Haunting Books to Read This October
As my friends will tell you, I am a scaredy-cat. I might jump at the sight of my own shadow if it's dark outside. Many of my beloved friends love Halloween; love like they've been preparing for it since July, so I'm always trying to understand the excitement. Fall weather, sure, I get it. Cozy sweaters, absolutely. Watching light horror like, Over the Garden Wall, oh yes. But things that jump out or scream or extreme violence in movies, I can't get behind. That being said, I think I understand when I read haunting, uncanny, or straight up scary stories especially when they house everyday monsters or when they contain reflections of the ghosts and demons that haunt our society. This is the case with several of the stories in the outstanding anthology A Night of Screams: Latino Horror Stories edited by Richard Z. Santos. The books below are a small fraction of the haunting, eerie, and horror books by Latinx writers that have come out in recent years.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that it's been an exciting year for Latinx Horror writers. For the first time in the history of the Bram Stoker Awards, which have been around since 1988, Latinx writers have won awards for their books. Yes, that's right I said books— plural— Cynthia Pelayo won for her Poetry book Crime Scene (Raw Dog Screaming Press) and Gabino Iglesias won for his novel The Devil Takes You Home (Mullholland Press). As Pedro Iniguez writes in his introduction on the Horror Writers Association's website for Latinx Horror Month 2023, "As the highest profile award in the genre, it is a validating win for the entire Latinx community." I encourage you to take a look at their spotlight series posted during Hispanic Heritage Month.
Bram Stoker Winners
Raw Dog Screaming Press
“In Crime Scene, Cynthia Pelayo dips her quill in a secret wound of pain that not all writers are brave enough to explore. Unflinching and raw, Crime Scene is a harrowing exploration of human suffering and firmly establishes Pelayo as one of the most exciting and original poets working today.”
— Eric LaRocca, author of Things Have Gotten Worse Since We Last Spoke and Other Misfortunes
"Vintage noir, with an air of “Heart of Darkness,” played at America’s Southern border, for all the racism and heartache that implies. (Iglesias calls it “barrio noir.”) What you’re not expecting is magic realism (and that bit of horror) paired to pitch-dark crime fiction about cyclical violence."
— Chicago Tribune
Arte Público Press
"Santos (Trust Me) brings together 18 stories and four poems for a wide-ranging anthology that demonstrates the hybridity of the horror genre. Santos states in his editor’s note that he aimed to include “a little bit of everything,” and he certainly succeeds. The strongest pieces combine paranormal frights with social horrors like racism, machismo, and the struggle of migrant workers....
Ranging from unsettling to all-out macabre, this anthology delivers more than just the typical jump scare."
edited by Yamile Saied Méndez, Amparo Ortiz
Algonquin Young Readers
"Fifteen Latinx authors reimagine Latin American folklore across myriad genres in this bone-chilling anthology that’s both queer-inclusive and represents myriad facets of Latinx diaspora... Each individual offering is brimming with ominous ambiance, making this a worthy addition to any horror collection."
— Publishers Weekly
“Candelaria is a thrilling ride. Melissa Lozada-Oliva captures with deft humor the lives of a matriarch and her brood of daughters and granddaughters as they survive addiction, patriarchy, capitalism, natural disasters, and zombies. Reading Lozada-Oliva’s work is like attending a family reunion, one where you hang in the backyard smoking a joint with your favorite cousin. Melissa is a smart, compassionate, and hilarious writer. I will read anything she writes.”
— Alejandro Varela, author of the 2022 National Book Award finalist The Town of Babylon
“A wholly immersive, relentlessly tense, and deeply felt exploration of what it means to be a monster. Isabel Cañas writes with a historian’s eye and a storyteller’s heart, achieving both a haunting critique of colonialism and a riveting, star-crossed love story. With vampires! A generous, wildly entertaining novel that invites me further into my own history—I am grateful for this book.”
— Katie Gutierrez, bestselling author of More Than You’ll Ever Know
University of Arizona Press
“Extended Stay is a strange, haunting, creepy read that brings together supernatural horror with the worst horrors of the real world. Martinez is a talented storyteller, and the dark core of this novel pulls readers in to reveal a collection of shattered lives and a collective shattered reality.”
— Gabino Iglesias, author of The Devil Takes You Home and Coyote Songs
[Note: Tirado's debut Burn Down, Rise Up was nominated for a Bram Stoker Award and is a 2023 Pura Belpré Award-winning young adult novel! Highly recommend reading that book as well.]
"Breathtaking and uncanny, like drowning on dry land. We Don't Swim Here swept me down into its murky depths and held me there as Vincent Tirado illuminated all the horrors that lurk beneath the surface. I'm never going swimming again."
— Ryan La Sala, bestselling author of The Honeys
“Hip as hell, Silver Nitrate delivers a cinematic and exhilarating punch. Silvia Moreno-Garcia does it again with this creepy and unforgettable occult thriller, teeming with the decadence of old horror movies. I felt cooler just reading it.”
—Kali Fajardo-Anstine, bestselling author of Woman of Light and Sabrina & Corina
Poetry & Hybrid Books
“Adrian Ernesto Cepeda's poems always leave me breathless; We Are the Ones Possessed is no different. The lines can be mistakenly simple but say so much—like watching snow fall over a lake. Lines like “I suggest we roll down/the windows, reverse/our front seat” create gorgeous images while also narrating the mundane yet poignant moments in our lives. This book tells us how we possess ourselves and others—and how no one gets away unscathed.”
— Joanna C. Valente, author of A LOVE STORY, No(body), Sexting Ghosts, and Sirs & Madams
“There is an awareness that, nestled within our dormant DNA, we have our own monster within, just waiting for the chance to be free. Leticia Urieta’s Las Criaturas is the culmination of all those stories. We are lucky to have this book.”
— jo reyes boitel, author of mouth and Michael+Josephine
Just Because October Ends Doesn't Mean you Can't Keep Reading Haunting Books So Here's One to Look Out for Summer 2024
"Lima lures readers into surreal pockets of the United States and Brazil where they’ll find bite-size Americans in vending machines and the ghosts of people who are not dead. Once there, she speaks to modern Brazilian-American immigrant experiences–of ambition, fear, longing, and belonging—and reveals the porousness of storytelling and of the places we call home.
With humor, an exquisite imagination, and a voice praised as “singular and wise and fresh” (Cathy Park Hong), Lima joins the literary lineage of Bulgakov and Lispector and the company of writers today like Ted Chiang, Carmen Maria Machado, and Nana Kwame Adjei-Brenyah."