Erika L. Sánchez Book Recommendations
PORTRAIT BY Adriana Díaz / ILLUSTRATION BY YOUSRA ATTIA
Welcome to Shelf Life, ELLE.com’s book column, where authors share their most memorable reads. Whether you’re looking for a book to console you, move you deeply, or make you laugh, consider a recommendation from the writers in our series, who, like you (because you’re here), love books. Maybe one of their favorite titles will also become one of yours.
Edgar Allan Poe inspired Erika L. Sánchez to be a poet at age 12, and she published her first book of poetry in 2017 to wide acclaim. A producer reading “Oh Hells Nah!” blog asked her about a novel at age 28, and also in 2017 she published the NYT bestseller I’m not your perfect Mexican girl, a National Book Award finalist and an upcoming Netflix movie directed by America Ferrera. (Sánchez serves as a co-producer; the YA title has also been adapted as a stage play and audio play by the Steppenwolf Theatre). Now she’s out with her essay memoir Cry in the bathroom (Viking).
The daughter of Mexican immigrants, the Chicago-based author and poet went to the University of Illinois at Chicago, earned her master’s degree in creative writing from the University of New Mexico, wrote poetry and taught English in college in Madrid as a Fulbright Scholar, was a Princeton Arts Fellow, and teaches in the Department of Latin American and Latin American Studies at DePaul University.
A lawyer and activist for reproductive rights, immigration and mental health, she is a Buddhist, once wrote an advice column on sex and love for Cosmopolitan for Latinashas a dog named Snow Princess and a cat named Simone, starts a podcast called “No Chingues”, sews/glues/paints/makes jewelry, and has a sandwich named after her at the Chicago Bagel Authority called Erika L. Sancheez, with prosciutto and swiss, blue, muenster and gouda (slogan: this isn’t your perfect Mexican bagel.)
Likes: Lisa Simpson, mules/sneakers with dress socks, 5 Rabanitos, Chicana artist Judithe Herandez, Bad Bunny; 90 day fiance fallout, naps of rage. Impossible: nutty cheeses, sweet tamales, Chicago’s enthusiasm for issuing speeding/parking tickets. Start your TBR list with his recs below.
The book that…
…made me miss my train stop:
The Karamazov brothers by Fyodor Dostoyevsky because it is devastating and poetic. Boy, these Russians can write.
… took my whole life for a few days:
Animal by Lisa Taddeo. I may have neglected my family during this time!
… made me cry uncontrollably:
Collect the bones by Jesmyn Ward because I loved the protagonist and her family so much and was afraid of what would happen to them throughout the novel.
…I recommend again and again:
A hundred years of loneliness by Gabriel García Márquez because it is perfectly written.
… shaped my view of the world:
fire next time by James Baldwin because it reframed my understanding of race in America.
…I swear I will one day finish:
Hopscotch by Julio Cortazar. I stopped and started several times, but I think I was not in the right frame of mind.
… I would pass on to my child:
A house of mine by Sandra Cisneros because I want her to see that although a life in the arts isn’t easy for a woman, it is totally possible.
… made me laugh out loud:
We never meet in real life by Samantha Irby because she’s a comedic genius who made her asshole a fascinating character.
… I bought for the last time:
Memphis by Tara M. Stringfellow. I’m almost done, but I like to extend the ending when I’m enjoying a book.
…has the best opening lines:
“They shoot the white girl first, but for the rest they can take their time. No need to hurry here,” Heaven by Toni Morrison. How not to continue reading after that?
…has the best title:
Their eyes looked at God by Zora Neale Hurston. It’s so poetic and perfect and I can’t get it out of my head.
… I never went back to my high school library:
Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck because I hated school and was too broke to buy it myself. (I read this for fun.)
…has sex scenes that made me gasp:
Heaven because the desire was so forbidden and visceral.
…gives me the impression of being seen:
For brunette girls with sharp edges and soft hearts by Prisca Dorcas Mojica Rodríguez because it is the first non-fiction book that truly breaks down the trauma that many of us children of immigrants experience and cannot articulate.
… fills me with hope:
When things fall apart by Pema Chödrön because he taught me to make sense of despair.
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