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"Represented and Understood": Summer Sanchez-Cornejo Introduces Héctor Tobar

Summer Sanchez-Cornejo

Irvine Valley College student Summer Sanchez-Cornejo introduced journalist, novelist, nonfiction writer, and teacher Héctor Tobar on Wednesday, April 3 at the college's second annual Mendoza Family Distinguished Lecture Series.

Hello. My name is Summer Sanchez-Cornejo. I am a second-year student majoring in Political Science at Irvine Valley College, and I am also a "Puentista." The Puente Program is an academic, counseling, and mentoring program whose main mission is to increase the number of underserved students transferring out to four-year universities and this is done through many resources and opportunities. IVC’s Puente is three years old and has already created a change on campus with programming like this talk tonight.


I am extremely happy and very honored to introduce Héctor Tobar to you all. Héctor may not know it, but he has made a major impact on my educational journey thus far by providing not just myself, but my friends, my family and my community a space to feel represented and understood through his literature. In my first year at IVC, I had the opportunity to read his novel The Barbarian Nurseries, and currently I am reading his latest, Our Migrant Souls. While reading The Barbarian Nurseries, I was able to picture my loved ones in the different characters. I instantly felt so connected to his main character Araceli, because she reminded me so much of my mother. I was able to picture my mother, a housekeeper, in the strong character Araceli is, and my other loved ones in the other characters as they had shared with me their experiences of being undocumented in the United States.


This immediate connection was something I have never experienced in the classroom before coming to IVC. I was finally reading books written by individuals who shared and told similar stories that reflected my experiences, and that alone has changed the entirety of my life and the way I view and feel about literature.


His books have also taught me a valuable lesson, and that lesson is the importance of programs such as Puente because they expose students to writers like him. Because of Puente, I was introduced to Héctor Tobar, and I was able to kick start my love for reading and also become further educated on my own culture.


Like so many of us students, Héctor Tobar is the son of immigrant parents. He is a first generation student who attended UC Santa Cruz and then UC Irvine. Now, he is a professor teaching at UCI, the same university where he once studied. He is also a journalist and was part of the team that won the Pulitzer Prize for the LA Times. His novel The Barbarian Nurseries won the California Book Award gold medal for fiction. He has published many other amazing books such as Deep Down Dark, the story of the trapped Chilean miners, along with the novel The Tattooed Soldier.


Tonight, Héctor will be reading from Our Migrant Souls…a phenomenal book filled with history and stories about his parents’ immigration from Guatemala and the firsthand experiences shared by Tobar and many of his students on what it is like being Latino in the United States. Please welcome Héctor Tobar to the mic to read and speak more on his book, Our Migrant Souls



Summer Sanchez-Cornejo was born and raised in Orange County. She is a first-generation college student transferring this fall from Irvine Valley College to the University of California, Riverside where she will continue her studies in Political Science with a minor in Labor Studies. 

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