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

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

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by Héctor Tobar
     
 

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In the national bestseller Translation Nation, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Héctor Tobar takes us on the definitive tour of the Spanish-speaking United States—a parallel nation, 35 million strong, that is changing the very notion of what it means to be an American in unprecedented and unexpected ways.

Tobar begins on familiar terrain, in

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Overview

In the national bestseller Translation Nation, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Héctor Tobar takes us on the definitive tour of the Spanish-speaking United States—a parallel nation, 35 million strong, that is changing the very notion of what it means to be an American in unprecedented and unexpected ways.

Tobar begins on familiar terrain, in his native Los Angeles, with his family's story, along with that of two brothers of Mexican origin with very different interpretations of Americanismo, or American identity as seen through a Latin American lens—one headed for U.S. citizenship and the other for the wrong side of the law and the south side of the border. But this is just a jumping-off point. Soon we are in Dalton, Georgia, the most Spanish-speaking town in the Deep South, and in Rupert, Idaho, where the most popular radio DJ is known as "El Chupacabras." By the end of the book, we have traveled from the geographical extremes into the heartland, exploring the familiar complexities of Cuban Miami and the brand-new ones of a busy Omaha INS station.

Sophisticated, provocative, and deeply human, Translation Nation uncovers the ways that Hispanic Americans are forging new identities, redefining the experience of the American immigrant, and reinventing the American community. It is a book that rises, brilliantly, to meet one of the most profound shifts in American identity.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Translation Nation…makes the tremendous diversity, dynamism and geographical breadth of our blossoming Hispanic population come alive. That's a valuable contribution to understanding where our country is going in this new century, and I am grateful to Tobar for providing it." —Washington Post Book World
 
"Tobar captures... the current state of Latinos in the United States…with equal measures of insight and élan, giving the book an infectious optimism, an undeniable sense that the nature and scope of latinidad are not only expanding but becoming more inclusive as well...Compelling." —The Los Angeles Times

"There is a secret América that has a message for America, and Héctor Tobar is its angel. Translation Nation will come as a revelation to many Americans. De Tocqueville, roll over. Here comes Tobar." —Thomas Keneally, author of Schindler's List

"Translation Nation will be looked upon as both a cornerstone and a corrective—the kind of book that didn't just document American life, but showed us the way of the future, too." —Dallas Morning News

"One of the book's true gems is Tobar's gifted, breezy writing style. His eye for detail intertwined with the storytelling skills of a novelist elevate his story beyond the usual immigrant tale...those interested in how the United States' largest minority group is influencing America's food, culture and politics will be well-served by Tobar's literate efforts." —Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Blending his memories of growing up Guatemalan American ...with more than a decade spent visiting Latino communities in the United States, this Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times journalist delivers an insightful meditation on the realities of modern-day Latino life." —Latina Magazine

"Tobar explores the vast and diverse "Latin Republic of the United States" in crisp, energetic prose...Consciously harking back to Tocqueville and other observers of the American experience, Tobar claims a place for Latinos in the evolving story of what is, after all, a very young nation of immigrants." —Arizona Republic
 

Steve Erickson
While Tobar is an impressive reporter -- the former national Latino affairs correspondent for The Los Angeles Times, he is now the paper's Buenos Aires bureau chief -- Translation Nation is often most compelling when it's telling his own story, which begins in Los Angeles, ''my tierra,'' he calls it, ''my homeland.'' Los Angeles -- ''the place to which I will always return'' -- is the nerve center for Tobar's quest. For Latinos, it's the ultimate American city, a city of immigrants in a country of them, trafficking in identity, reinvention and the opportunity for people to recast themselves in the image of their hopes.
— The New York Times
Publishers Weekly
The nation's growing Hispanic population constitutes a "Latin Republic of the United States," contends this engrossing survey of Latino America. Pulitzer Prize- winning journalist Tobar chronicles the surge in Central American immigrants to a Los Angeles where "Oliver Twist had escaped from London and was now a Spanish-speaking Angeleno in the age of crack"; listens in on the debate among Cuban exiles over Elian Gonzalez; and interviews undocumented migrants about to brave the ferociously defended Tijuana border crossings. He also follows Latinos, and their influence, into the heartland, finding a well-settled immigrant community in Dalton, Ga.; Nebraska corn farmers vying for the tortilla market; and a white Anglo Mormon who reinvents himself as a Mexican deejay for an Idaho Spanish-language radio station. Tobar insists that, thanks to their great numbers and easy access to cultural wellsprings in nearby homelands, Latinos will avoid assimilation. But he struggles to define the self-confident "Latinoness" he believes will "change the course of American history," locating it variously in a supposed resistance to "good, Protestant, money-making order"; a rejection of cultural boundaries; a taste for bright colors; and the iconography of Che Guevara. These don't really amount to the Tocquevillean insights he's aiming for, but Tobar's nuanced reportage vividly conveys the complexity and pathos of the Latino experience. (Apr.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
An apt collection of essays exploring the increasing prevalence of Hispanic culture in North America, by an L.A. journalist now based in Argentina. Guatemalan by birth and raised in L.A., where he cut his teeth covering the 1992 riots for the Los Angeles Times (sharing a Pulitzer Prize for the effort), Tobar (a novel: The Tattooed Soldier, 1998) casts his net widely in defining Hispanic American identity. He pulls in essays ranging in subject from L.A. ("City of Peasants"), where, he notes, the number of Spanish speakers roughly equals that of English-only speakers; to the desperate, porous border of Mexico ("Where the Green Chilies Roam"-chilies being border guards); to the Rio Grande Valley in southern Texas and the stream of jornaleros (day workers) who migrate to cities such as Ashland, Ala., to work for the Tyson company; to thriving pockets of Hispanic communities across the heartland. Tobar tracks the "violent and troubled path into Americanness," quoting from W.E.B. Du Bois and Alexis de Tocqueville. In "Unconquered," he examines worse-case scenarios, like the hopeless, drug-infested barrios in Cordova, N.M., that are suffering from cultural dislocation and oppression, though he also recounts success stories, such as the Hispanic civil awakening represented by California State Senator Gloria Romero and other Latino activists who have cast off the humiliation of their immigrant roots to proclaim permanence in their adopted land. In "The Old Men and the Boy," Tobar descends on the conflicted Cubano exile community of Miami, where the immigration fight for young Elian Gonzalez became a national cause celebre; and visits an aging "hero from another fatherland," jailed Puerto Ricanterrorist Elizam Escobar, still raging about the lack of respect given his people. Although the New York Hispanic community receives glancing attention, Tobar does a magnificent job of portraying the "contradiction and possibility" contained in the words una nacion unida. A plea for transnational identity in the spirit of Tobar's hero, Che Guevara.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9781594481765
Publisher:
Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date:
04/04/2006
Edition description:
ANN
Pages:
368
Sales rank:
747,901
Product dimensions:
5.59(w) x 8.20(h) x 1.04(d)
Age Range:
18 - 17 Years

What People are saying about this

From the Publisher
"Translation Nation…makes the tremendous diversity, dynamism and geographical breadth of our blossoming Hispanic population come alive. That's a valuable contribution to understanding where our country is going in this new century, and I am grateful to Tobar for providing it." —Washington Post Book World
 
"Tobar captures... the current state of Latinos in the United States…with equal measures of insight and élan, giving the book an infectious optimism, an undeniable sense that the nature and scope of latinidad are not only expanding but becoming more inclusive as well...Compelling." —The Los Angeles Times

"There is a secret América that has a message for America, and Héctor Tobar is its angel. Translation Nation will come as a revelation to many Americans. De Tocqueville, roll over. Here comes Tobar." —Thomas Keneally, author of Schindler's List

"Translation Nation will be looked upon as both a cornerstone and a corrective—the kind of book that didn't just document American life, but showed us the way of the future, too." —Dallas Morning News

"One of the book's true gems is Tobar's gifted, breezy writing style. His eye for detail intertwined with the storytelling skills of a novelist elevate his story beyond the usual immigrant tale...those interested in how the United States' largest minority group is influencing America's food, culture and politics will be well-served by Tobar's literate efforts." —Cleveland Plain Dealer

"Blending his memories of growing up Guatemalan American ...with more than a decade spent visiting Latino communities in the United States, this Pulitzer Prize-winning Los Angeles Times journalist delivers an insightful meditation on the realities of modern-day Latino life." —Latina Magazine

"Tobar explores the vast and diverse "Latin Republic of the United States" in crisp, energetic prose...Consciously harking back to Tocqueville and other observers of the American experience, Tobar claims a place for Latinos in the evolving story of what is, after all, a very young nation of immigrants." —Arizona Republic
 

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Meet the Author

The son of Guatemalan immigrants, Héctor Tobar is a National Correspondent for the Los Angeles Times and was part of the writing team that won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the 1992 riots. He holds an MFA from the University of California at Irvine and lives in Los Angeles.

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Translation Nation: Defining a New American Identity in the Spanish-Speaking United States 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Hector Tobar is a journalist now living in Argentina who also happens to be a fine writer. Probing his own past as the son of immigrants from Guatemala as a baseline and investigating like families and individuals, TRANSLATION NATION is one of the more interesting, readable, and informative books about the current rise in the number of Latin Americans who in their immigration to a new country have made a solid impact on the cultural, artistic, gastronomic, and political face to the USA.Tobar interviews and follows histories of some fascinating and courageous people, documenting their diaspora-like web across the country. From the Cuban exiles in Florida and the massive Los Angeles and Southern California Hispanic population we all know to the enclaves and pockets of 'latinidad' communities sprinkled across the entire United States, Tobar gleans a feeling of identity, of success stories, of the numbers of Hispanics who have gained national importance and prominence to the beautifully persistent folk traditions that remain intact despite the surrounding environs. The importance of 'futbol' (soccer), the explosion of cuisines not only form the ubiquitous Mexican fast food chains but also the increasingly popular cuisines of Central and South America, the on-going debates about border control - Tobar manages to define just what impact `latinidad¿ has had and will continue to have as the Latino population grows faster than any other group in census studies.In a time when the government seems to be polarizing the nation about the Latino influx it is refreshing to read Tobar's eminently optimistic evaluation of this newest aspect of the Melting Pot concept of America. An informative and fine read. Grady Harp
VillaDeUrera More than 1 year ago
Lei el libro, conoci a Hector personalmente y tambien conozco a muchas de las personas en el libro. Para mi el hizo un trabajo excepcional. Se los recomiendo.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This is a fantastic exlporation of the evolution of the United States from a majority Anglo/European society into a society increasingly shaped by the influx of new residents and citizens from Mexico and other Latin American countries. Away from the traditional border states like Texas and California the author explores Spanish speaking groups and communities in the Mid-west and deep south. The common thread is the incredible manner in which these new Americans have seized upon opportunities to prosper and thrive in their new homeland while still maintaining a linguistic and cultural link to their native countries.