Hi Netflix! Yes, you: the streaming giant with a bunch of Spanish programming (mucho Murder mysteries!) and recent tags on programming stating that representation matters. I read the recent CNN article which opens up with, “Netflix has made progress adding diverse content created by and starring women, Black and Asian people on its platform in recent years, but the streaming service and film studio hasn’t had the same success yet with increasing Latinx representation, according to a new study it commissioned.” That bit about how only “4.5% of main cast members went to Latinx actors” was not great, which you clearly know since you commissioned the study. Since it seems you are already working toward change and building a bigger table to pull up more seats, I’m going to skip the part about why representation is so important — seriously, my soul is so tired of that bit — and instead offer help in the form of shouting books for Latinx adaptations.
Today you can call me your Latina Programming Fairy, as I’ve read a bunch of Latinx books that you should absolutely adapt to streaming. Ready? ¡Vamos!
You Love Adapting YA Novels So Here’s A Bunch
Juliet Takes a Breath by Gabby Rivera
What happens when a 19-year-old Puerto Rican from the Bronx writes to their white hippie feminist icon, comes out to their family as lesbian, and decides to move to Portland, Oregon for the summer to learn directly from said feminist icon? A lot! Including questioning herself, those around her, what she wants, and what it means to be queer and feminist. Found family, chosen family, finding your voice, and learning boundaries when even a well meaning person is toxic to you are just some of the things that make this perfect for a film adaptation. But the biggest ringing endorsement is Juliet’s voice, which audiences will cheer for and love.
The Prince of Los Cocuyos: A Miami Childhood by Richard Blanco
You may be asking why I have a memoir listed under YA adaptations and I’ll tell you! This reads like a coming-of-age novel. Narrative nonfiction for the win! This would make a fantastic limited series about a boy growing up in Miami torn between his Cuban heritage and pushing it away for the “American way.” There are absolutely hilarious moments (don’t defrost a turkey in the backyard sun) and heartbreaking moments (constantly being told men are never to appear feminine let alone be gay) of growing-up Cuban American in Miami. Think of the hit that ABC had with Fresh Off the Boat, which was based off Eddie Huang’s memoir.
The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
Elizabeth Acevedo’s With the Fire On High and Clap when You Land have already had their rights scooped up (as they should!), but you still have time to snap up her award-winning debut! (At least based on my Google results.) The Poet X has, like all her books, an incredible voice from the second it starts. This time we’re in Harlem with Xiomara Batista, a Dominican American teen who is pushing back on her mom’s strictness, discovering boys and, most importantly, her voice. You will have a winner on your hands between the slam poetry and Xiomara being a twin. Twins are always super popular, so make this a limited series and just sit back and wait for all the awards to roll in.
A Cuban Girl’s Guide to Tea and Tomorrow by Laura Taylor Namey
Your YA romance adaptations have been popular and who doesn’t want to continue the money train? Set in two great spots (Miami, Forida, and Winchester, England — the cinematography will be gorgeous!), Lila Reyes has to face the difficult fact that everything she had planned after high school graduation has now changed. With the loss of her abuela, a breakup, and her best friend changing her life course, Lila’s family is concerned with her mental well being and packs her up and ships her to a friend in England. There she’ll bake, make friends, heal, and I said romance so smooch! Pastelitos and love for all the wins.
Burn Baby Burn by Meg Medina
You love making crime shows and true crime documentaries, and wow are they huge hits for you, so please let me introduce you to a historical fic coming-of-age story set in 1977, New York. Yup, the summer of Sam. That’s the backdrop to this story about Nora, a senior in high school who is petrified like her fellow New Yorkers because a serial killer is out randomly killing people, and she has long brown hair like the female victims. But that’s not the only tension in Nora’s life — her brother has turned violent and into a pyromaniac and their mother isn’t doing anything about it. Smart, funny, and self-reliant Nora has so much she has to navigate it’s impossible for this not to be a fantastic darkish, high-tension limited series.
Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas
This story sells itself! A trans boy decides to prove he’s a real brujo to his Latinx family, which isn’t so much accepting of his gender, and he does this by performing a ritual to summon his murdered cousin. Except, whoopsie, he brings back the soul of the school’s bad boy and bad boys don’t do what they’re told, like going back to wherever the soul came from. You see what I mean about this selling itself?! Who doesn’t want to watch a wrong-boy summoning and then a well-maybe-I-like-the-wrong-summoned-boy story?!
And Here’s Your Adult Latinx Stories Screaming For Screen Time
Uptown Thief (Justice Hustlers #1) by Aya de León
Think Robin Hood. But Latina, and her crew steals from human garbage CEOs (the targets have proven themselves to be) to fund their women’s health clinic in New York for underprivileged women. This is already film gold! But that’s not all! This story is a literal smashing of the crime genre and romance genre where you root for thieves and love. Sexy and dangerous served up with a healthy dose of social justice. I think I just wrote you your tagline.
Sabrina & Corina by Kali Fajardo-Anstine
This is your anthology! Each episode would be based on a short story that highlights and focuses on the lives of Latinas of Indigenous ancestry in Colorado. From land disputes to gentrification Fajardo-Anstine explores home, loss, abandonment, heritage and much more through these amazing characters.
The Undocumented Americans by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio
Think of a show like Padma Lakshmi’s Taste the Nation on Hulu. Except instead of traveling the country talking to people — many immigrants — about food, this docuseries would be inspired by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio’s work of traveling the country speaking to undocumented immigrants. A story she knows personally, as one of the first undocumented immigrants to graduate from Harvard. Timely and important, this is a must-adapt docuseries.
Chilling Effect by Valerie Valdes
I’m going to make this super easy for you: Latina in Espace! Eva Innocente, captain of La Sirena Negra, and her space adventures (someone has to fight interstellar crime syndicates!) are perfect for a series. So much fun! And did I mention there are psychic kittens?! You’re welcome!
Certain Dark Things by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
While you have a nice backlist of options with Silvia Moreno-Garcia’s work — who writes in so many genres! — I am going with her vampire! Yes, we already once had that huge explosion of everything being vampires because if something makes money everyone runs to replicate it and wait for the cash cow. However, a thing you may have noticed is that it’s always all white. And before authors/actors of color could pull up a seat — or, let’s be honest, even get into the room — the whole thing is called over and done, no más. So here is your mean and dark vampire story set in Mexico City. At war are different vampire species (including ones with Aztec roots) and local crime bosses who want the vampires out, with a detective caught in the middle.
American Dreamer by Adriana Herrera
“Queer romances that center Afro-Latinx joy” is Herrera’s goal in writing and your goal, my dear Netflix, should be to adapt her writing to film. Remember when Chrissy Teigen said we needed more romance films and you wanted to deliver? Let’s continue that train with the bonus of adding an Afro-Caribbean food truck — you know your food docuseries are loved! Now for the important love part: Nesto Vasquez, said food truck owner, has a small window to make his dream come true and no time to be distracted. It’s a romance so you know that means the distraction comes in the form of sizzle (not the grill kind): Jude Fuller. Let us make popcorn and watch them reach their HEA.
And this is just some of your amazing options of books you can adapt with Latinx voices, so chop-chop, I want to start seeing Deadline articles titled “Netflix Buys X For Adaptation” and impatiently wait until I can make all the popcorn and watch.