Hector Tobar

Héctor Tobar, UCI professor of Chicano/Latino studies and English and award-winning author, has been named the 2023 recipient of the Kirkus Prize in nonfiction. The award, bestowed annually for outstanding books in additional categories of fiction and young readers’ literature, honors Tobar’s most recent work, Our Migrant Souls: A Meditation on Race and the Meanings and Myths of “Latino,” in which he examines the U.S. Latinx experience.

The award committee hailed Tobar’s “blend of autobiography and cultural commentary as a potent manifesto that goes beyond reductive newspaper headlines and inflammatory political discourse to bring into sharp focus a massive yet marginalized community,” according to a statement released by Kirkus Reviews.

The news comes on the heels of the announcement of his Guggenheim Fellowship awarded in April to support “The Los Angeles Novellas,” a series of works of short fiction about the history of the Los Angeles metropolis and its future.

“This award is a wonderful validation of my writing career, and of the support my colleagues at UCI have given me,” says Tobar. “I am truly grateful to UCI for making it possible for me to write books, and to teach so many wonderful students.”

Tobar began his career in the late 1980s as an editor of El Tecolote, a San Francisco newspaper. He then moved on to the Los Angeles Times where he spent five years as a metro reporter (1988-93) and took a brief hiatus to work for one year as the features editor at the LA Weekly before returning to the LA Times. He spent 18 years with the Los Angeles paper, holding posts as critic, columnist, foreign correspondent, national correspondent, and city reporter. Among his career highlights: three years as the Mexico City bureau chief, four years as the Buenos Aires bureau chief, and three years as a national correspondent. He also worked in the publication’s Baghdad bureau. He earned numerous awards for his writing, including a Pulitzer Prize for breaking news with the staff in 1993 and an Inter-American Press Association Award for Feature Writing. In 2006, Tobar was named among the 100 Most Influential Hispanics in the United States by Hispanic Business Magazine. He left the LA Times in 2014 and in the years since has worked as a contributor to the op-ed pages of The New York Times, while his short stories and essays have appeared in The New Yorker, and Best American Short Stories 2016 and 2022.

Tobar earned his MFA in creative writing, fiction at UCI in 1995. Alongside his journalism career, he’s taught at Loyola Marymount University, Pomona College, and Queens University in Charlotte, North Carolina. From 2014 to 2017, he was an assistant professor in the School of Journalism and Communications at the University of Oregon before he returned to his Anteater roots in 2017 as a member of the UCI faculty in both the School of Social Sciences and School of Humanities. 

-Heather Ashbach, UCI Social Sciences

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