Héctor Tobar at the 2011 Texas Book Festival.
Los Angeles, California
Tobar is the son of Guatemalan immigrants. His long career in journalism includes work for the New Yorker, the LA Weekly, and many positions at the Los Angeles Times. He was a Metro columnist for The Times, a book critic, and the paper's bureau chief in Mexico City and in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He also worked for several years as the National Latino Affairs Correspondent. In 1992, he won a Pulitzer Prize for his work as part of the team covering the L.A. riots for the Los Angeles Times. He is a graduate of the University of California, Santa Cruz and the MFA program in Creative Writing at the University of California, Irvine.
Tobar is the author of The Tattooed Soldier, a novel set in the impoverished immigrant neighborhoods of Los Angeles in the weeks before the riots, and in Guatemala during the years of military dictatorship there. His non-fiction Translation Nation: Defining a New American Identity in the Spanish-Speaking United States, is a cross-country journey with stops in many of the new places where Latin American immigrants are settling, including Rupert, Idaho, Grand Island, Nebraska and Memphis, Tennessee. His third book, The Barbarian Nurseries, is a sweeping novel about class and ethnic conflict in modern Southern California: it was named a New York Times Notable Book for 2011 and won the 2012 California Book Award gold medal for fiction.
In 2006, Tobar was named one of the 100 Most Influential Hispanics in the United States by Hispanic Business magazine.
During the 2010 Copiapó mining accident, while still trapped in the mine, the 33 miners chose to collectively contract with a single author to write an official history so that none of the 33 could individually profit from the experiences of others. The miners chose Héctor Tobar who had exclusive access to the miners stories. In October 2014, he published an official account titled Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free. It was a finalist for the 2014 National Book Critics Circle Award (General Nonfiction).
- The Tattooed Soldier, Delphinium Books, Penguin Books, 1998, ISBN 978-1-883285-15-9
- Translation Nation: Defining a New American Identity in the Spanish-Speaking United States, Riverhead Books, 2005, ISBN 978-1-57322-305-8
- The Barbarian Nurseries, Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011.
- Deep Down Dark: The Untold Stories of 33 Men Buried in a Chilean Mine, and the Miracle That Set Them Free Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2014.
- "Hector Tobar bio". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
- Jennifer McNulty (25 April 2005). "Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter's stories lead to new book, Translation Nation". UC Santa Cruz Currents. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
- "Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist, alum Hector Tobar speaks on campus". UC Santa Cruz. 15 November 2007. Retrieved 19 July 2012.
- Mac McClelland. "‘Deep Down Dark,’ by Héctor Tobar". New York Times. Retrieved November 26, 2014.
- John Williams (November 21, 2014). "Book Review Podcast: ‘Deep Down Dark’". New York Times. Retrieved November 26, 2014.
- "National Book Critics Circle Announces Finalists for Publishing Year 2014". National Book Critics Circle. January 19, 2015. Retrieved January 29, 2015.