequent political uprisings of the lower class. Daniela Vargas is the school’s top student, but her bright future depends upon no one discovering her darkest secret—that her pedigree is a lie. Her parents sacrificed everything to obtain forged identification papers so Dani could rise above her station. Now that her marriage to an important politico’s son is fast approaching, she must keep the truth hidden or be sent back to the fringes of society, where famine and poverty rule supreme.

On her graduation night, Dani seems to be in the clear, despite the surprises that unfold. But nothing prepares her for all the difficult choices she must make, especially when she is asked to spy for a resistance group desperately fighting to bring equality to Medio. Will Dani cling to the privilege her parents fought to win for her, or to give up everything she’s strived for in pursuit of a free Medio—and a chance at a forbidden love?

4. Nocturna by Maya Motayne (Nocturna #1)

Available through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Balzer + Bray (Epic Reads)

Summary: To Finn Voy, magic is two things: a knife to hold under the chin of anyone who crosses her…and a disguise she shrugs on as easily as others pull on cloaks.

As a talented faceshifter, it’s been years since Finn has seen her own face, and that’s exactly how she likes it. But when Finn gets caught by a powerful mobster, she’s forced into an impossible mission: steal a legendary treasure from Castallan’s royal palace or be stripped of her magic forever.

After the murder of his older brother, Prince Alfehr is first in line for the Castallan throne. But Alfie can’t help but feel that he will never live up to his brother’s legacy. Riddled with grief, Alfie is obsessed with finding a way to bring his brother back, even if it means dabbling in forbidden magic.

But when Finn and Alfie’s fates collide, they accidentally unlock a terrible, ancient power—which, if not contained, will devour the world. And with Castallan’s fate in their hands, Alfie and Finn must race to vanquish what they have unleashed, even if it means facing the deepest darkness in their pasts.

5. Diamond City by Francesca Flores (The City Of Diamond & Steel #1)

Available through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Wednesday Books

Summary: Good things don’t happen to girls who come from nothing…unless they risk everything.

Fierce and ambitious, Aina Solís as sharp as her blade and as mysterious as the blood magic she protects. After the murder of her parents, Aina takes a job as an assassin to survive and finds a new family in those like her: the unwanted and forgotten.

Her boss is brutal and cold, with a questionable sense of morality, but he provides a place for people with nowhere else to go. And makes sure they stay there.

DIAMOND CITY: built by magic, ruled by tyrants, and in desperate need of saving. It is a world full of dark forces and hidden agendas, old rivalries and lethal new enemies.

To claim a future for herself in a world that doesn’t want her to survive, Aina will have to win a game of murder and conspiracy—and risk losing everything.

6. Incendiary by Zoraida Córdova (Hollow Crown #1)
Available through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Little Brown Books for Young Readers (The NOVL)

Summary: I am Renata Convida.
I have lived a hundred stolen lives.
Now I live my own.

Renata Convida was only a child when she was kidnapped by the King’s Justice and brought to the luxurious palace of Andalucia. As a Robari, the rarest and most feared of the magical Moria, Renata’s ability to steal memories from royal enemies enabled the King’s Wrath, a siege that resulted in the deaths of thousands of her own people.

Now Renata is one of the Whispers, rebel spies working against the crown and helping the remaining Moria escape the kingdom bent on their destruction. The Whispers may have rescued Renata from the palace years ago, but she cannot escape their mistrust and hatred–or the overpowering memories of the hundreds of souls she turned “hollow” during her time in the palace.

When Dez, the commander of her unit, is taken captive by the notorious Sangrado Prince, Renata will do anything to save the boy whose love makes her place among the Whispers bearable. But a disastrous rescue attempt means Renata must return to the palace under cover and complete Dez’s top secret mission. Can Renata convince her former captors that she remains loyal, even as she burns for vengeance against the brutal, enigmatic prince? Her life and the fate of the Moria depend on it.

But returning to the palace stirs childhood memories long locked away. As Renata grows more deeply embedded in the politics of the royal court, she uncovers a secret in her past that could change the entire fate of the kingdom–and end the war that has cost her everything.

7. Lobizona by Romina Garber (Wolves Of No World #1)
Available through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Wednesday Books

Summary: Some people ARE illegal.

Lobizonas do NOT exist.

Both of these statements are false.

Manuela Azul has been crammed into an existence that feels too small for her. As an undocumented immigrant who’s on the run from her father’s Argentine crime-family, Manu is confined to a small apartment and a small life in Miami, Florida.

Until Manu’s protective bubble is shattered.

Her surrogate grandmother is attacked, lifelong lies are exposed, and her mother is arrested by ICE. Without a home, without answers, and finally without shackles, Manu investigates the only clue she has about her past–a mysterious “Z” emblem—which leads her to a secret world buried within our own. A world connected to her dead father and his criminal past. A world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf. A world where her unusual eyes allow her to belong.

As Manu uncovers her own story and traces her real heritage all the way back to a cursed city in Argentina, she learns it’s not just her U.S. residency that’s illegal. . . .it’s her entire existence.

8. Each Of Us A Desert by Mark Oshiro
Available through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Tor Teen
Release Date: September 15, 2020

Summary: Xochital is destined to wander the desert alone, speaking her troubled village’s stories into its arid winds. Her only companions are the blessed stars above and enimagic lines of poetry magically strewn across dusty dunes.

Her one desire: to share her heart with a kindred spirit.

One night, Xo’s wish is granted—in the form of Emilia, the cold and beautiful daughter of the town’s murderous mayor. But when the two set out on a magical journey across the desert, they find their hearts could be a match… if only they can survive the nightmare-like terrors that arise when the sun goes down.

9. Blazewrath Games by Amparo Ortiz
Available through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Page Street Kids
Release Date: October 6, 2020

Summary: Experience the World Cup with dragons in this debut fantasy, set in an alternate contemporary world, in which riders and their steeds compete in an international sports tournament

Lana Torres has always preferred dragons to people. In a few weeks, sixteen countries will compete in the Blazewrath World Cup, a tournament where dragons and their riders fight for glory in a dangerous relay. Lana longs to represent her native Puerto Rico in their first ever World Cup appearance, and when Puerto Rico’s Runner—the only player without a dragon steed—is kicked off the team, she’s given the chance.

But when she discovers that a former Blazewrath superstar has teamed up with the Sire—a legendary dragon who’s cursed into human form—the safety of the Cup is jeopardized. The pair are burning down dragon sanctuaries around the world and refuse to stop unless the Cup gets cancelled. All Lana wanted was to represent her country. Now, to do that, she’ll have to navigate an international conspiracy that’s deadlier than her beloved sport.

10. The Cup And The Prince by Day Leitao (Kingdom Of Curses and Shadows #1)
Available through Bookshop and The Book Depository
Sparkly Wave
Release Date: October 15, 2020

Summary: One prince wants her out.
Another wants her as a pawn.
Someone wants her dead.

Zora wants to win the cup and tell them all to screw themselves.

Yes, 17-year-old Zora cheated her way into the Royal Games, but it was for a very good reason. Her ex-boyfriend thought she couldn’t attain glory on her own. Just because she was a girl. And he was the real cheater. So she took his place.

Now she’s competing for the legendary Blood Cup, representing the Dark Valley. It’s her chance to prove her worth and bring glory for her people. If she wins, of course.

But winning is far from easy. The younger prince thinks she’s a fragile damsel who doesn’t belong in the competition. Determined to eliminate her at all costs, he’s stacking the challenges against her. Zora hates him, hates him, hates him, and will do anything to prove him wrong.

The older prince is helping her, but the cost is getting Zora entangled in dangerous flirting games. Flirting, the last thing she wanted.

And then there’s someone trying to kill her.

Thank you for joining me for the debut of my Latinx Heritage Month Series, I’m excited to celebrate the debut launch. next week you can expect an interview with a YA author whose upcoming book is a retelling set in the Bronx! 🌇🌿

Which YA Fantasy books from this list have you read? Are there any your looking forward to? 📚💖

With each post I’ll also be linking some Latinx-owned independent bookstores to check out during #LatinxHeritageMonth: Third House Books, Cafe Con Libros, and The Bronx Is Reading