Saturday, January 17, 2015

LOS ANGELES SON: HECTOR TOBAR



Hector Tobar’s amazing writing career might have far exceeded his expectations. He worked as a journalist for the Los Angeles Times for more than 20 years, and during that time shared a Pulitzer Prize for reporting the 1992 LA riots, was the Times bureau chief in Mexico, and a prolific columnist.  It is interesting to note, and a comment on the changing lives of different generations, that Mr. Tobar’s immigrant dad also worked for the Times--as a delivery person. Hector Tobar now teaches at the University of Oregon. His recent books have gained serious recognition.

With his intimate knowledge of Southern California and how geography, economics and ethnicity divide people, Tobar’s novel The Barbarian Nurseries is an insightful look at how those living under the same roof do not communicate or understand each other. Araceli is a Mexican nanny who works for a well-to-do Orange County family whose members are involved in their upwardly mobile lives. Although employee and employers have little interest in or respect for each other, a series of circumstances forces them to re-think their cross-cultural differences.
 
Tobar turns to non-fiction in his recent and bestselling Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine and the Miracle that Set Them Free. The 2010 news story was witnessed by the world, but Tobar used his skills as a journalist to give another side to the event and report on the collective and individual accounts of the trapped men. Emotions mix with detailed descriptions of the mine in this masterful work. Frequently listed as one of the best books of 2014, Deep Down Dark is a dramatic book that grabs readers.

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