While immigration is a hot-button political topic, there is a very human element to the issue that often gets overlooked.
Investigative journalist, commentator and author Rubén Martinez knows the struggles of those who brave hostile terrain, unsavory characters, criminal justice troubles and a loss of legal identity in an attempt to find a better life.
Martinez will be the guest lecturer in the second installment of the University of Houston-Victoria/American Book Review 2008 Fall Reading Series at noon Sept. 11 in the Alcorn Auditorium of the University West building, 3007 N. Ben Wilson. The free event is open to the public, and light refreshments will be served. The event is being billed as part of Victoria's Hispanic Heritage Month celebration, which runs Sept. 11 through Oct. 15.
A Los Angeles native, Martinez spent years researching the struggles of entire families who make the long trek from deep in the heart of Mexico to under-the-radar jobs in all parts of America. He learned the full depth of what immigrants go through by conducting interviews on both sides of the border.
He chronicled their plight in his 2001 book, "Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail."
"The stories he tells are very up close and personal," said Charles Alcorn III, managing editor of the American Book Review. "He is an old-fashioned reporter who takes his audience into the middle of the lives of these people who will go to great lengths to try to find a better life for generations of their family."
Martinez, an Emmy award-winning journalist, is the Fletcher Jones Chair in Literature and Writing at Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles. He is an associate editor for Pacific News Service and a former news editor at LA Weekly.
His essays, opinion pieces and articles have appeared in The New York Times, The Washington Post and other national newspapers. As a political commentator, he has appeared on "Nightline," "Frontline," "All Things Considered" and other news programs.
In addition, he is a songwriter who played guitar in the band Concrete Blonde.
"The issues he will talk about happen every day here in Victoria and the surrounding area," said Jeffrey Di Leo, editor/publisher of ABR and dean of the UHV School of Arts & Sciences. "I hope everyone will come to the lecture and leave with a broader perspective on immigration and its related issues."
Other writers scheduled for the Fall Reading Series are:
- Mark Doty, Oct. 21 Doty is the author of eight books of poetry and four volumes of nonfiction prose, including "Dog Years," a New York Times 2007 bestseller. He is the only U.S. poet to have received the T.S. Eliot Prize in the U.K. Doty has been given fellowships from the Guggenheim and the National Endowment for the Arts. He has won the National Book Critics Circle Award, a Whiting Writers Award, two Lambda Literary Awards and the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for First Nonfiction.
- Antonya Nelson, Nov. 20 Nelson has published five short-story collections and three novels. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, Esquire, Harper's and in anthologies such as "Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards" and "Best American Short Stories." Nelson was the recipient of the 2003 Rea Award for the Short Story (Lifetime Achievement) as well as National Endowment for the Arts and Guggenheim fellowships. Her books were named New York Times Notable Books for five years, and in 1999, The New Yorker called her one of the "20 young fiction writers for the new millennium."
While in Victoria, reading series authors attend roundtable discussions with UHV faculty and students, make classroom visits to area schools, give lectures open to the community, and go to receptions hosted by Friends of ABR patrons. Past speakers have included Pulitzer Prize-winning historian David M. Oshinsky, author and Iranian refugee Farnoosh Moshiri, Mexican American author Dagoberto Gilb and American Book Award recipient Graciela Limón.
ABR is a nonprofit, internationally-distributed literary journal that champions works published by small presses. Founded in 1977, ABR moved to UHV in 2006. Some 8,000 people on multiple continents read its six issues a year.
For more information about the UHV/ABR Reading Series, call Alcorn at 361-570-4100.