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Héctor Tobar Inspires a New Generation of Authors at Locke High School

When you write, you become stronger because you take your hurt and put it into language. My struggles were the common struggles of an immigrant kid growing up in Los Angeles — a person of color.”

Héctor Tobar, award-winning author and journalist, joined the young authors of Locke High School for a special talk. A Los Angeles native, Héctor was previously for two decades: a city reporter, foreign and national correspondent, columnist and book critic for the Los Angeles Times. He was part of a reporting team at the LA Times that won a Pulitzer Prize for coverage of the 1992 LA Riots. He has written the foreword for the newest Young Authors’ Book Project that takes a deep look at Los Angeles 25 years later.

Select students researched and prepared questions for Héctor and then engaged in a conversation with a packed room of student authors, volunteers, educators, and staff members. A wide range of topics were covered — writer’s block, his life as an immigrant child in Los Angeles, his favorite book. He relived the 1992 uprisings for the students — what it was like to see the first fires from the LA Times newsroom and what it meant to write amidst the pain and anger.

Listen to excerpts of the inspirational Q & A. 

“I was a reporter and the verdicts came in at the LA Times newsroom. I was writing a story and watching on television as this happened. I could see Florence and Normandie [where] the first fires were starting and looting. Eventually, the riots spread to Downtown. All of a sudden, I could hear rocks hitting the window. Someone had broken in on the first floor and set the place on fire. We were in the middle of this thing….it was like being in a war — you’d see these cones of fire. Part of me was kind of excited. When you’re Black or Brown in the city, you sort of feel like a second-class person. You put up with a lot — bad wages and bad jobs. Finally, the people were on the streets and it was exciting. And then it seemed, after a while, really, really stupid.”

Héctor told the students that writing offers a venue for telling their truth as communities of color, which makes lasting and impactful change, brings people together, and creates beauty.

Many students, immigrants and aspiring writers themselves, connected with Héctor. The last question encapsulated the spirit of Héctor’s visit. Wendy, a student in Mrs. Rowley’s English Language Development class, asked a question that made everyone in the room take pause: “Is the U.S. the right place to create?”

 “Yes. The United States is a country built like people like us — people in struggle. What makes this country great is that so many people have struggled to make it live up to its promises….it is a better country because we worked, we suffered, we were welcomed into communities like this one by people who lived here before, and formed alliances.” 

Thank you, Héctor Tobar, for visiting Locke High School and inspiring students to write a future of hope.

 “Stay here, fight for
this country, help make it a better place.”


Order When the Moon Is Up on pre-sale today here.

Each year, 826LA works with a different LAUSD high school to give a group of students an apprenticeship-like experience in writing and publishing through the Young Authors’ Book Project. For more information about 826LA’s In-Schools Program and the Young Authors’ Book Project, click here

Photos Courtesy of Green Dot Schools

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