Mexico is one of my favorite destinations; between visits, I pacify my wanderlust with Mexican travel writing. As an expat lit junkie, I especially enjoy the unique perspective provided by Mexico’s long-time foreign residents. Here are some of the best books about Mexico by written by expat authors.
By David Lida (2009)
A must-read if you are going to Mexico City. David Lida is an American journalist and writer who has called the city home since 1990. His writing offers enlightening insights into the Mexican culture and psyche. A fascinating series of chapters riffing on different aspects of life in the capital, from lucha libre to street food to strip clubs.
An inspiring collection of stories by a unique cast of women of all ages and backgrounds. A wide variety of firsthand experiences are represented, from a woman who works as a teacher in a prison, to one who volunteers in a squatter settlement and lives in an abandoned school bus, to a woman who is herself unjustly incarcerated in a Mexican jail. Engaging and easy to read as each story is only 10-15 pages.
John Ross, Beat poet, freelance journalist, and activist, spent 25 years living in a decrepit hotel in the Centro Histórico of Mexico City. This was his last book before dying of liver cancer in 2011 and his attempt to make sense of the chaotic metropolis he loved. Monstruo is a massive undertaking that presents a 5,000-year history of the city Ross called home. It’s a treasure trove of fascinating facts and evocative stories as well as a colorful left-wing diatribe. Others have noted minor inaccuracies in Ross’s reporting that should no doubt have been caught by an editor, but in my view the enormously entertaining storytelling made up for it. Recommended for anyone who has lived in or loves Mexico City.
Chick lit meets Mexpat lit. Witty memoir about the adventures and misadventures of a twentysomething Australian woman who moves to Mexico City to work as an English teacher. The author’s experiences and insights make a captivating, fun read. Her behind-the-scenes description of working as an extra on a Mexican telenovela is especially hilarious.
Delightful account of a Seattle family’s impulsive purchase of a house in San Miguel de Allende and how they grow to be part of their local Mexican community. Gille describes Mexico’s culture, history, and people with charm and insight. A compassionate, thoughtful look at the relationship between two countries.
By Jessica Abel (2008)
Written with Spanglish dialogue, this graphic novel features the story of Carla, an American estranged from her Mexican father, who moves to Mexico City on a whim to search for her identity. Along the way, she encounters a variety of colorful characters and is eventually dangerously exposed to the city’s criminal underbelly. An intense, suspenseful read.
Long-time Mexico City resident David Lida’s latest novel is a dark, gritty thriller set in Michoacán, Juárez, and the American South. The story follows Richard, a mitigation specialist who tries to save the lives of undocumented immigrants facing the death penalty in the United States, and Esperanza, an impoverished young Mexican woman accused of murdering her baby.
An addictive read. The interwoven stories are captivating and suspenseful and provide compassionate insight into the struggles of the Mexican rural poor. I also found it fascinating to learn more about the work of a mitigation specialist, a job I previously knew very little about. The book’s themes are even more relevant given our current political climate.
Touching, witty memoir by another San Miguel de Allende expat. The essays examine different aspects of Mexican culture and expatriate life in a loving way and with a large dose of self-deprecating humor. Many books have been written about San Miguel, but this is one of the best. Great for anyone considering traveling or living in Mexico.
Definitely not light vacation reading! This fictional short story collection provides a gritty, unforgiving exploration of the seamy side of life south of the border. The oft-disturbing, sometimes darkly funny stories examine cross-cultural clashes between Mexicans and foreigners and the predatory side of human nature, with a frequent focus on sexual victimization. I read this book a number of years ago and the stories have really stayed with me.
Laura Fraser is a freelance writer who divides her time between San Francisco and San Miguel de Allende. Disclaimer: Only the beginning and end of this book are set in Mexico, but her description of remodeling a tiny house in SMA is fascinating.
In this globe-hopping travel memoir, Laura confronts the disillusionment of reaching middle age without the loving husband and children she yearns for. Her honesty and vulnerability are captivating as she struggles with uncertainty, loneliness, and a traumatic assault in Samoa. Ultimately, Laura realizes the most important journey she must take is the one to reclaim her own life.
The only book on this list I haven’t read yet personally, but plan to soon. Author Francisco Goldman, the US-born son of a Guatemalan mother and a Jewish American father, has embraced Mexico City as his home.
This novel is partly a personal journey as Goldman tries to recover from the tragic death of his young Mexican wife in a freak accident, and part reporting on a chilling mass murder in DF that illustrates how narcoviolence and corruption have permeated every facet of Mexican life.
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