11 Memoirs And Autobiographies Written By Latinas Every Woman Should Read

Powerful life stories of hardship, identity, family and more.

When one person's life story is immortalized within the crisp white pages of a book, the results can be powerful.

That's because memoirs and autobiographies can move readers who empathize with the author's hardships, identity crisis, loss, trauma, triumphs and more. And when people see their own life experiences reflected in a book, it can be both cathartic and inspiring.

Many Latinas have shared their incredible life stories with the world in the form of prose over the years, and we picked some of the most popular.

Here are 11 memoirs and autobiographies written by Latinas every woman should read:

My Beloved World by Sonia Sotomayor
"Those who remember the stilted Sotomayor confirmation hearings will learn from this book that the real Sonia Sotomayor is a very different [person]. She is a joyous, compassionate Latina who revels in her heritage; she is the child of an alcoholic father, a chilly mother and a grandmother who served as her source of 'protection and purpose.' She is, by her own telling, a logical thinker, who clawed her way to success through self-reliance, discipline and the help of mentors and friends." -- Nina Totenberg, NPR

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A Cup of Water Under My Bed by Daisy Hernández
"[In A Cup of Water Under My Bed,] Hernández describes how, as a child, she moved further away from her Colombian-Cuban family by entering the world of English, a language they didn’t speak. Now, with lucid prose, she comes back to them, painting a portrait both affectionate and raw of growing up in a working class immigrant neighborhood in New Jersey. She examines the warmth and pain she found in her relationships with her family, the varied reactions they had when she came out as bisexual, and the cognitive dissonance she experienced as she became upwardly mobile." -- Braden Goyette, The Huffington Post

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When I Was Puerto Rican by Esmeralda Santiago
"Choosing to use an almost documentary style, with episodes held together by a protagonist for whom we have concern as well as admiration, Santiago's first major published work is a touching and revealing memoir of a Puerto Rican girl and the rites of passage she endures on her way to womanhood and, ultimately, Americanization." -- Yvonne V. Sapia, Los Angeles Times

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Handbook for an Unpredictable Life: How I Survived Sister Renata and My Crazy Mother and Still Came Out Smiling (with Great Hair) by Rosie Perez
"The bigger issue of the book is surviving childhood. The moral is–really, how do you not allow your past to completely define you as an adult? And how do you not allow the emotional responses that served to protect you as a child, not dictate your emotional responses today?” -- Rosie Perez in an interview with Fox News Latino.

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Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina by Raquel Cepeda
"Cepeda turns inward with her memoir Bird of Paradise: How I Became Latina. Telling the story of a young woman whose life was turned upside down over and over again, Bird of Paradise is her story of redemption, of her search to understand her identity in a society that told her over and over again that she did not matter." -- Dr. David J. Leanord, The Huffington Post

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The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande
Simon and Schuster
"Immigration has opened a divide between the members of the Grande family that's 2,000 miles wide. But even when Reyna crosses this divide to live with her father in California, the metaphorical link binding her to a tragically poor corner of Mexico will not die. Iguala and its unpaved streets, its rural superstitions and its hunger never let go of either young Reyna, her parents or any of her siblings in The Distance Between Us, a heart-wrenching account of her impoverished childhood and violence-tinged adolescence." -- Hector Tobar, Los Angeles Times

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Rita Moreno: A Memoir by Rita Moreno
"Charting her story from her early days in Puerto Rico, Rita describes the beauty of her childhood with almost an artistic view—describing sights and sounds, and then suddenly her abrupt move to New York with her single mom, who left behind their entire life to start over in a tenement in the Bronx. Coming from ‘beauty’ and going into the ‘ugly’ was a cultural shock for young Rita, who couldn’t speak a word of English and through a misunderstanding in the hospital with a bout of chicken pox finally began to grasp the language." -- Nikki Luongo, The Huffington Post

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Almost A Woman by Esmeralda Santiago
"This sequel to the story of Santiago's childhood (When I Was Puerto Rican) covers her life as an adolescent and young woman when she lived in Brooklyn, New York, with her mother and 10 siblings during the 1960s. Puerto Rican immigrants, the family suffered through periods of poverty exemplified by the author's trips to the welfare office with Mami, where she translated her mother's Spanish so that they could obtain benefits. Santiago's good humor, zest for life and fighting spirit permeate her chronicle and moderate the impact of the hard times she describes." -- Publishers Weekly

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American Chica by Marie Arana
"Arana, daughter of a Peruvian father and an American mother, sees herself as a hybrid, a fusion of Latina and Anglo, embodying both cultures but an outsider in each... Within this winning portrait of a bicultural childhood are a host of notable characters—the mysterious Peruvian grandfather who stayed in his upstairs room for 20 years, the tradition-bound Peruvian grandmother who ruled the family, the young gardener who taught Arana about her soul, and (most of all) her parents, whose difficult but enduring marriage is at the very center of her story." -- Kirkus Review

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Havana Real: One Woman Fights To Tell The Truth About Cuba Today by Yoani Sánchez
"[Yoani Sánchez's] Havana Real: One Woman Fights to Tell the Truth About Cuba Today speaks for the generation who came of age after the U.S.S.R. collapsed. This devastated Cuba (the Soviets supplied 80 percent of Cuban imports) and marked the start of the “special period in a time of peace,” to cite Fidel Castro’s Orwellian term... The book unflinchingly recounts the Special Period and after: the food ration cards, the 'hamburgers' made of fried grapefruit rinds, the convicts who opted to have their teeth pulled since the prison soft diet was more nutritious than the standard one." -- Katharine Whittemore, The Boston Globe
Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria Anzaldúa
"Remember back in 2010 when Arizona passed a law that banned Mexican-American studies courses in Arizona high schools? Well, Anzaldúa’s La Frontera, published 25 years earlier, was one of the books that were banned and removed from classrooms. Anzaldua’s semi-autobiographical book takes on colonialism, race, and gender in an incredibly interesting way, often using different forms of Spanish and English in order to impress on the reader the language difficulties she and others living in what she calls the 'borderlands,' navigating different cultures. It was controversial and moving in the '80s when she wrote it, and as the Arizona law shows, it’s as controversial and crucial today." -- Crystal Paul, Bustle

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