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Sonia  Nazario

Sonia Nazario

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author & Journalist


Sonia Nazario has spent more than 20 years reporting and writing about large social issues in the U.S. – hunger, drug addiction and immigration – most recently as a projects reporter for the Los Angeles Times. She has won numerous national journalism and book awards. Her story of a Honduran boy’s struggle to find his mother in the U.S., entitled Enrique’s Journey, won more than a dozen awards, among them the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing, the George Polk Award for International Reporting, the Grand Prize of the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award and the National Assn. of Hispanic Journalists Guillermo Martinez-Marquez Award for Overall Excellence. Read More >

Expanded into a book, Enrique’s Journey became a national bestseller, won three book awards and became a favorite among educators. It has been required reading for incoming freshman at more than 71 colleges, scores of high schools and a young adult version, published in 2014, has broadened the book’s use to middle schools.

In 1998, Nazario was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for a series on children of drug addicted parents. And in 1994, she won a George Polk Award for Local Reporting for a series about hunger among schoolchildren in California.

Now at work on her second book, Nazario, who grew up in Kansas and in Argentina, and began her career at the Wall Street Journal, has written extensively from Latin America and about Latinos in the United States. 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.”

She is on the advisory board of Catch the Next, a nonprofit working to double the number of Latinos enrolling in college, and on the board of Kids In Need of Defense, a nonprofit launched by Microsoft and Angelina Jolie to provide pro-bono attorneys to unaccompanied immigrant children.

Nazario, a graduate of Williams College, has a master’s degree in Latin American Studies from the University of California, Berkeley. She has been awarded two honorary doctorates by Mount St. Mary’s College and Whittier College. As a speaker with a reporter’s eye to the truth, Nazario humanizes the issue of immigration, posing new perspectives that fall on both sides, while offering solutions destined to change the national dialogue. Read Less ^

Speaker Videos

Crossing Borders: Immigration and Gender in the Americas

Peru College

Solving Illegal Immigration

Speech Topics

Unequal Justice: Immigrant Children & US Courts

Last year, about 30,000 children entered the United States illegally and alone from Mexico and Central America. This year, the number is expected to grow by 70%. These children were caught by US Border Patrol and ordered to go to immigration court to see if they would be allowed to stay in the US legally or would be deported. Read More >

Like all immigrants who come to the US unlawfully, children are not entitled to a public defender. So more than half of them—children as young as two years old—go to court alone. They are expected to argue their case for asylum or other relief to stay in the US with no legal advocate by their side. Many of these children have legitimate fears of being harmed if they are deported to their home countries.

Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author Sonia Nazario will discuss:

  • What is this nation’s responsibility to provide legal help to the children? Do children who have broken the law coming to the US illegally deserve government legal help?
  • The increasing violence and other factors pushing a surging number of these children to leave their home countries—Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico—and travel to the US alone, often gripping on the tops of freight trains to make this modern-day odyssey to reach the US. They face bandits, gangsters, corrupt cops, and the added dangers of getting on and off moving freight trains. Many lose their lives in their quest.

Nazario discusses these issues in a personal way, having spent three months riding on top of freight trains through Mexico to report her national bestselling book, Enrique’s Journey: The Story of a Boy’s Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with His Mother. Some are coming to reunite with family members, but many are fleeing harm in their home countries. She shows how after so many traumas in their home countries and on their journeys north, immigrant children face another blow: the American judicial system.

Nazario provides a provocative look at whether our nation’s immigration courts deal fairly with perhaps one of the most vulnerable populations amongst us: children who come to the US illegally and alone. Read Less ^

Enrique’s Journey & America’s Immigration Dilemma

Using Pulitzer-winning photographs, Sonia Nazario takes you inside the world of millions of immigrant women who have come to the US as single mothers, and the children they have left behind in their home countries in Central America and Mexico. She discusses the modern-day odyssey many child migrants—some as young as seven, all of them traveling alone—make many years later riding on top of freight trains through Mexico on their quest to reunify with their mothers in the US. Read More >

Nazario, who spent three months riding on top of these trains to tell the story of one child migrant named Enrique, shares her story in the context of determination. She discusses the role of determination in her own life—in overcoming the death of her father at age 13, living through parts of the Dirty War in Argentina, and overcoming major travails in college to ultimately become the youngest person hired at The Wall Street Journal and one of a handful of Latinos to win the Pulitzer Prize—as well as in the lives of the migrants she wrote about.

Unlike many who speak on this topic, Nazario sees immigration as an issue with many shades of gray, with winners and losers.  Read Less ^

In Praise of Ganas (Persistence)

Yes, passion and risk taking can get you far. But to Pulitzer Prize-winning author and journalist Sonia Nazario, persistence has been the key to her success. This presentation is an ideal convocation or commencement speech in praise of ganas—Spanish for persistence.

Making Ethical Choices

As a journalist, Sonia Nazario often feels like a "fly on the wall,” watching difficult situations play out without being able to take action herself. Because of this, the stories she has written over the years have frequently been featured as case studies in half a dozen textbooks on journalism and ethics. Read More >

This presentation is an exploration of the ethical dilemmas a journalist faces, in which Nazario shares her experiences making ethical choices. She accompanies her speech with a PowerPoint of photographs. Read Less ^

Narrative Writing: How to Construct a Compelling Story

From Trauma to Resiliency: Struggles & Strengths in Students' Journey to College

Latino students now make up 43% of California’s community college students and many of these individuals undertake astonishing journeys to and through our institutions. What can we learn from the experiences of immigrant and first generation Latino students in particular? How can this learning inform our understanding of and support for all community college students? Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Sonia Nazario, author of Enrique’s Journey, will discuss the obstacles and long odds many immigrant and first-generation Latino students face before even stepping onto a community college campus. These students bring tremendous assets—and significant challenges—to California’s Community College system. Their experiences and needs have fueled a great debate about how to serve them best. Are equity deans, guided pathways, or programs like the Puente Project working to improve the success of these learners? What do students who toil in one or two jobs, who take three buses to get to class, really need to thrive, and how can educators—you—build a system that works for them? How can California become the leader in supporting these students and making their experiences in college meaningful—and showing others the way forward? Nazario will explore these questions in her discussion of the challenge and opportunity of helping students move from trauma to resilience.