Riot Headline 10 Exciting Books to Read this Summer

Stories of Cubans and Cuban Americans

Erika Hardison

Staff Writer

Erika Hardison is a writer, social media junkie, podcaster, publisher and aspiring novelist from Chicago currently residing in New Jersey. When she's not bridging the gap between Black feminism and superheroes on, she's spending sleepless nights as a new mom with her talkative toddler playing and giggling under the covers.

Flatiron Books, publisher of Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia

A sweeping, masterful debut about a daughter's fateful choice, a mother motivated by her own past, and a family legacy that begins in Cuba before either of them were born. Of Women and Salt by Gabriela Garcia is a powerful novel from an incredible new talent.

Oftentimes when people talk about Cuba, there’s a certain mysticism surrounding the country. I know Cuba is a place with rich history, beautiful art, and vivid culture. However, outside of history class, I did not have much insight into what Cuba is in a literary sense. Whether it is politics, family, or historical fiction, Cuba is a fascinating subject.

I am a huge fan of speculative and magical realism, and Latinx literature has plenty of it. Latinx literature has opened my eyes to a new world of fantasy and a better insight into Cuba’s impact on its people. The historical fiction books are just as juicy as you’d expect because who doesn’t love a good heroine? But magic is my favorite. It’s original, unforgettable, and after every read, it leaves a lasting impression on me. Check out these books by Cubans and Cuban Americans.

The Most Beautiful Girl in Cuba by Chanel Cleeton

In this historical fiction novel, the women are the real heroines of the story. Based on a true story, an American reporter finds herself in a jail in Havana in the late 1890s. Another woman, who was raised with privilege, now lives in a reconcentration camp with her daughter and mother in-law. These women overcome their circumstances as they all end up intertwining at some point to get their freedom.

Salty, Bitter, Sweet: A fresh start. A broken heart. A menu of possibilities. by Mayra Cuevas 

A 17-year-old Cuban-American who wants to become a chef finds herself mourning her Cuban grandmother after her death. Now, Isabella Field finds herself living with her father in France. While her relationship with her dad is not the best, she does love the fact she lives close to a prestigious chef that an apprenticeship open. Isabella tries to balance mourning her grandmother, her shaky relationship with her dad, and her new life in France.

Three Trapped Tigers by Guillermo Cabrera Infante

If Latin jazz were put into words, it would be this book. The three tigers are the descriptions of a photographer, musician, and writer who are all bar hopping in Havana. The fluidity of language which is a mix of slang, Spanish, and English will make your eyes dance as you may have no idea what the book is about. But you will know how the this novel will make you feel.

Dreaming in Cuban by Cristina García

A family torn over politics is a story that many of us can relate to right now. Each family member has a different understand and opinion on Cuban culture. The four family members include the grandmother, her two daughters as well as her granddaughter. The grandmother believes in the revolution and one of her daughters practices the Santería religion. Her other daughter and granddaughter are more interested in living in New York and adapting to a new culture. Their differences and goals are a constant battle and are tested throughout the years.

Don’t Date Rosa Santos by Nina Moreno

Rosa is an overachiever. She is also a good friend, loves her family, and is overall happy with the direction her life is going in. She can’t wait to go to college. However, Rosa has always understood that the women in her family are cursed by the sea and any man she loves is doomed. The curse was placed upon her family when her grandparents left Cuba by boat and only her grandmother survived. Rosa meets a boy and she wants to understand the curse that continues to plague her family. Her eyes are on Cuba where she believes all her answers are.

The Book of Lost Saints by Daniel José Older

Who wouldn’t want to explore a Cuban family ghost story that is part magical and part musical? This lively novel explores a young man name Ramón who works as a security guard in a hospital. When he isn’t at work, he is working as a DJ at night. However, he is being haunted by an aunt he has never met before. Now Ramón seeks to uncover the events leading up to his aunt’s death which involves his own mother.

I Was Never the First Lady: A Novel by Wendy Guerra

Sometimes, being Cuban means loving your country in all of its beauty but having a disdain for your government. As Nadia Guerra continues to deal with the trauma of her mother abandoning her in Cuba with her father. Nadia acknowledges the sacrifices her family has made for her and as she travels Europe, she sets to find her mother. The book reimagines Cuba without a Fidel Castro.

A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey

Lila Reyes is experiencing a rough patch in life. First, her grandmother dies, then her boyfriend breakups with her. To make matters worse, Lila and her best friend suddenly have a big falling out and now she’s depressed because her world seems to be out of control. Her family notices her gloomy behavior and sends her to England for the summer. While there, she meets a cute English boy and what starts off as a nice friendship over tea blossoms into something more.

Looking for more Cuban lit? check out these works of Cuban speculative fiction in translation.