Journalist Maria Hinojosa looking to inspire youth with adapted memoir
The acclaimed journalist adapted her 2020 book, Once I Was You for kids ages 8-12.
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Pulitzer winner and trailblazing Latina journalist Maria Hinojosa recently adapted her 2020 memoir, Once I Was You, for young readers. The latest version is aimed at readers ages eight through 12 in hopes of inspiring the youth to become journalists, specifically Latino children, who Hinojosa realized make up a majority of the Latino population in the U.S.
“Hinojosa delves into questions of mental health, identity, representation, sexism, elitism, imposter syndrome, and finding her way in the highest echelons of U.S. education and media,” reads a Kirkus Reviews piece about the book. “This powerful adaptation of the highly acclaimed 2021 original for adults is as relatable as the title suggests and will empower readers who see their lives reflected in it. A timely and important story skillfully adapted for young people.”
A 2019 study from the Pew Research Center found that the most common age for Latinos was 11 compared to 58 for white people.
”I was like, yeah, I don’t write for kids,” Hinojosa said in an interview with NBC News. “But then you think about the ages – the median age of Latinos and Latinas in the U.S. — I have to be writing this book.”
“I want them to see themselves and hopefully become journalists, at least some of them,” she continued.
The memoir takes a deep look into the background of Hinojosa and her family. She examines personal childhood experiences and everything that led her to become a reporter and why she took that path. It chronicles her birth in Mexico, to Chicago, and New York City as she goes through life trying to find herself and further chase her dreams.
Hinojosa is able to go back into her childhood and retrieve all crucial memories that include attending a protest with her family at age eight, which she credits with socially opening her mind. She mentions how she would watch 60 Minutes and was confused as to why it was always white men. Hinojosa also recalls watching West Side Story and feeling verified about her Latino heritage after seeing the main character named Maria.
In an interview with USA Today, Hinojosa said she felt a responsibility "to be there for young Latinos and Latinas writ large, immigrants and refugees writ large because the book is about those of us who are 'the other.'”
“It's also just a book about trusting and finding your power in your own voice and your own stories as a little kid, and hopefully inspiring some to become journalists," she said.
In a white dominated field, there is not as much representation for Latinos or any other groups in newsrooms, and any media outlet across the country. It is a field that needs rejuvenation among the youth to inspire a new generation to continue in professional journalism.
“We are in a country where nearly one in five people are Latino,” said Yvette Cabrera, president of the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. “If newsrooms don’t reflect the diversity of their communities, it will be difficult to cover those communities, to understand them and to go beyond superficial stories.”
The book published by Simon & Schuster is out now.