Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author of Enrique's Journey

Sonia Nazario
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Sonia Nazario At A Glance:

Sonia Nazario is an award-winning journalist whose stories have tackled some of this country’s most intractable problems -- hunger, drug addiction, immigration -- and have won some of the most prestigious journalism and book awards.

Sonia Nazario is an award-winning journalist whose stories have tackled some of this country’s most intractable problems — hunger, drug addiction, immigration — and have won some of the most prestigious journalism and book awards.

A fluent Spanish speaker of Jewish ancestry whose personal history includes living in Argentina during the so-called dirty war, she is a passionate and dynamic speaker.

She spent 20 years reporting and writing about social issues for U.S. newspapers. She is best known for “Enrique’s Journey,” her story of a Honduran boy’s struggle to find his mother in the U.S. Published as a series in the Los Angeles Times, “Enrique’s Journey” won the Pulitzer Prize for feature writing in 2003. It was turned into a book by Random House that became a national bestseller and is now required reading at hundreds of high schools and colleges across the country. A Young Adult version of Enrique’s Journey was published in 2013 aimed at middle schoolers and reluctant readers in high school.

When a national crisis erupted in 2014 over the detention of unaccompanied immigrant children at the border, Nazario returned to Honduras to report an article that was published in The New York Times in July. In her piece, she detailed the violence causing the exodus and argued that it is a refugee crisis, not an immigration crisis. After the article was published, she addressed the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations and gave many interviews to national media, including The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, NBC’s Meet the Press, Anderson Cooper 360, and Al Punto with Jorge Ramos (Spanish).

Her humanitarian efforts led to her selection as the Don and Arvonne Fraser Human Rights Award recipient from the Advocates for Human Rights in 2015.

Nazario, who grew up in Kansas and in Argentina, 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.

Nazario often is hired by school districts and universities where Enrique’s Journey is being used in the classroom to launch discussions around immigration, racial discrimination, U.S. foreign policy, and other issues. Her expertise in immigration makes her as a popular speaker for legislative, legal and philanthropic audiences.

She began her career at the Wall Street Journal, and later joined the Los Angeles Times. She is now at work on her second book.

She is a graduate of Williams College and has a master’s degree in Latin American studies from the University of California, Berkeley. She has honorary doctorates from Mount St. Mary’s College and Whittier College.

“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-Márquez Award for Overall Excellence.

In 1998, Ms. 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.

She serves on the advisory boards of the University of North Texas Mayborn Literary Non-fiction Writer’s Conference and of Catch the Next, a non-profit working to double the number of Latinos enrolling in college. She is also on the board of Kids In Need of Defense, a non-profit launched by Microsoft and Angelina Jolie to provide pro-bono attorneys to unaccompanied immigrant children.

If you’d like to bring in Sonia Nazario as your next keynote speaker, please fill out the “Request More Information” form on the right.

  • 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. This presentation is an exploration of the ethical dilemmas a journalist [and other professionals] face, in which Nazario shares her experiences making ethical choices. She accompanies her speech with a PowerPoint of photographs.
  • The Power of Storytelling

    Sonia Nazario uses her own work to discuss how stories can help change our perspective on big social issues, motivate people to act, and bring real change. She sometimes tailors this talk to educators or health professionals who want to learn to use story telling with students or patients.
  • 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.
  • Unequal Justice: Immigrant Children & US Courts

    Last year, more than 68,000 children entered the United States illegally and alone from Mexico and Central America, a ten-fold increase from three years before. 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. Like all immigrants who come to the US unlawfully, children are not entitled to a public defender. So two-thirds 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.
  • Enrique's Journey & America's Immigration Dilemma

    Using award-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. 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. She discusses how traditional approaches to the issue of immigration—proposed by both the left and right—haven't worked, and offers novel solutions to one of America's thorniest issues.
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