Welcome to our horror adjacent curation station! What is horror adjacent, you ask? Well, I go into more detail about that here, but in all honesty, it’s different for everyone. Because what scares you is subjective—and that’s what makes horror such a diverse and fascinating genre to begin with! Horror-adjacent reads might not blow your pants off with the scare factor, but they are still interested in dark themes, difficult ideas, real-world issues, and pushing the envelope of what speculative fiction can be.
For this post, I’ve collected horror-adjacent reads by Latinx authors to celebrate Latinx Heritage Month (9/15–10/15). From a feminist story collection to coming-of-age tales to novels tackling issues like immigration, toxic masculinity, gender identity, and more, take a look at this list and fill up your TBRs!
The Children by Carolina Sanín
Set in Colombia, this novel is “a haunting fable of fantasy, mystery, and bureaucracy.” It follows Laura Romero, who finds a mysterious six-year-old boy, Fidel, outside her apartment one night. Focusing on themes of loneliness, motherhood, and the failure of governmental systems, this allegorical tale offers a poetic look at disquieting truths.
Her Body and Other Parties: Stories by Carmen Maria Machado
This short story collection had a lot of horror fans sitting up and paying attention when it came out, and now Machado is an author whose books we anxiously await. From a reimagining of an uncanny classic tale about a woman with a ribbon around her throat to a piece about women slowing vanishing from sight to a story that ruminates on struggles with body image, Machado turns to the speculative to grapple with difficult real-life issues. Through stunning prose and incisive commentary, this is a queer, feminist, and thoroughly genuine collection. It asks difficult questions that there aren’t always clear answers to—but perhaps the answer is more in the willingness to ask the questions at all.
Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor
Melchor’s ferocious prose displays a huge talent, and one that she is using to open up a conversation about things that are generally kept in the dark. Violence against women, homophobia, police brutality, male privilege and toxic masculinity, rape, pedophilia, superstition, deep-seated prejudices, and more are confronted in these pages. Page after page, the reader is assaulted with a wall of text, unending dark thoughts and senseless violence. This barrage of language (a stunning feat of translation) only compounds the oppressive atmosphere created by the content. Yes, this book offers an uncomfortable reading experience, but that doesn’t mean it is one we should shy away from.
The Iliac Crest by Cristina Rivera Garza
This book is “a Gothic tale of destabilized male-female binaries and subverted literary tropes,” and if that doesn’t make you want it immediately, I don’t know what will! Exploring the shapeshifting nature of perspective and the meaning of reality, the story begins on the ubiquitous dark and stormy night “when two mysterious women invade an unnamed narrator’s house, where they proceed to ruthlessly question their host’s gender and identity. The increasingly frantic protagonist fails to defend his supposed masculinity and eventually finds himself in a sanatorium.”
Itzá by Rios de la Luz
This debut novella is a dark coming-of-age story centering around two sisters, Marisol and Araceli, who are water witches living near the US–Mexico border. Team member Tracy says: “the author melds horrible life experiences like rape and racism with the strong and beautiful lives of these girls. The politics and trauma are there; they are an inextricable part of their lives and de la Luz shies away from none of it.”
Little Eyes by Samanta Schweblin
Samanta Schweblin is truly a writer who dances to the beat of her own drum. Little Eyes, a more straightforward tale than her novella Fever Dream, is about cute, fluffy electronic toys that look like pandas, bunnies, dragons, and more. They are called kentukis and they move around on their own just like a little pet. The catch? (Or maybe it’s the draw. . .) They are controlled by another person from somewhere in the world who can watch everything you do. The book explores voyeurism, drawing parallels to our modern obsession with social media, and how that can become less fun and more creepy.
Lobizona by Romina Garber
This YA novel (with a sequel already on the way!) follows Manuela, an undocumented immigrant living in Florida, hiding from her dead father’s Argentine crime–family. When she delves into her family’s history, she encounters “a world straight out of Argentine folklore, where the seventh consecutive daughter is born a bruja and the seventh consecutive son is a lobizón, a werewolf.” Offering an overlap of fantasy with reality, this novel isn’t afraid to discuss crucial topics like racial prejudice and immigration.
Summer of the Mariposas by Guadalupe Garcia McCall
This YA coming-of-age story riffs on Homer’s The Odyssey (with a side of “The Body” by Stephen King), but with a decided twist of Latinx sisterhood. It follows the four Garza sisters who find a dead body in the river and, with La Llorona as their guide, they set off across the border into Mexico with the goal to return him to his family. Though the story is lighthearted (as the title implies), the mix of Latinx lore and magical beasts like chupacabras with the real-life struggles the girls face will make this one appeal to the horror-adjacent reader.
Untamed Shore by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
If you read Mexican Gothic, then you probably have the fever for Moreno-Garcia’s work. But did you know that she published another book this year? This coming-of-age crime thriller is set in Mexico, where Viridiana longs for the glamour of Hollywood. When three wealthy American tourists arrive, Viridiana gets mixed up in much more than she bargained for. This character-driven story proves that Moreno-Garcia can write in any genre—and she is more than happy to blend genre lines, making her books perfect for the speculative fiction fan.