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Sonia Nazario  

Pulitzer Prize-Winning Author & Journalist; Author of "Enrique’s Journey"

Sonia Nazario is an award-winning journalist whose stories have tackled some of this country’s most intractable issues -- hunger, drug addiction, immigration -- and has won some of the most prestigious journalism and book awards, including two Pulitzer Prizes. She was also a finalist for a third Pulitzer, in Public Service.

A fluent Spanish speaker of Jewish ancestry whose personal history includes living in Argentina during the so-called dirty war, Nazario spent decades 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, a freshman read at 100 universities, and required reading at hundreds of high schools across the country. A young adult version of Enrique's Journey was published in 2013 aimed at middle schoolers.

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 in The New York Times that detailed the violence causing the exodus and argued that it is a refugee crisis, not an immigration crisis. After the piece was published, she addressed the U.S. Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, the U.N. General Assembly, 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.

She has also spent the past decade recruiting attorneys to provide pro-bono asylum representation to unaccompanied minors. In 2015, her humanitarian efforts led to her selection as the Don and Arvonne Fraser Human Rights Award recipient by the Advocates for Human Rights, the Champion of Children by First Focus and a Golden Door award winner by HIAS Pennsylvania. In 2016 the American Immigration Council gave her the American Heritage Award and the Houston Peace & Justice Center honored her with their National Peacemaker Award. In 2018, she was given the Spirit of HOPE [Hispanas Organized for Political Equality] Award.

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. In 2012 Columbia Journalism Review named Nazario among “40 women who changed the media business in the past 40.” In 2020, Parade Magazine named Nazario one of “50+ Most Influential Latin-American Women in History.”

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. She began her career at the Wall Street Journal, and later joined the Los Angeles Times.

“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, 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 several non-profits: the University of North Texas Mayborn Literary Non-fiction Writer's Conference, ReNews, which explores the impacts of socio-cultural issues on journalism and Catch the Next, which works to double the number of Latinos enrolling in college. She also is on the board of Kids In Need of Defense, launched by Microsoft and Angelina Jolie to provide pro-bono attorneys to unaccompanied immigrant children. She is now at work on her second book and is a contributing opinion writer for the New York Times.

Speech Topics

Narrative Writing: How to Construct a Compelling Story

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 faces, in which Nazario shares her experiences making ethical choices. She accompanies her speech with a PowerPoint of photographs.

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.

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.

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.

Unequal Justice: Immigrant Children & US Courts

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.

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 Writer

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