Héctor Tobar on “Our Migrant Souls: A Meditation on Race and the Meanings and Myths of ‘Latino’”

“One of the things that helps define Latino identity is this sense of having a history but also not knowing the history.”

Writing Latinos, from Public Books, features interviews with Latino (a/x/e) authors. We discuss their books and how their writing contributes to the ever-changing conversation about the meanings of latinidad.

We recently caught up with Héctor Tobar to discuss his new book, Our Migrant Souls: A Meditation on Race and the Meanings and Myths of “Latino.” Our conversation included mention of the pathbreaking historian Vicki L. Ruiz, to whom Tobar dedicated Our Migrant Souls, as well as discussions on the literary influence of James Baldwin, the need for a revolution in how we talk about immigrants and immigration, Latino racial identity, and Tobar’s own life and travels.

Tobar is a writer based in Los Angeles and is a professor of literary journalism and Chicano/Latino Studies at the University of California, Irvine. He is the winner of a Pulitzer Prize, a frequent contributor to the New York Times, and the author of many other books, including The Last Great Road Bum, Deep Down Dark, and The Tattooed Soldier.



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View a transcript of the episode here. And read Geraldo Cadava’s review of Our Migrant Souls in the Atlantic here.



Mentioned in this episode:

  • James Baldwin, The Fire Next Time
  • No Más Bebés, directed by Renee Tajima-Peña and produced by Virginia Espino
  •  Lupe Ontiveros



Writing Latinos is a production of Public Books. The show’s host is Geraldo Cadava, co-editor-in-chief of the magazine, and show’s producer is Tasha Sandoval. Our theme music is “City of Mirrors” by Dos Santos.


Featured photograph courtesy of Héctor Tobar.