Translation Nation

Translation Nation

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

Written by:

  • Paperback
  • ISBN 9781594481765
  • 368 Pages
  • Riverhead Books
  • Adult


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.
Translation Nation

Translation Nation

Written by: Hector Tobar


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

Table of Contents

Part One: Crossings

Chapter One: Americanismo: City of Peasants
Los Angeles, California

Chapter Two: Where Green Chiles Roam: No es imposible
San Ysidro, California; Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

Chapter Three: Brother Citizen, Brother Alien: Sin fronteras
Watts, California; Ameca, Jalisco, Mexico

Part Two: Pioneers and Pilgrimage

Chapter Four: The Wanderers: El destierro
Ashland, Alabama; McAllen, Texas; Piedras Negras, Coahuila, Mexico

Chapter Five: In the Land of the New: En la tierra de lo nuevo
Dalton, Georgia; Nuevo Laredo, Tamaulipas, Mexico; Memphis, Tennessee

Chapter Six: Our Secret Latin Heartland: Los secretos del machote
Rupert, Idaho; Frankenmuth, Michigan; Grand Island, Nebraska; Liberal, Kansas

Part Three: Manifest Destinies

Chapter Seven: Unconquered: La reconquista
Cordova, New Mexico; San Fernando, California; San Antonio, Texas

Chapter Eight: The Old Men and the Boy: Los balseros
Miami, Florida

Chapter Nine: Fathers, Daughters, Citizens, and Strongwomen: El hombre y el orgullo
Barstow, Los Angeles, Bell Gardens, Maywood, Watts, and South Gate, California

Part Four: E Pluribus Unum

Chapter Ten: Una Nación Unida: Heroes of Another Fatherland
El Reno, Oklahoma; San Juan, Puerto Rico; New York, New York; Baghdad, Iraq

Epilogue: Che and the Three Monkeys: Che y los tres monos
La Higuera, Bolivia; Buenos Aires, Argentina; Los Angelos; California; Ashland, Alabama