Our Migrant Souls: A Meditation on Race and the Meanings and Myths of “Latino”
WINNER OF THE KIRKUS PRIZE FOR NONFICTION
NAMED ONE OF THE NEW YORK TIMES 100 NOTABLE BOOKS OF 2023
A TIME'S 100 MUST-READ BOOKS OF 2023, A TOP TEN BOOK OF 2023 BY CHIGAO PUBLIC LIBRARY
A new book by the Pulitzer Prize–winning writer about the twenty-first-century Latino experience and identity.
In Our Migrant Souls, the Pulitzer Prize–winning writer Héctor Tobar delivers a definitive and personal exploration of what it means to be Latino in the United States right now.
“Latino” is the most open-ended and loosely defined of the major race categories in the United States, and also one of the most rapidly growing. Composed as a direct address to the young people who identify or have been classified as “Latino,” Our Migrant Souls is the first account of the historical and social forces that define Latino identity.
Taking on the impacts of colonialism, public policy, immigration, media, and pop culture, Our Migrant Souls decodes the meaning of “Latino” as a racial and ethnic identity in the modern United States, and gives voice to the anger and the hopes of young Latino people who have seen Latinidad transformed into hateful tropes and who have faced insult and division—a story as old as this country itself.
Tobar translates his experience as not only a journalist and novelist but also a mentor, a leader, and an educator. He interweaves his own story, and that of his parents’ migration to the United States from Guatemala, into his account of his journey across the country to uncover something expansive, inspiring, true, and alive about the meaning of “Latino” in the twenty-first century.
Praise for Our Migrant Souls: A Meditation on Race and the Meanings and Myths of “Latino”
"Easily his most personal book. . . Tobar uses his biography sparingly to illustrate larger aspects of Latino experience. He is as likely to quote historians and cultural theorists as he is to cite students, store clerks or an undocumented Trump supporter randomly encountered on the street. . . Tobar takes care to depict Latino life in a universal light, as something easily comprehensible to anyone who has ever felt the pull of a far-off person or place. . . There is power in the refrain of Tobar’s direct address, which gives his writing the feel of warm advice dispensed to youngsters grappling with a sense of self."
—Francisco Cantú, The New York Times Book Review
"Tobar’s book should be read in the context of other works that, for more than a century, have tried to elucidate the meaning of latinidad. . . Our Migrant Souls is, therefore, only the latest attempt to pin down an inherently slippery concept. More than these other works, though, it engages in contemporary debates and issues, such as how Latinos have related to Blackness and indigeneity, the question of why some Latinos choose to identify as white, and the political conservatism of certain Latino communities. It is also the most lyrical and literary of the genre, harnessing Tobar’s deep talents as a writer and his fluency in pop culture, and offers a more intimate look into the barrios, homes, and minds of people who, he argues, have been badly, and sometimes willfully, misunderstood."
—Geraldo L. Cadava, The Atlantic
"Tobar interrogates Latino identity with a subversive nuance. He is not writing for the white gaze, instead directly addressing young Latinos."
—Jean Guerrero, Los Angeles Times
"Eye-opening. . . Timely, intelligent, and generous, this is a must-read from Pulitzer Prize-winner Tobar."
—Diego Báez, Booklist
"Lyrical and uncompromising."
—Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“The master writer puts on his maestro cap to give us memoir, media criticism, meditation, travelogue, history lesson, and so much more, in a style and pacing with all the brilliant nuances and hues that Latinos exemplify.”
—Gustavo Arellano, author of Ask a Mexican
“Our Migrant Souls is an important contribution to the growing body of work offering answers to a seemingly simple question: What is a ‘Latino’? In precise yet lyrical prose, Héctor Tobar leads readers on a tour of the United States of America, where to be Latine often means to go unseen.”
—Myriam Gurba, author of Mean
“ Héctor Tobar bursts the bubble of colonizing inhumanity contained in the ‘Latino,’ ‘Latinx,’ and ‘Hispanic’ labels. The migrant son Tobar crisscrosses the country to find stories of the buried and reviled, inspired and inspiring humanidad of the one out of every four people in the United States who bears these labels. Our Migrant Souls points to the inevitable reckoning a country deep in denial must undertake.”
—Roberto Lovato , author of Unforgetting
“Unflinchingly clear-eyed, intelligent, and compassionate, Our Migrant Souls is essential reading for all Americans. Héctor Tobar peers into the fractured kaleidoscope of Latinidad and reveals that an identity is forged by history and by each of our unique stories. Generous in its expansive analysis of how empire and constructed ideas of race trickle through our veins, Our Migrant Souls is also heartfelt, poetic, and intimate. Tobar delivers a brilliant, honest, and necessary book about race when we need it most. It is a
salve for the times.”
—Carribean Fragoza, author of Eat the Mouth That Feeds You