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Powerful Narrative Addressing Concept of What It Means to Be ‘Latino’ Chosen for 2024–25 Book in Common

A hardcopy of Our Migrant Souls sits on a chair in dramatic lighting.
(Jason Halley/University Photogr

The Book in Common for 2024-2025 is Our Migrant Souls: A Meditation on Race and the Meanings and Myths of Latino by Hector Tobar. (Jason Halley / University Photographer)

The Book in Common has a history of choosing reads that explore topics relevant to higher education, Butte College and Chico State, and the greater community. Next year’s selection, Héctor Tobar’s “Our Migrant Souls: A Meditation on Race and the Meanings and Myths of ‘Latino,’” works to decode the meaning of “Latino” as a racial and ethnic identity in the modern United States and gives voice to the anger and hopes of younger Latinx people.

Tobar translates his experience as a journalist, novelist, mentor, leader, and educator to interweave his own story—and that of his parents—of migrating to the United States from Guatemala as he explores the meaning of “Latino” in the 21st century. As Hispanic-Serving Institutions (HSIs), Butte College and Chico State embrace the opportunity to amplify this topic and carry the conversation beyond the classroom into everyday interactions and engaging events.

Our Migrant Souls received an unprecedented level of enthusiastic support from the campus and community, and this Book in Common selection will lead to a year of reading and programming that celebrates the diversity of Latinx identities and experiences,” said Book in Common Committee Chair Laura Nice.

Latinx students make up 37 percent of Chico State’s student body, and over 30 percent of Butte College’s students identify as Latinx. This book will help center the experiences of many of our students and anchor the “serving” nature of our responsibility as HSIs, Nice said. The book meaningfully aligns with both institutions’ strategic priorities and authentically amplifies their commitments to justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion. 

This year’s selection was driven by overwhelming feedback on the Book in Common selection shortlist, where faculty, staff, students, administrators, and community members provided robust, passionate, and compelling arguments for “Our Migrant Souls.” In addition to resounding endorsements from individuals, the book carried the support of the Chicano/Latino Council and the Cross-Cultural Leadership Center.

Chico State history professor Gloria Lopez incorporated some of Tobar’s chapters into her “Mexican American History” course this year and said students appreciated how the author recounts stories of students like them. It quickly became clear that while many students have a working definition of terms like “race,” “ethnicity,” “Latinx,” and “Hispanic,” many are unsure how the labels affect the everyday lives of their peers on campus and in the broader society. In addition to examining the language aspect, this selection will give Latinx students an opportunity to see and celebrate themselves as individuals whose experiences hold cultural capital.

“It is important to understand that Latine/x identity is comprised of so much more than a shared set of features or cultural practices. Only then can we highlight and celebrate the shared experiences of our students at Chico State,” Lopez said. “This book has the capacity to create space for students to voice their self-identity assertively; it explores the messiness of how mixed-status families and mixed-race families navigate their place in this country; and it combats the erasures of Latinx culture and identity in U.S. history. My hope is that this book will help us as a community reflect on what it means to truly see and serve these students at a Hispanic-Serving Institution.”

Two information sessions will be held for faculty who are interested in adopting all or part of “Our Migrant Souls” in fall 2024 courses. Faculty can drop in and chat with other faculty about how this book might fit into classes on Tuesday, March 26, or Wednesday, April 3, from 1–2 p.m. in ARTS 227B. 

Faculty also can indicate interest in adopting all or part of the book or being part of the Book in Common planning team here.

Taking on the impacts of colonialism, public policy, immigration, media, and pop culture, Our Migrant Souls decodes the meaning of “Latino” as a racial and ethnic identity in the modern United States, and gives voice to young Latino people who have seen Latinidad transformed into hateful tropes and who have faced insult and division.

“This year’s Book in Common selection will open the door to invaluable conversations on identity and race,” said Chico State President Steve Perez. “I look forward to seeing how our campus and greater community seize this opportunity to discuss the complexities, emotions, political implications, history, and other aspects of Latinx identity.”

The Book in Common is a shared community read designed to promote discussion and understanding of important issues. It is chosen each year by a group of Chico State and Butte College faculty and staff, as well as members of the local community. As in past years, Butte College, Chico State, the City of Chico, and Butte County will sponsor panel discussions, lectures, and other public events to celebrate and promote the Book in Common.

For more information and details on resources, events, and book discussion groups as they are scheduled, visit