Saludos, everyone! This week I will be showcasing journalist Sonia Nazario, author of last month’s featured book, Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite With His Mother.
Sonia Nazario is an award-winning journalist who has dedicated years to exposing the trials and tribulations of South American immigrants in the United States. She specifically works on cases of immigrant children, highlighting the daily obstacles and injustices that they face. Nazario’s work has been a call for justice in defense of the defenseless. Nazario grew up in both Argentina and Kansas and she obtained her Master’s degree in Latin American Studies from the University of California, Berkley. Although her personal background has surely influenced her work, she is also known for her tremendous field research.
Nazario’s most acclaimed work is Enrique’s Journey, the story of a 17-year-old boy from Honduras who makes the long and perilous journey to the U.S. to find his mother who immigrated years ago. The book was first published in 2006, and was adapted from a series of articles that Nazario published in 2002 in the Los Angeles Times. Her compelling narrative journalism won her the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 2003, as well as over 20 other awards. Nazario spent 5 years researching the story of Enrique and she even met him in person at a migrant shelter in Mexico. Nazario’s extensive research consisted of embarking upon the exact journey that Enrique made from Honduras up to the U.S. She made this journey twice, each trip lasting 3 months. Nazario has been quoted saying, “Then I began to retrace his steps, doing the journey exactly as he had done it a few weeks before. I wanted to see and experience things as he had with the hope of describing them more fully.” (Image to the right: Nazario riding a freight train, emulating Enrique’s journey to the U.S.).
According to the biography on her book’s website,
She is best known for “Enrique’s Journey,” her story of a Honduran boy’s struggle to find his mother in the U.S. It was turned into a book by Random House that became a national bestseller and is now required reading at hundreds of high schools and colleges across the country. A Young Adult version of Enrique’s Journey was published in 2013 aimed at middle schoolers and reluctant readers in high school.
What is phenomenal about Nazario’s non-fiction story, Enrique’s Journey, is the assortment of variegated forms that it has taken on: starting off as a series of newspaper articles, developing into a novel and then being transformed yet again into a novel for a younger age group. The kaleidoscopic nature of this work reflects the utter importance of its primary themes. The work has been tailored multiple times in order to reach a variety of audiences, vastly disseminating the narrative of a young, Honduran boy’s struggle to reunite with his immigrant mother. (Image to the left: Enrique at his kindergarten graduation.)
Nazario is not only known for her persuasive writing, but also for her remarkable humanitarian efforts. According to the same biography mentioned above, “Her humanitarian efforts led to her selection as the Don and Arvonne Fraser Human Rights Award recipient from the Advocates for Human Rights in 2015. She also was named a 2015 Champion for Children by First Focus, and a 2015 Golden Door winner by HIAS Pennsylvania.” Additionally, “She has been named among the most influential Latinos by Hispanic Business Magazine and a ‘trendsetter’ by Hispanic Magazine. In 2012 Columbia Journalism Review named Nazario among ’40 women who changed the media business in the past 40 years.’”
Although Nazario has written on a vast array of humanitarian issues relating to Latin American immigrants, most of her work focuses on the plight of child immigrants. Along with her novel Enrique’s Journey, she has also written two New York Times articles titled “Child Migrants, Alone in Court” and “The Children of the Drug Wars: A Refugee Crisis, Not an Immigration Crisis”. While the former exposes the injustice of undocumented, immigrant children not being entitled to a public defender, the latter identifies the imperative distinction between immigrants and refugees, persons fleeing legitimate danger and fear of persecution in their home countries. Nazario has proven an invaluable ally to immigrant children, lending her voice to the defense of their rights and the public awareness of their struggles. As many of our readers would agree, Nazario’s dedication to protecting children in danger is truly commendable, and demonstrates just how powerful words can be.
For those interested in learning more about Sonia Nazario and her work, here are some further links:
- NY Times article, “The Children of the Drug Wars: A Refugee Crisis, Not an Immigration Crisis”, by Sonia Nazario
- NY Times article, “Child Migrants, Alone in Court”, by Sonia Nazario
- NY Times article, “The Heartache of an Immigrant Family”, by Sonia Nazario
- LA Times original series, “Enrique’s Journey”: a homepage that leads you to separate links of all six chapters of the original newspaper series (Spanish versions are also made available through this site).
- Enrique’s Journey website
- Blog for Sonia Nazario
- Educator’s guides from Enrique’s Journey website
Stay tuned for an introduction to this month’s themes and my first November book review!
Images from Enrique’s Journey website- about Enrique
Images from Enrique’s Journey website- about author bio