Cool Salsa Bilingual Poems on Growing Up Latino in the United States

Edited by Lori M. Carlson; Introduction by Oscar Hijuelos

Square Fish



Trade Paperback

160 Pages



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ALA Best Book for Young Adults
Bulletin Blue Ribbon Book
Horn Book Fanfare
School Library Journal Best Book
Hungry Mind Review Children's Book of Distinction
NCSS-CBS Notable Children's Trade Book in the Social Studies

Growing up Latino in America means speaking two languages, living two lives, learning the rules of two cultures. Cool Salsa celebrates the tones, rhythms, sounds, and experiences of that double life. Here are poems about families and parties, insults and sad memories, hot dogs and mangos, the sweet syllables of Spanish and the snag-toothed traps of English. Here is the glory and pain of being Latino American.

Latino Americans hail from Cuba and California, Mexico and Michigan, Nicaragua and New York, and editor Lori M. Carlson has made sure to capture all of those accents. With poets such as Sandra Cisneros, Martín Espada, Gary Soto, and Ed Vega, and a very personal introduction by Oscar Hijuelos, this collection encompasses the voices of Latino America. By selecting poems about the experiences of teenagers, Carlson has given a focus to that rich diversity; by presenting the poems both in their original language and in translation, she has made them available to us all.


Praise for Cool Salsa

"This spirited, significant collection of poetry for young adults by poets of Latin American heritage is enlivened both by the considerable energy of the poems and by the juxtaposition—and sometimes intermingling—of English and Spanish . . . The collection is eminently successful in celebrating the particular experience of growing up Latino in the United States."—The Horn Book (Starred Review)

"Whether discussing the immigrant's frustration at not being able to speak English, the violence suffered both within and outside of the ethnic community, the familiar adolescent desire to belong, or celebrating the simple joys of life, these fine poems are incisive and photographic in their depiction of a moment. Some of the poets are well-known, others are not, but all contribute to the whole. The Spanish translations capture the sense of the English so well that without the translator's byline one would be hard pressed to discern the original language. The same is true for those few poems translated from Spanish to English. This is . . . excellent enrichment material for literature courses."—School Library Journal (Starred Review)

"As hot as jalapenos and as cool as jazz, this collection serves up 'ingles con chile' and Spanish that 'you feel in the blood of your soul.' Lyrical, traditional poems share space with street-smart free verse, and works by the likes of Sandra Cisneros and Gary Soto are juxtaposed with entries from lesser-knowns. Illustrating the 'beat and pulse' of generations of U.S. writers of Latin American heritage, the poems are presented both in the original and in translation; poems making use of both languages are easily accessible to English-only readers by virtue of an appended glossary of Spanish terms. In his introduction, Hijuelos focuses on the 'unrelenting, unending sense of second classness' that his parents experienced as Cuban emigrants and explains how this 'sense' affected his uses of English and Spanish. The political agenda is not hidden, but the potency of the volume lies in Carlson's eclectic selection of voices—her volume approximates what one poet here calls 'a Mixtec chant that touches la tierra and the heavens.'"Publishers Weekly (Starred Review)

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Edited by Lori M. Carlson; Introduction by Oscar Hijuelos

  • Lori M. Carlson is an editor and translator who has concentrated on bringing Latino literature to American readers. As coeditor of Where Angels Glide at Dawn, she introduced new Latin American authors to younger readers. She is also the editor of American Eyes and Barrio Streets Carnival Dreams: Three Generations of Latino Artistry. Her most recent book is Sol a Sol: Bilingual Poems. Ms. Carlson lives with her husband in New York City.