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A Latin American Reading List Based on Julieta Venegas’ Goodreads Reviews

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I love Julieta Venegas and I love Latin American literature, but I do not use Goodreads. Even so, late last year Goodreads was thrust into my sphere of interest when the Mexican-American singer-songwriter’s profile became ~a real news item~ after someone found her review of Valeria Luiselli’s Desierto sonoro. (I have no opinion on that review because, while I’ve read lots of Luiselli’s work, I haven’t got around to that particular book just yet.) My worlds were colliding!

Anyway, as the internet is wont to do, it blew things out of proportion and—if I recall correctly—Venegas was semi-horrified to realise that authors read their own Goodreads reviews, while Luiselli responded with a gracious tweet acknowledging said review. And that was that.

But just this morning, another Venegas review popped up on my timeline, this time alerting me to the existence of Colombian writer Carolina Sanín’s book Tu cruz en el cielo desierto (to which Almadía own the Mexican distribution rights and that I’m already itching to read). Honestly, the speed with which I started hunting down that book on the strength of a good Julieta Venegas endorsement was enough to get me thinking. What else did Julieta Venegas like to read? And how could I insert myself into that narrative?

Enter: this post, a reading list of Latin American literature (specifically: fiction) by women based on Julieta Venegas’ Goodreads reviews. Because I love a good round-up.

★★★★★

Las malas by Camila Sosa Villada

A tale of transsexuals and transvestites (Sosa Villada’s own words) in Córdoba, Argentina. Received to rave reviews in the Spanish-speaking world and undoubtedly forthcoming in English-language translation.

Country: Argentina

Julieta’s Rating: ★★★★★

Lauren’s Rating: ★★★★★

Buy it from the RELI (Mexico)

Hurricane Season (Temporada de huracanes) by Fernanda Melchor, trans. Sophie Hughes

A breathless tale that starts with the death of a witch and spirals out from there. Reviews were rave, but I’m yet to read it. (Venegas rated Melchor’s earlier Aquí no es Miami five stars too.)

Country: Mexico

Julieta’s Rating: ★★★★★

Lauren’s Rating: Started but not yet finished

Buy it in English from Bookshop (US)Buy it in Spanish from Bookshop (US)

Tu cruz en el cielo desierto by Carolina Sanín

A semi-autobiographical of a Twitter love affair. Charco Press appear to have bought the English-language rights to this book already.

Country: Colombia

Julieta’s Rating: ★★★★★

Lauren’s Rating: Not yet available in my region

Buy it in Spanish from blatt y ríos (Argentina)

Seeing Red (Sangre en el ojo) by Lina Meruane, trans. Megan McDowell

Another autobiographical novel, Seeing Red narrates the protagonist’s loss of sight and the events which unspool from that event.

Country: Chile

Julieta’s Rating: ★★★★★

Lauren’s Rating: ★★★★

Buy it in English from Bookshop (US)Buy it in Spanish from Bookshop (US)

Related: In Conversation with Megan McDowell, Translator of Chilean and Argentine Literature

Slash and Burn (Roza tumba quema) by Claudia Hernández, trans. Julia Sanches

“Through war and its aftermaths, a woman fights to keep her daughters safe,” per the publisher’s website.

Country: El Salvador

Julieta’s Rating: ★★★★

Lauren’s Rating: Unread

Buy it in English from Bookshop (US)Buy it in Spanish from Sexto Piso (Mexico)

Related: In Conversation with Multilingual Translator Julia Sanches

Casas vacías (Empty Houses) by Brenda Navarro, trans. Sophie Hughes

One woman steals the others child, and both have to reckon with the consequences. Taut and uncompromising, I loved this book as much as Venegas. (Well, almost.)

Country: Mexico

Julieta’s Rating: ★★★★★

Lauren’s Rating: ★★★★½

Buy it in English from Daunt Books Publishing (UK)Buy it in Spanish from Sexto Piso (Mexico)

Água viva by Clarice Lispector, trans. Stefan Tobler

An attempt by the author to capture the present, this is a “meditation on the nature of life and time”. While I’ve yet to read any Clarice (I know), Venegas has given rave reviews to a bunch of her books including The Hour of the Star and The Passion According to G.H.

Country: Brazil

Julieta’s Rating: ★★★★★

Lauren’s Rating: Unread

Buy it in English from Bookshop (US)

Umami by Laia Jufresa, trans. Sophie Hughes

One of my personal favourite books, this is a quiet tale of loss in a Mexico City block of flats told beautifully by Jufresa.

Country: Mexico

Julieta’s Rating: ★★★★

Lauren’s Rating: ★★★★★

Buy it in English from Bookshop (US)

The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

Massively well-received when it was published in 2020, this debut collection of personal/ reported narratives sheds light on the millions of (as you might expect) undocumented Americans. This isn’t fiction but I’m excited to read it too, so I had to include.

Country: Ecuador/ USA

Julieta’s Rating: ★★★★★

Lauren’s Rating: Unread

Buy it from Bookshop (US)

Mean by Myriam Gurba

Myriam Gurba’s writing is fucking fantastic and the fact that Venegas recognised that in her review of Mean—Gurba’s funny, impactful, queer coming-of-age memoir—was incredible.

Country: USA

Julieta’s Rating: ★★★★★

Lauren’s Rating: ★★★★

Buy it from Bookshop (US)

De Gados e Homens by Ana Paula Maia

I’ve been recommended the writing of Ana Paula Maia already and will probably try to read it in the original Portuguese, but I believe an English-language version of this book (about a cattle slaughterer) is forthcoming from Zoe Perry.

Country: Brazil

Julieta’s Rating: ★★★★

Lauren’s Rating: Unread

Buy it in Portuguese from Estante Virtual

Los galgos, los galgos by Sara Gallardo

“Why isn’t everyone talking about Sara Gallardo?” is what Venegas wrote of the late Argentine writer, whose book Los galgos, los galgos is about a man who inherits a “natural paradise” in the wake of his father’s death.

Country: Argentina

Julieta’s Rating: ★★★★★

Lauren’s Rating: Unread

Buy it in Spanish from Punto de Encuentro Editorial

Furia Diamante by Valeria Tentoni

A short story collection by a young Argentine writer, this is another Venegas review that got me hunting down where to buy the book in Mexico. (Spoiler: you can’t, but I’ll figure out a way.)

Country: Argentina

Julieta’s Rating: ★★★★★

Lauren’s Rating: Unread

Buy it in Spanish from Libros del pez espiral (Chile)

August (Agosto) by Romina Paula, trans. Jennifer Croft

Translated by the incomparable Jennifer Croft, “a young woman parses through the five years since her best friend’s suicide in this self-deprecating examination of grief and loss”, per the publisher’s website. This went straight onto my To Read list.

Country: Argentina

Julieta’s Rating: ★★★★★

Lauren’s Rating: Unread

Buy it in English from Bookshop (US)Buy it in Spanish from Editorial Entropía (Argentina)

Related: In Conversation with Jennifer Croft (COMING SOON)

Bezoar and Other Unsettling Stories (Pétalos y otras historias incómodas) by Guadalupe Nettel, trans. Suzanne Jill Levine

Nettel is best known for her short stories and this collection about the corporal and bizarre, recently translated into English, is widely considered one of her best.

Country: Mexico

Julieta’s Rating: ★★★★★

Lauren’s Rating: Unread

Buy it in English from Bookshop (US)Buy it in Spanish from the RELI (Mexico)

Other Top-Rated Books

La felicidad es un lugar común by Mariana Skiadaressis (Argentina)

Nuestra parte de noche by Mariana Enríquez (Argentina)

Cartucho by Nellie Campobello, trans. Doris Meyer and Irene Matthews (Mexico)

Siete casas vacías by Samanta Schweblin (Argentina)

Oficio de tinieblas by Rosario Castellanos (Mexico)

On Lighthouses (Cuaderno de faros) by Jazmina Barrera, trans. Christina MacSweeney (Mexico)

Mona by Pola Oloixarac, trans. Adam Morris (Argentina)

Las primas by Aurora Venturini (Argentina)

Optic Nerve (El nervio óptico) by María Gainza, trans. Thomas Bunstead (Argentina)

Mapocho by Nona Fernández (Chile)

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