Growing up, I had that Tio that I think every Latine/x family has. The one that tells you stories, and not just any stories—but stories packed with ghosts, monsters and unexplainable things that go bump in the night. You see, my Tio grew up in a rural farm area, el rancho, and when night hit, you couldn’t even see your hand right in front of you. It’s from this setting that most of his stories stemmed. Stories he swore to us as children were true, that even when I ran out to ask my Mamá if her brother was telling us the truth, she would say “absolutely, let me tell you how I remember it.”
I spent much of my childhood, and well into my adulthood, hungry for creepy, disturbing and spooky stories, but I often felt let down because none of those stories were told in the way that felt most familiar to me: the way my Tio would tell them. Well that was true until about a few years ago when I read my first horror novella by Argentianian author Samanta Schweblin, and later when I powered my way through horror and disturbing short stories by Mariana Enriquez. So in honor of them and my Tio, I decided to bring you all a list of some of the best creepy, disturbing and spooky Latin/e/x authored being published this year, that illustrate the power of Latin/e/x storytelling.
Paradais by Fernanda Melchor
In our society we often want to believe evil happens naturally; that someone is born evil and not made evil due to their circumstances. It’s never clear which one it is. In Paradis, Melchor explores this through two very different but similar teens characters, Polo and Franco. Melchor fans will tell you that her power is in exhuming the mundane to unveil the macabre, and this novel does just that.
Our Share of Night by Mariana Enriquez
I mentioned above that I powered through Mariana Enriquez’s short story collection The Dangers of Smoking in Bed—but I didn’t mention that I did so with the lights on. Enriquez’s subtle yet arresting illustrative prose not only jumps out at you when you least expect, it dominates your mind long after you’ve set the book down. In her new 609-page novel, she gives us a secret vampiric cult society wrapped in a story about a family, with grief at the center.
The Hacienda by Isabel Cañas
My inner teenager was really drawn to this one, because for a while I was obsessed with the Mexican War of Independence. So to have this novel set in the aftermath of the war, in what seems like a haunted hacienda, was truly the perfect Mexican historical horror story I never knew I needed. Theres nothing like a spooky scary ghost story that also gives you some insight, or even just curiosity about history.
The Devil Takes You Home by Gabino Iglesias
If the title didn’t scare you off, like it almost did me, the rest of the story might—but before it does it’ll grab a hold of you and drag you along. This part supernatural/horror and part crime novel doesn’t really fit within a genre neatly, but that is exactly what makes it a page turner. At the center of the novel is Mario, a father who ends up in deep debt because his daughter has leukemia. Left to make a difficult choice after being dealt a hard life blow, he embarks on a dangerous misson to hijack a cartel’s cash shipment. It’s a journey of a novel.
Jawbone by Monica Ojeda
Often the sweetness and innocence of female friendships is centered in stories—well, it is in this one as well, sort of, but things get twisted between teen best friends Fernanda and Annelise. We are also introduced to their English teach, Miss Clara, who has one foot in reality and the other in her own world of obsession. This one is less on the spooky vibes and more so on the disturbing side. In fact, I could easily say it’s not for everyone but if you give yourself into it, you might surprise yourself by enjoying the disturbing; though don’t try to read too much into why!
Our Shadows Have Claws: 15 Latin American Monster Stories Edited by Yamile Saled Méndez and Amparo Ortiz
This collection brings to mind my childhood; a short story collection my brother and I were obsessed with called Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark. Now, if you grew up in the ’90s you know exactly the book and exactly why we were all obsessed—it was scary enough and it included illustrations that were just as spooky! Well, Our Shadows Have Claws adds in a new level of perfection and my inner child is celebrating! It features some of the same mythology and stories my Tio would tell us growing up. It’s got a little bit of everything and illustrations as well, so you can read these stories with the littles in your life during spooky season or enjoy them a story at a time on your own.
Mestiza Blood by V. Castro
Continuing into short story collections, I absolutely needed to include Mestiza Blood because it spoke to the me now—the one looking for all the Chicana literature. Though I was excited about the fact that this collection centered on the Chicana experience and includes Mexican folklore, what really stood out was the imagery, the gruesome descriptions that often imprinted images in the brain. Things got so graphic so quickly and this one is definitely one of the more disturbing ones on the list—so prepare yourself accordingly!
The Night by Rodrigo Blanco Calderón
The setting of this book was what immediately drew me in because I personally havent read many books set in Caracas, Venezuela. This multi-narrator novel contains different perspectives of characters—writers, poets, psychiatrists and many more during recurring blackouts in Caracas. You don’t often know if these characters sharing their perspective are real or telling the actual story of what is occurring during these blackouts, and I think personally that is what keeps a reader hooked.
Seven Empty Houses by Samanta Schweblin
Oh boy do I love a Schweblin book—it could be a novella like Fever Dream that creeps you out so much you don’t even know what you are actually scared of, or it could be her novel Little Eyes that makes you afraid of the thing we all can’t seem to let go of the most: technology. Either way, any Schweblin book packs a punch and the newest story collection, Seven Empty Houses, does as well. But this time Schweblin centers around home—the houses we dwell in—and let’s just say I might suggest reading this one at a coffee shop during the day!
The Daughter of Doctor Moreau by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
This list wouldnt be complete if I didnt include Moreno-Garcia. If you haven’t heard of her hit book-turned-future Hulu series Mexican Gothic, this is the perfect time to catch up. Similar to that gothic/horror novel you can expect there to be underlining messages and commentaries on reality that are more scary than any actual imagined monsters or ghosts or the hauntings Morena-Garcia writes about. Though in this one there are plenty monsters to be expected with the scientific experiments run by Dr. Moreau.