Hector Tobar

It’s been a banner year for Héctor Tobar, UCI professor of Chicano/Latino studies and English. His most recent book, Our Migrant Souls: A Meditation on Race and the Meanings and Myths of “Latino,” has been named to nearly every “best books of the year” list out there. TIME Magazine’s 100 Must-Read Books of 2023 calls the work a “valiant effort” for capturing the “myriad of experiences, identities, and histories” of what it means to be “Latino.” The New York Times, which names the title among both its 10 Best California Books and 100 Notable Books of 2023, recognizes the writer and professor for delivering “a kaleidoscopic account of Latino American experience, dispelling stereotypes and underscoring diversity in prose that is by turns lyrical, outraged, scholarly and affectingly personal.” Amazon’s Best Books of 2023 lists the work among its top 100 picks, and Audible – which named the book among its 13 Best Nonfiction Listens of the Year – says Our Migrant Souls should be “required listening to broaden our understanding of what remains a slippery concept for most Americans.”

Last month, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author was awarded the Kirkus Prize for the same non-fiction work, and in April, he received a Guggenheim Fellowship to support “The Los Angeles Novellas,” a series of short fiction works about the history of the Los Angeles metropolis and its future.

“Héctor Tobar’s words carry us across genres and geographies, always illuminating the paradoxes of our intertwined pasts and reaching toward new visions for the future,” says Bill Maurer, UCI social sciences dean. “We are privileged to count him among our faculty and I at least eagerly await each new work.”

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. 

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