Gentle cabrones: Behold, it’s my annual Mexican Christmas guide, in which I recommend the best Mexi-themed libros for you to give to your loved ones this Navidad instead of yet another tamale to unwrap.
Buy them at your local bookstore, or order online—but do buy!
• #FuckCancer: The True Story of How Robert the Bold Kicked Cancer’s Ass: By day, Robert Flores is a butcher; in his spare time, Flores wrote a hilarious, gritty memoir about how he survived fourth-stage colon cancer. It’s perfect for the cancer survivor in your family, or anyone who appreciates Chicano DESMADRE. Buy it at roberttheboldstore.etsy.com.
• Dreamland: The True Tale of America’s Opiate Epidemic: In one of the most chilling books published in recent years, my mentor-friend Sam Quinones tells a two-part story about how gabacho America got hooked on heroin—on one hand, from pharmaceuticals; on the other mano, via Mexicans from Nayarit. It’s more gripping and infuriating than any episode of The Wire.
• The Chili Cookbook: A History of the One-Pot Classic, With Cook-off Worthy Recipes From Three-Bean to Four-Alarm and Con Carne to Vegetarian: A Texas-sized book name worthy of another mentor-friend of mine: Robb Walsh, the greatest chronicler of Tex-Mex cuisine ever. This is a great cookbook that reminds the Baylessistas that chili is the original regional Mexican dish in el Norte.
• Californio Lancers: The 1st Battalion of Native Cavalry in the Far West, 1863–1866: The next time some Trump supporter says Mexicans don’t fight for this country, point them to this groundbreaking work. It’s a fascinating tale of Californios—the Mexicans conquered by the Estados Unidos during the Mexican-American War—serving the Union instead of the Confederates, in contrast to their pendejo Tejano cousins.
• Corrido! The Living Ballad of Mexico’s Western Coast: The University of New Mexico Press returns with another stunning songbook, this one focusing on the musical traditions of Mexico’s Costa Chica and Costa Grande region. Dump your son jarocho CD already, and refry THIS.
• Shameful Victory: The Los Angeles Dodgers, the Red Scare, and the Hidden History of Chavez Ravine: Everyone has a vague idea of how Los Angeles leaders kicked out a bunch of Mexicans to build Dodger Stadium. But this University of Arizona Press book tells the tale in all of its shameful details. A must for sports fans and yaktivists alike.
• The Chicano Generation: Testimonios of the Movement: Mario T. Garcia is the most influential Chicano Studies scholar you’ve never heard of, and remains that rare academic who can actually write. For his latest University of California book, he provides in-depth conversations with unsung Los Angeles activists. Essential reading.
• Images of the Mexican American in Fiction and Film: Your oldie-but-goodie pick for the year. The late Arthur G. Pettit documented how Americans have ruthlessly stereotyped Mexis since the 1830s with tropes that still exist today (e.g. the spicy señorita, the clown). The fact that depictions of Mexis in Hollywood and the media have only gotten worse since this libro’s printing in 1980 shows what an unsung masterpiece it is.
• Los Lobos: Dream in Blue: Leave it to the University of Texas Press—perhaps the best non-UC academic press in the country—to publish the first book on the Chicano rock gods. Now, if only I could get on their regular mailing list … HA!
• ¡Ask a Mexican!; Orange County: A Personal History; and Taco USA: How Mexican Food Conquered America: Because DUH!
Ask the Mexican at firstname.lastname@example.org; be his fan on Facebook; follow him on Twitter @gustavoarellano; or follow him on Instagram @gustavo_arellano!