22 Classic and Contemporary Female Latin American Authors to Read

Owing to the male-centric nature of most lists of Latin American writers, I thought I’d make one of just women. All of the authors here either have books available in English or soon-to-be available. Enjoy!

ps. I understand this list doesn’t include authors from a lot of Latin American countries. It’s challenging! Not that many are translated, and some of the ones that are aren’t authors I would necessarily recommend. If you think there’s someone I should look into, please let us all know in the comments.

Gabriela Mistral [1889]

Chilean poet widely known for being the first female Latin American to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature (1945).

Dulce María Loynaz [1902]

Major Cuban lyric poet who was largely forgotten after the rise of Castro. Rediscovered with the awarding of the Cervantes Prize in 1992. Archipelago will soon release a selected, Absolute Solitude.

Silvina Ocampo [1903]

Argentine poet, short story writer, and novelist, known for being a part of Borges’s inner circle. NYRB Classics released a sizable volume of her stories, Thus Were Their Faces, and a volume of her poetry, Silvina Ocampo. There is much left to translate.

Clarice Lispector [1920]

Central figure of Brazilian literature in the 20th century, and an author who has finally emerged as a major writer in English translation. Many find Hour of the Star her best.

Rosario Castellanos [1925]

Major Mexican poet and novelist of the 20th century. The Book of Lamentations is considered a central work.

Hilda Hilst [1930]

Major Brazilian novelist known for her fragmentary books dealing with insanity and the surreal. Start with Letters from a Seducer.

Elena Poniatowska [1932]

Major Mexican author in multiple genres spanning novels, journalism, and creative nonfiction. I like Massacre in Mexico, among others.

Alejandra Pizarnik [1936]

Quite possibly Argentina’s greatest poet. An intimate of Silvina Ocampo, as well as a friend of Cortázar and Octavio Paz in Paris. Several volumes of her poetry have been recently released, with The Stone of Madness the largest.

Luisa Valenzuela [1938]

Major Argentine novelist and short story writer of the “post-Boom” generation. Dark, often transgressive and fragmentary fictions, particularly in response to the dictatorship of 1976-82. I liked He Who Searches.

Gioconda Belli [1948]

Major Nicaraguan poet and novelist, highly active in the Sandinista struggle against the Somoza dictatorship. Her novel The Inhabited Woman is considered a groundbreaking work for the gender issues it raises.

Daisy Zamora [1950]

Major Nicaraguan poet. Riverbed of Memory was published in English translation in 1992.

Giannina Braschi [1953]

Puerto Rican author widely credited as authoring the first Spanglish novel, Yo-Yo Boing!, in 1998. Her United States of Banana is a look at the United States post-9/11.

Carmen Boullosa [1954]

Major postwar Mexican author with over 40 books in various genres. A handful of novels have been translated, as well as Narco History: How Mexico and the United States Jointly Created the Mexican Drug War, co-authored with her Pulitzer Prize-winning husband Mike Wallace.

Cristina Rivera Garza [1964]

Prolific Mexican writer in multiple genres whose strange, hyrbid texts create a sense of their own reality. The only author to ever win the Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz Prize twice. No One Will See Me Cry was published in 2003.

Lina Meruane [1970]

Established Chilean novelist with a dozen works in various genres, just beginning to emerge in English translation. Seeing Red is the first and has garnered strong praise.

Adriana Lisboa [1970]

Mid-career Brazilian novelist whose Symphony in White received the 2003 Jose Saramago Prize.

Guadalupe Nettel [1973]

Established Mexican novelist, short story writer, and essayist. The Body Where I was Born was the first novel of hers to be translated.

Angélica Freitas [1973]

Major Brazilian poet whose Rilke Shake was published last year, marking her first collection translated into English.

Mariana Enriquez [1973]

Emerging Argentine writer whole collection of gothic short stories, The Things We Lost in the Fire, was acquired by Portobello Books last year.

Pola Oloixarac [1977]

Emerging Argentine novelist whose Las teorías salvajes is currently being translated into English.

Samanta Schweblin [1978]

Contemporary Argentine author attracting a lot of attention for her first two works, Párajos in la boca and Distancía de rescate. Some stories are translated but no full book is yet available, although that situation will soon change.

Valeria Luiselli [1983]

Emerging Mexican novelist with two novels and a volume of essays, all available in English translation. Start with Faces in the Crowd.


‏@StephenHenighan: I’d add Teresa de la Parra (Venezuela), just for *Ifigenia*. And Cristina Peri Rossi (Uruguay) & Liliana Heker (Argentina).

Jeremy Davies: Josefina Vicens! A thousand times Josefina Vicens.

Will Vanderhyden: I’d offer two personal favorites whose books are not yet available in English, but it’s only a matter of time: Mónica Ríos and Fernanda García Lao.
Also: Carolina Sanín.
Also: Claudia Salazar Jiménez.
Diamela Eltit is also excellent and has several books available in English translation.

Chris Clarke: One more that I’ve always had a soft spot for: Maria Luisa Bombal, from Chile. A few translated back in the 80s or so.

Emi Del Marx: I would like to add three major poets. From New Spain: Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651-1695). From Uruguay: Juana de Ibarbourou (1892-1979). And from Mexico: Coral Bracho (1951).

@bythefirelight: I think Elena Garro. The story La culpa es de los tlaxcaltecas is a classic

Edmundo Paz Soldán: Emma Reyes

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Hi. I would like to add three major poets. From New Spain: Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz (1651-1695). From Uruguay: Juana de Ibarbourou (1892-1979). And from Mexico: Coral Bracho (1951).

Terrific list – several names here are new to me. I’d add a vote for Bombal – her House of Mist & The Shrouded Woman, published by University of Texas back in the mid-90s, is still in print.

“Isabel Allende (1942-present, Chile). Actually born in Peru, at age three she moved to her mother’s native Chile. A successful news reporter in her twenties, she and her family fled to Venezuela after General Augusto Pinochet deposed and executed her uncle Salvador Allende, setting up a dictatorship. Her formal literary career began at age 40, when she published The House of the Spirits, a magic realist work that chronicles several generations of the Trueba family. Other works of fiction include the short-story collection Eva Luna (1989) and Paula (1995), which detailed Allende’s care for her terminally ill daughter.”–https://www.naqt.com/YouGottaKnow/latin-american-authors.html

I just finished her novel “Eva Luna”. It was really good. :)

I must add three more names in the list of prominent female Latin American authors, the first two well established and the last name showing a lot of promise for the future – Ana Maria Shua (Argentina), Claribel Alegria (Nicaragua) and Alicia Borinsky (Argentina). I am from India and so must admit that I don’t know either Spanish or Portuguese to read Latin American literature in the original. So my conclusions are based on reading English translations of these immensely talented authors

Wendy Guerra, Cuban writer and novelist. Her semi- autobiography about being a child during the days of the Revolution was recently made into a film, Everybody Leaves.


The Surrender is Veronica Scott Esposito’s “collection of facts” concerning how she embraced her true gender.


Two long essays of 10,000 words each on sex in—and out of—literature . . .

The first essay dives in to Nicholson Baker’s “sex trilogy,” explaining just what Baker is up to here and why these books ultimately fail to be as sexy as Baker might wish.

From there the book moves on to the second essay, which explains just why Spaniard Javier Marías does right what Baker does wrong . . .


5 essays. 2 interviews.

All in all, over 25,000 words of Latin American literary goodness.

3 never-before-published essays, including “The Digression”—a 4,000-word piece on the most important digression in César Aira’s career.

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