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Maria Hinojosa Wants Her Personal Story to Inspire Latino Youth

Mexican-American journalist María Hinojosa adapts her autobiography for a younger audience to empower new generations of Latinos

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If there is a benchmark name in U.S. Latino women's journalism, it is undoubtedly Maria Hinojosa, the Mexican-born television anchor known for being the director and producer of Latino USA, an NPR show dedicated to Latino issues. 

Emmy Award and Pulitzer Prize-Winning Maria Hinojosa has now just published a new version of her autobiography to appeal to younger audiences: "Once I Was You: Finding My Voice and Passing the Mic" (Simon & Schuster for Young Readers, 2022).

"Come on, I don't write for kids," Hinojosa, 61, said in an interview with NBC. "But then I thought about the average age of Latinos and Latinas in the U.S.-and I said to myself, I have to write this book."

According to a Pew Research Center study quoted by NBC, the median age of Latinos in the U.S. is 11 years, while that of whites is 58.

To write this book, the author created a 10-year-old character, Maria, her own voice, who tells stories to another 10-year-old girl. Among the childhood and youth anecdotes she explains, she highlights when she attended a protest with her family at age 8, which awakened her social conscience; watching "60 Minutes" and wondering why all the news anchors were white men; and watching "West Side Story" on television and feeling that the main character, Maria, finally validated her existence.

Although this version of Hinojosa's story ends when she finishes college, she is candid about the comments she received in her career. "You're too Mexican. Too much of an immigrant. Too feminist. Too left-wing. Too ungrateful and maybe even too unpatriotic," were some of the criticisms she heard about her reporting style.

Hinojosa also talks about her two abortions, a decision that at the time she believed was the right one and from which she suffers no trauma. "I want people to know that if the same thing happens to them, it will be okay. It's okay; we deserve the right to choose," she said in the NBC interview.

With this book Hinojosa, known for her reporting on deportation, migrant detention and other social justice issues, aims to inspire children and young people to believe and strive to achieve their dreams, such as becoming a journalist. 

In an interview with USA Today the author acknowledged that she feels a responsibility to "be there for young Latinos and Latinas in general, immigrants and refugees in particular, because the book is about those of us who are 'the other,'" said the Mexican-born journalist, who grew up in Chicago.  "It's also simply a book about confidence and finding your power in your own voice and your own stories as a child, and hopefully inspiring some to become journalists."

Hinojosa has won three Emmy television awards and in 2012 won the John Chancellor Award, one of the most coveted awards for U.S. reporters given by Columbia University. Last May, his production company, Futuro Media, won a Pulitzer Prize for the podcast 'Suave'. Divided into seven parts, "Suave" Hinojosa investigates his nearly 30-year relationship with David Luis "Suave" Gonzalez, who is serving a life sentence in a Pennsylvania prison.

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