Monday, March 12, 2012

Spotlight on Tim Z. Hernandez

I had a wonderful time at AWP’s annual conference, this time held in Chicago, where I was on two great panels, attended some fascinating and enlightening panels, celebrated with Con Tinta where we honored Pat Mora, and signed books at the University of Arizona Press booth.

One of the other great things about this year's AWP is that I got to spend time with so many wonderful writers such as Francisco X. Alarcón, Luis Alberto Urrea, Dagoberto Gilb, Lucrecia Guerrero, Luis Rodriguez, Rigoberto González, Melinda Palacio, Daniel Chacón, Sarah Cortez, Sergio Troncoso, Blas Falconer, Carlos Hernández, Diana Lopez, Xánath Caraza de Holland, to name but a few.

One of the writers I had the opportunity to chat with in Chicago was Tim Z. Hernandez, someone who has been covered by La Bloga. But I wanted to offer this spotlight on Tim as I decompress from my AWP experience.

Tim was born in Dinuba, California, and raised in the San Joaquin Valley of Central California, having lived in the predominantly farmworker communities, including Cutler, Reedley, Dinuba, Visalia, and Fresno. He traces his family roots to East Los Angeles, Texas and New Mexico. Until the age of seven, his parents were migrant farmworkers, following the seasons across the southwest, including the states of California, Oregon, Wyoming and Colorado.

Tim received his B.A. in Writing and Literature from Naropa University, and his M.F.A. from Bennington College in Vermont. He works for the Colorado Center for the Book, and lives at the foot of the Rockies.

Tim has held a position with the California Council for the Humanities (2001 – 2004), where he traveled to rural communities of the San Joaquin Valley to listen to stories of migration and struggle. This experience profoundly impacted his life and his writing.

Tim’s books include, Skin Tax (Heyday Books, 2004), and the novel, Breathing, In Dust (Texas Tech University Press 2010). He is the recipient of the 2006 American Book Award, 2010 El Premio Aztlán Prize for Fiction, and a finalist for the California Book Award. His novel was recently featured on NPR's All Things Considered. Tim's performances have been featured in venues such as The Getty Center (Los Angeles), Stanford University, and The Dixon Theater in New York City, among others.

Regarding his literary beginnings, this is what Tim once said: "My first encounters with literature were through voice, expression, and embodiment. It was my mother, Lydia Hernandez, a self-made woman and product of the harsh New Mexico landscapes, who believed in the transformative magic of language and narrative. And she would read to me during those long migrant road trips, field to field, across state lines and shifting landscapes. The whole way my father, Felix Hernandez, a sarcastic Tejano, spun these tales, these written words, off in new and strange directions. He was a consummate jokester, a stand-up comedian of the fields, and of family barbecues. But always, stories were at the heart of our family. This was my beginning."

Here’s to Tim Z. Hernandez, one of the many fine and powerful writers making a mark on American literature.

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