This Hispanic Heritage Month, listen to voices from our community

Charles Kamasaki, Senior Advisor to the Cabinet at UnidosUS, recently won first place in Best Political/Current Affairs book from the 2020 International Latino Book Awards for his book Immigration Reform: The Corpse That Will Not Die.

Charles Kamasaki book award | hispanic heritage month reading list

Charles is not only a friend and colleague, but he is also one of the foremost experts in the field of immigration policy and reform. His book provides insights on the battle for immigration reform in the 1980s from the perspective of someone who witnessed and participated in that fight firsthand.

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This award prompted us to issue our first-ever list of critical resources those seeking information about where Latinos fit in the country’s heightened discourse on race. This Hispanic Heritage Month, we’ve started with a list of recommended books and documentaries created by folks both within and outside the UnidosUS familia or that cover UnidosUS’s leadership and mission. While this list is not comprehensive, it’s intended to provide some important initial knowledge about our community. These resources highlight the contributions Latinos make to this country, as well as the systemic inequalities that affect Hispanic Americans.

Books are listed in chronological print order. Documentaries are listed after the books.


hispanic heritage month reading list


Julian Samora, La Raza: Forgotten Americans (South Bend, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1973) 218 pp. $23.13 

Buy: IndieBound, Amazon

Samora was a cofounder of UnidosUS (then the Southwest Council of La Raza). His book is a classic study of the social history and prospects of the Mexican American community in the Southwest that describes systemic discrimination against Hispanics, offers policy solutions, and foretells the emerging political power of an oft-neglected community.


Herman Gallegos and Michael O’Neill, editors, Hispanics and the Nonprofit Sector (Washington, DC: Foundation Center, 1991) 209 pp. $27. Out of print but available in libraries and the used book market.

Buy: Amazon

Gallegos was another cofounder of UnidosUS (then Southwest Council of La Raza). This book, co-edited by Gallegos, is a pioneering study of the origins, challenges, and successes of key institutional players in the Latino civil rights movement. Its key insight is that philanthropic neglect of the Hispanic nonprofit sector would impede socioeconomic advancement of the community as a whole.


Clara E. Rodriguez, Puerto Ricans: Born in the USA (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1991), 220 pp., Out of print but widely available in libraries and on the used book market.

Buy: IndieBound, Amazon

Rodriguez is a former member of the UnidosUS Board of Directors. Her book is a seminal, foundational study of Puerto Ricans on the U.S. mainland, addressing demographics, their heritage as “colonial immigrants,” and its implications for their racial identity and socioeconomic status. The book is both deeply researched and highly accessible for readers.


Clara E. Rodriguez, Changing Race: Latinos, the Census, and the History of Ethnicity in the United States, (New York: New York University Press, 2000), 266 pp. $27.00

Buy: Amazon

Rodriguez’s book uses the relatively new “Hispanic” census identifier as a case study and jumping off point for a thorough, yet concise, discussion of the history of racial and ethnic categories in United States. Her book combines extensive scholarship, statistical analysis, and first-person accounts to illustrate how Latino identities were formed, remain highly contested, and are subject to change.


Martha Montero-Sieburth and Edwin Melendez, editors, Latinos in a Changing Society (New York: Praeger Publishers, 2007) 304 pp. $29.95

Buy: IndieBound, Amazon

Latinos in a Changing Society is a comprehensive collection of critical essays assessing the status of Hispanic Americans with that of other underserved groups in the first decade of the new millennium. Unlike basic summaries of the population, the book offers incisive coverage of existing and emerging demographic subgroups, analyzes political trends affecting these groups, and offers substantive recommendations for researchers, analysts, and policymakers.


Ernesto Galarza, Barrio Boy (South Bend, IN: Notre Dame University Press, 40th Anniversary Edition, 2010) 336 pp. $25.68 (40th anniversary edition) Earlier editions out of print.

Buy: IndieBound, Amazon

Galarza was a cofounder of UnidosUS (then Southwest Council of La Raza). In his classic auto-biographical story, he recounts in highly personal terms the experiences, challenges, and values that guided his evolution into a scholar, labor activist, and world-class musician known as the Mexican American “Renaissance Man” of the 20th century.


Cristina Mora, Making Hispanics: How Activists, Bureaucrats & Media Constructed a New American (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014) 230 pp., $30.00

Buy: IndieBound, Amazon

Mora’s book combines analysis of ethnic identity, organizational role theory, influence of ethnic media, and astute political insight to document how the “Hispanic” category was conceived, constructed, and institutionalized in the 1980 census, the first to include a Latino identifier. The book illustrates key roles of Latino advocates, especially the National Council of La Raza (now UnidosUS), Census Bureau staff, and media moguls in creating a “pan-Hispanic” identity with significance beyond a statistical category.


Stella Pope Duarte, Raul H. Yzaguirre: Seated at the Table of Power (Mesa Arizona: Latino Book Publisher, 2016), 437 pp. $23.99.

Buy: IndieBound, Amazon

The essential biography of Raul Yzaguirre, who led the National Council of La Raza (now UnidosUS) from 1974 to 2004. Includes rare first-person insights and experiences about what it was like to grow up Mexican in South Texas in the 1950s and 1960s, and the early stages of what later became a national “pan-Hispanic” civil rights movement. The book outlines key challenges Yzaguirre faced in building the institution, as well as major policy achievements.


Mickey Ibarra and Maria Perez-Brown, Latino Leaders Speak: Personal Stories of Struggle and Triumph (Houston, TX: Arte Publico Press, 2017) 282 pp. $21.95

Buy: IndieBound, Amazon

This book includes personal stories of Latino elected officials Representatives Henry Bonilla and Luis Gutierrez, former HUD Secretaries Henry Cisneros and Mel Martinez, journalists Soledad O’Brien and Maria Hinojosa, advocates Dolores Huerta and UnidosUS President and CEO Janet Murguía, as well as corporate executives, sports figures, educators, and other notables. The book mainly draws from remarks at the Latino Leaders Network’s luncheon speaker series for the collection.


Edwin Melendez, State of Puerto Ricans 2017 (New York: Centro Press) 128 pp. $20.00.

Buy: Amazon

Melendez is a former member of the UnidosUS Board of Directors. This is an overview of the status of Puerto Ricans, on both the island and the mainland, covering persistent issues including education and poverty, but also relatively understudied topics such as out- and in-migration, racial and health disparities, and entrepreneurship. It demonstrates the perseverance and endurance of the Puerto Rican people despite a host of challenging circumstances.


Cristela Alonzo, Music to My Years: A Mixtape Memoir of Growing Up and Standing Up (Atria Books, 2019) 304 pp., $26.99

Buy: IndieBound, Amazon

Alonzo was a guest at the 2020 UnidosUS Annual Conference. Her book tells the story of growing up as Mexican American first-generation kid in Texas and about how she pursued comedy as a career.


Mariana Atencio, Perfectly You: Embracing the Power of Being Real (Thomas Nelson, Illustrated Addition, 2019) 272 pp., $26.99

Buy: IndieBound, Amazon

Atencio has participated in several UnidosUS events, including webinars and the 2019 UnidosUS Annual Conference. Her book tells the story of how she came to the United States from Venezuela as a young adult, and how she rose to become a bilingual correspondent for national outlets NBC News, Fusion TV, and Univision.


Charles Kamasaki, Immigration Reform: The Corpse That Will Not Die (Simsbury, CT: Mandel Vilar Press, 2019) 560 pp., $29.95

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Kamasaki is Senior Advisor to the Cabinet at UnidosUS. The book is a detailed chronicle of the legislative battle to enact the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 and its successors, told from the perspective of Latino advocates and their coalition allies. The book examines the broader structural forces shaping the debate, including demographics, politics, and race, and details how key ideas, institutions, and people can produce historic change against all odds.


Alicia Menendez, The Likeability Trap: How to Break Free and Succeed as You Are (Harper Business, 2019), 256 pp., $21.49

Buy: IndieBound, Amazon

Menendez has participated in both our 2017 and 2020 Annual Conferences. Her book, based on both research and lived experiences, focuses on how when women advocate for themselves in the workplace, they are seen as less likeable. Her book then moves on to empowering the reader to break this “likeability” mold.


Elizabeth Acevedo, Clap When You Land (Thorndike Striving Reader, Large Print Edition, 2020), 595 pp., $21.99 (Hardcover)

Buy: IndieBound, Amazon

Acevedo participated in the 2018 UnidosUS Annual Conference. While her novel-in-verse broadly deals with grief, it also focuses on family bonds, particularly as the two main characters—sisters—find each other in the wake of their father’s untimely death.


Ilia Calderon, My Time to Speak: Reclaiming Ancestry and Confronting Race (Atria Books, Illustrated Edition, 2020), 272 pp., $27.00 (Hardcover)

Buy: IndieBound, Amazon

Calderon participated in the 2018 and 2020 Annual Conferences. Her memoir is about her experience as a child in Colombia, and how she was able to become the first Afro-Latina to anchor a newscast for a major Hispanic news network in the United States.


Maria Hinojosa, Once I Was You: A Memoir of Love and Hate in a Torn America (Atria Books, Illustrated Edition, 2020), 350 pp., $28.00 (Hardcover)

Buy: IndieBound, Amazon

Hinojosa was previously awarded the Ruben Salazar Award for Communications, an award that is given every year at the UnidosUS Annual Conference to the individual who has dedicated their professional career to accurately portraying the Latino community in the media. Her book focuses on her own experience growing up as a Mexican immigrant in Chicago and calls on the reader to have a more holistic understanding of the United States’s immigration crisis.


Paola Mendoza and Abby Sher, Sanctuary (G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers, 2020), 320 pp., $17.99 (Hardcover)

Buy: IndieBound, Amazon

Mendoza participated in the 2019 UnidosUS Annual Conference. Her book takes place in 2032, in a dystopian future where everyone has been fitted with a microchip. Despite this, the main character’s family is undocumented, and when her mother’s counterfeit chip begins to fail, they must journey to California, a sanctuary state.


Cecilia Muñoz, More Than Ready: Be Strong and Be You…and Other Lessons for Women of Color on the Rise (New York: Seal Press, 2020) 213 pp., $28.00 (Hardcover)

Buy: IndieBound, Amazon

Muñoz is former Senior Vice President of UnidosUS. Her memoir vividly describes challenges faced by women of color in the halls of power in Washington, with Muñoz drawing on her own experience in the early days of her career as an advocate through her tenure as President Obama’s chief domestic policy advisor. The book also includes lessons from the experiences of other women of color who overcame similar challenges, and calls on fellow women of color in the workforce to recognize that their diverse perspectives are their most valuable assets.




Moctezuma Esparza, et. al., producers, The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez (Columbia Studios/Criterion Collection, original release 1982) DVD 1 hour, 46 minutes. $29.95

Buy: Amazon

This widely acclaimed film brings to life the true story of a Mexican American who is subjected to a massive manhunt by the Texas Rangers for an incident sparked by the mistranslation of a single word. Played by Edward James Olmos in one of his first starring roles, Cortez’s plight is set against a backdrop of systemic discrimination against people of Mexican descent in the Southwest endured for decades in the United States after the Mexican-American War. UnidosUS co-produced the feature film.


Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, Director, The Latino List Vols. 1&2 (New York: HBO Documentaries, 2012) 1 hr. 46 min. 2-disc DVD set, non-commercial version: $39.99

Watch Part 1 & Part 2

This series includes intimate, powerful portraits of 30 influential Latinos, including  former UnidosUS President and CEO Raul Yzaguirre and current President and CEO Janet Murguía, and others from culture, politics, business, and sports in their own words describing how the overcame poverty and discrimination to excel in their fields. Taken together, their stories challenge traditional frameworks around discussions of race today.


WETA, Latino Broadcasting Service, et. al., Latino Americans (Washington, DC: Public Broadcasting Service, 2013). Three-part, six-hour DVD set, $10.99 and streaming via PBS.

Buy: Amazon

This landmark television series covers the 500-year history of Hispanics in what is now the United States. The series also addresses how key racial and social justice topics including Manifest Destiny, the Mexican-American and Spanish-American wars, and the Latino civil rights movement have shaped the evolution of the nation’s largest ethnic minority. UnidosUS was among the major advocates of this documentary series.

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