No matter how hard people try to make it so, when it comes race and culture, there is no one-size-fits-all. And you know what, that’s what makes us beautiful. Being Afro-Latino doesn’t mean you’re less black or less Latino than anyone else.
One of the best things we can do for our children is to help them embrace all of who they are—including cultural differences that make them unique. In the spirit of celebrating diversity, here are 17 Afro-Latino children’s books that are worth the read.
Author Sulma Arzu-Brown is a Honduran Afro-Latina who doesn’t want her daughters to grow up thinking their hair isn’t beautiful. Bad Hair Does Not Exist/Pelo Malo No Existe is a bilingual and inspiring read that reminds us all hair texture is beautiful.
Ages: 3 and up
Cendrillon is not your classic Cinderella tale. The Robert D. San Souci book takes a West Indian approach, as a re-imagined story full of vibrant colors, rich illustrations, and French Creole phrases.
Take a stroll through a collection of memorable children’s songs and games. Grace Hallworth is a Trinidadian author who brings popular Afro-Caribbean traditions to life in this adorable read.
A little girl’s bravery is tested when she wants to play instruments that everyone tells her are only for boys. Millo Castro Zaldarriaga is a young Chinese Afro-Cubam heroine who’s determined to prove to society that you can achieve your dreams, no matter your age or gender.
As an Afro-Boricua child growing up in Puerto Rico, Isabella struggles to accept her natural hair as beautiful. The Marshalla Soriano Ramos tale speaks to self-image, and learning to love all of who you are—curls and all.
Some of life’s best memories occur in the home—specifically in the kitchen. Maurie Manning’s book is an easy read that has a rhythmic message of family and culture leaping off every page.
Ages: 4-7 years
After the death of her beloved mother, an unnamed Afro-Cuban girl goes to live with her aunt’s family. Still mourning her unthinkable loss, the girl must quickly learn to defend her heart from the very people who are supposed to love her. Teresa Cárdenas’ novel is a coming-of-age story that deals with racial prejudice, abuse, and learning to love yourself no matter what.
Ages: 12 and up
Friendship is tough, especially when long distance is involved. Magdalena and Marisol are both eighth-grade Panamanian-American girls whose mothers grew up together in Central America. With their eyes set on ruling middle school, their bond is tested when Marisol’s mother decides to send her daughter to Panama for a year to live with her grandmother.
The sooner the barriers that confine children to gender stereotypes break, the better. Max loves the idea of making something by hand, and takes a liking to the dolls and dresses he sees inside a shop. Shining a light on traditional gender roles and the importance of following your dreams, Max Loves Muñecas! also speaks to child homelessness, losing loved ones, and the kindness of strangers.
Rich in colors, My Feet Are Laughing is a jovial read that’s warm and energetic. When her grandmother dies, Sadie, her mom, and sister move in to her abuela’s New York City brownstone. There’s laughs, love, and a whole lot of dancing.
Celia Cruz was a musical sensation who took the industry by storm. The Afro-Cuban singer was a woman before her time, and delivered memorable tunes layered with colorful imagery and beautiful symbolism. My Name is Celia gives young readers a look into her life and why she will be always be remembered for her rich contributions to society.
Sometimes, it’s hard being the only brown girl; and as one of the darkest people in her family, Niña can relate. Author Ana Maria Machado does a great job of weaving through complexities — including race, standards of beauty, and self acceptance — in this story of a black South American girl, and her origins that make her unique.
Edson Arantes do Nascimento (Pelé) will forever be known as one of the greatest soccer players of all time. Monica Brown brings his story to life in an exhilarating read full of determination, and life as an Afro-Latino in Brazil growing up in poverty.
Sean and his best friend Justin are middle-schoolers who are thick as thieves. Once Sean starts acting out of character, however, Justin begins to question why he’s constantly disappearing and getting into trouble. Little does he know that Sean has a father locked up in prison who he secretly visits on the weekend. Secret Saturdays is a novel set in Brooklyn’s Red Hook Housing Projects that speaks to inner-city life, growing up with an incarcerated parent, and cultural ties that thread these characters together.
Ages: 12 and up
School is out for summer; and Sierra Santiago has every intention of enjoying it to the fullest. While attending a party, the budding young artist encounters a strange figure who opens her eyes to a world of magic she never knew was there. Trying to piece together the mystery of these ancestral creatures — and how they come to life through art — Sierra finds herself on a quest of discovery, that reveals hidden truths about her Afro-Boricua family’s past.
Ages: 14 and up
Set in the South Bronx during the late ’80s, author Sofia Quintero wanted to capture the rise of hip-hop at that time, along with sexism, racial tension, and police brutality — all of which are still relevant today. The Afro-Latina’s novel Shove and Prove follows two teens navigating life, temptation, drugs and sex, in a gritty coming-of-age story.
Ages: 13 and up
Author Josh Farrar approaches multiculturalism with his youth novel, A Song for Bijou. Set in Brooklyn, Alex Schrader is a seventh-grader whose worldview completely changes when he meets Bijou, a Haitian girl, who recently moved to the US after devastating earthquakes shook her beloved country. A story of friendship and understanding, this book tackles young love, and new discoveries through different cultural experiences.