In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Young Adult Literature

  • Introduction
  • General Overviews
  • Compilations
  • Classic Coming-of-Age Narratives
  • Modern Coming-of-Age Narratives
  • Immigration
  • Bicultural Identity
  • Education
  • Growing Up Male
  • Moral Reasoning
  • Urban Adolescence
  • Gangs
  • Love, Sex, and Desire
  • Growing Up Gay and Lesbian
  • Trauma Narratives
  • Poetry
  • Paranormal Fiction

Latino Studies Young Adult Literature
Phillip Serrato
  • LAST REVIEWED: 28 April 2017
  • LAST MODIFIED: 19 March 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199913701-0030


Young-adult literature typically refers to texts written for and usually about adolescents. In some cases, a text not specifically written for a young-adult readership might be folded into the genre, owing to its stylistic accessibility or content that resonates with adolescent experiences. Young-adult literature conventionally features teenage protagonists growing up and coming of age by confronting and working through an array of issues endemic to adolescence. Matters of family, friends, sex, sexuality, drugs, and religious faith are commonly incorporated. The narrative outcome in young-adult literature tends to be the attainment of some type of resolution of these matters via a protagonist’s arrival at some understanding of the conflict. All the while, the protagonist’s ability to fashion a sense of self, a sense of place in the community, and a sense of future is usually at stake. While Latino/a young-adult literature features the usual characteristics that one finds in young-adult literature, culturally specific content and concerns distinguish it. These texts often feature adolescent protagonists dealing with racism or cultural identity. Protagonists might also confront social issues that often plague Latino communities, such as poverty, drugs, and gangs. Matters of family and sex frequently weigh on protagonists in culturally specific ways. To accommodate and articulate the diverse experiences of contemporary Latino/a youth, authors have not only ventured into different subjects; they have also experimented with and within different genres, including trauma fiction, poetry, and the graphic novel. In the late 20th and early 21st centuries some authors have explored new possibilities in paranormal fiction for teens. Overall, because the same themes that characterize young-adult literature generally also appear in Latino/a young-adult literature specifically, Latino/a young-adult literature can be seen as holding universal relevance and appeal at the same time that, in its reflection of Latino/a experiences, it carries a special significance for Latino/a adolescent readers.

General Overviews

Growing numbers of scholars, educators, and librarians have taken an interest in Latino/a young-adult literature. Awareness of and sensitivity to the history of stereotypes and other malicious distortions of Latinos/Latinas not just in children’s and adolescent literature but in American popular culture more generally subtend contemporaneous criticism. Many critics also emphasize the importance of the availability of multicultural literature. Barry 1998 provides an introduction to some of the salient concerns that should be considered when evaluating representations of Latinos/Latinas in children’s and young-adult literature. Medina 2006 maps out some of the distinguishing characteristics of Latino/a literature for younger readers. Day 2003 is a useful resource for background information on Latino/a authors and for bibliographies of their work. While the publication date of Frankson 1990 somewhat limits its utility as a bibliographic source, it presents a useful historical overview of texts published in the 1970s and the 1980s.

  • Barry, Arlene L. “Hispanic Representation in Literature for Children and Young Adults.” Journal of Adolescent & Adult Literacy 41.8 (1998): 630–637.

    This essay examines shortcomings and problems in representations of Latinos/Latinas in children’s and young-adult literature. Besides exploring the nature and the effects of these representations, Barry considers some of the reasons behind these representations. She concludes by offering some possible remedies.

  • Day, Frances Ann. Latina and Latino Voices in Literature: Lives and Works. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 2003.

    Day provides profiles and bibliographies (with annotations) for thirty-five Latina/o writers of literature for children and young adults. Entries include biographical information and overviews of the themes of authors’ works. Appendices include overviews of different resources and awards.

  • Frankson, Marie Stewart. “Chicano Literature for Young Adults: An Annotated Bibliography.” English Journal 79.1 (1990): 30–38.

    DOI: 10.2307/818901

    Frankson offers one of the first annotated bibliographies of Chicano/a young-adult literature. This work’s publication in 1990 means that it is a slightly dated resource, but as such it is helpful for discovering earlier texts and putting together a history of the genre. The inclusion of certain works in this annotated bibliography raises some questions, because they do not really fall within the category of literature for young adults.

  • Medina, Carmen L. “Interpreting Latino/a Literature as Critical Fictions.” ALAN Review 33.2 (2006): 71–77.

    With a keen interest in the critical potential of Latino/a literature for young readers, Medina provides an overview of some of the primary tendencies of this literature and of the issues that broaden the scope of this literature. In all, Medina works to present Latino/a literature for young readers as a dynamic body of literature.

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