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8 Female Writers to Read in Celebration of National Hispanic Heritage Month

By Kelsey Manning

Every year from September 15 to October 15, we recognize the contributions of Hispanic and Latino Americans as part of National Hispanic Heritage Month, and for me that means reading incredible writers.

Knowing how difficult it is for women to get their writing out there, it's important to support female writers struggling to be heard. For minority female writers, it's even tougher. So, starting now, here are the names you should know — and add to your bookshelf stat:

1. Isabel Allende @isabelallende
The 2014 recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom, Chilean novelist Isabel Allende has been called “the world’s most widely-read Spanish language author." Her debut novel "The House of the Spirits" became an instant bestseller when it was published in 1982, and her success only skyrocketed from there. Allende is not only a masterful storyteller but a remarkable woman, and a champion for women and girls worldwide through her foundation. Read any number of her incredible works to get ready for her newest, The Japanese Lover, which comes out in English on November 3.

2. Jennine Capó Crucet @crucet
Capó Crucet’s recent debut "Make Your Home Among Strangers" was hailed by just about everyone as one the best books of summer 2015. It’s the story of Lizet, the daughter of Cuban immigrants who are furious when she decides to leave Miami to attend an elite college — the first in her family to do so. As she struggles with her new minority status at college, her family becomes caught up in an immigration battle back home in Miami, and Lizet is pulled in both directions. Called "heartfelt" [New York Times Book Review] and "smart, scathing, and hilarious" [Vanity Fair], "Make Your Home Among Strangers" is not to be missed.

3. Alisa Valdes @RealAlisaValdes
If you're looking for something on the lighter side, look no further than who TIME calls "the godmother of chica lit," Alisa Valdes. Her first  novel, "The Dirty Girls Social Club," was the product of a well-publicized, five-house bidding war back in 2004, leading Valdes to be hailed as “the Latina Terry Macmillan.” Since then, Valdes has published 12 novels, four novellas, three anthologies, and a memoir called "The Feminist and the Cowboy." Valdes has even formed her own production company to develop "The Dirty Girls Social Club" for the big screen.

4. Zoraida Córdova @zlikeinzorro
For the YA fantasy lovers out there, Zoraida Córdova is your girl. Born in Ecuador and raised in Queens, Córdova learned English by watching "The Little Mermaid" and Michael Jackson's "Moonwalker" on repeat. Clearly her love of mermaids only blossomed from there, as her debut novel "The Vicious Deep" kicked off a trilogy Literally Jen called "a mermaid tale done 100 percent right." Her current project is a "New Adult" (think YA with sex) series, "On the Verge."

5. Wendy C. Ortiz @WendyCOrtiz
Ortiz's debut, "Excavation: A Memoir," is the unusual and at times unsettling story of her adolescent relationship with a private school teacher 15 years her senior, now a registered sex offender. It explores the five-year relationship, during which he continually encouraged Ortiz's passion for writing, and its lasting effects on her life. Her follow-up, "Hollywood Notebook," is uniquely described by the publisher as "a prose poem-ish memoir of fragments." If you're looking for a searing, honest portrait of being in your twenties in Hollywood, definitely check it out.

6. Sandra Cisneros
Sandra Cisnerosis an internationally acclaimed poet, essayist, novelist, and short story writer. Her first novel, "The House on Mango Street," is one of those classic novels you absolutely should have read in high school. If you didn't, let this be your motivation to read it now. The novel, told in a series of vignettes, tells the story of young Esperanza Cordero, a Latina girl growing up in Chicago — as did Cisneros herself. "Cisneros draws on her rich [Latino] heritage … and seduces with precise, spare prose, creating unforgettable characters we want to lift off the page. She is not only a gifted writer, but an absolutely essential one," said The New York Times Book Review.

7. Julia Alvarez
Speaking of essential novels by Latinas in America, "How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents" and "In the Time of the Butterflies" should both be in your to-read pile. Alvarez was born in New York City and raised in the Dominican Republic, until moving back to NYC at 10 years old. Her novels are influenced by her own upbringing — stories about young Dominican women growing up in the Trujillo dictatorship ("Butterflies") or New York City ("Garcia Girls"), stories about cultural stereotypes and expectations of women. Of the latter, The New York Times Book Review wrote, “Poignant ... Powerful ... Beautifully captures the threshold experience of the new immigrant, where the past is not yet a memory."

8. Esmeralda Santiago @esmo
If you’re in the mood for a coming-of-age memoir, make it Esmeralda Santiago's "When I Was Puerto Rican." Her story begins in rural Puerto Rico, migrates to Brooklyn with her mother and seven (soon to be 11) siblings, and culminates with high honors at Harvard. The first part of a trilogy, When I Was Puerto Rican captures the dramatic change from the mango groves of Puerto Rico to the streets of New York City.

Listen to writer Sandra Cisneros talk about writing about unspoken in the video above. Learn more about the pioneering Latina writer by watching her full MAKERS profile.

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Photo Credit: Anne Baek/ Getty Images