Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Translation Nation: Defining a New American Identity in the Spanish-Speaking United States

Posted by nliakos on December 14, 2014

by Héctor Tobar (Riverhead Books 2005)

Héctor Tobar grew up in Los Angeles; his parents immigrated to the U.S. from Guatemala. He is a journalist who traveled throughout the United States and Latin America interviewing immigrants, children of immigrants, parents of immigrants, legal and illegal aliens, would-be border-crossers, day laborers and workers in chicken plants, radio hosts and newspaper owners, politicians and farmers and soldiers, teachers and students–just about every kind of Latino-American you can think of and also the people who employ them,  work with them and for them, help them, teach them, and try to prevent them from entering the country. He writes about Guatemalans and Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and Cubans; they live in Alabama and Georgia, California and Florida and New York, Michigan and Kansas and Nebraska, where whole neighborhoods and even whole towns have become Hispanic. He travels to many places in Mexico, to Puerto Rico,  Bolivia, Argentina and even Iraq in search of the story of Spanish America.

It’s a fascinating story, and Tobar tells it well. We meet people of exceptional courage–people who refuse to give up their dream of a better life for themselves and for their families in the face of discrimination and prejudice. Tobar mixes in his own story as a hyphenated American–one who looks like one thing and sounds like another.

All Americans should read this book, because our present and our future include millions of people like those described here. We should know their stories.

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