Biography

Tim Z. Hernandez is an award winning poet, novelist, research scholar, and performance artist. His debut collection of poetry, Skin Tax (Heyday Books) received the 2006 American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation, and the James Duval Phelan Award from the San Francisco Foundation. His debut novel, Breathing, In Dust (Texas Tech University Press) was featured on NPR’s All Things Considered, and went on to receive the 2010 Premio Aztlan Prize in Fiction. His second collection of poetry, Natural Takeover of Small Things was released in 2013 and received the 2014 Colorado Book Award, and his novel, Mañana Means Heaven, which is based on the life of Bea Franco, also released in 2013, went on the receive the 2014 International Latino Book Award in historical fiction. Both books are with the University of Arizona Press. His latest book, All They Will Call You, was released on January 28, 2017, also with the University of Arizona Press. A genre bending work labeled a Documentary Novel, it is based on the song by Woody Guthrie, “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos (Deportee).” This book is part one of what will eventually become “The Plane Crash Trilogy,” a project that he considers his life’s work.

Most recently, Hernandez was honored by the California State Senate in a recognition ceremony that took place at the state capital on January 29, 2018. The ceremony included the families of the victims of the plane crash at Los Gatos, as well as folk icon Joan Baez. That same year he was the recipient of the 2018 Luis Leal Award for Distinction in Chicano/a Letters. As a performer he has collaborated with Grammy Award winning classical composer Eugene Freisen, and in 2001 was commissioned by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles to write and perform an original play on homelessness. Since 2007, he has worked with Poets & Writers Inc. and the California Center for the Book teaching poetry, fiction, and non-fiction workshops across the west coast. From 2010-14 he was the state-wide coordinator for Colorado Writers-in-the-Schools with focus on rural, under-served communities. He is a frequent guest artist at Universities, cultural institutions, and literary centers across the United States and internationally. He recently completed a new manuscript of poetry, and is currently at work on the second installment of the “Plane Crash Trilogy.”

Hernandez holds a B.A. in Writing & Literature from Naropa University and an M.F.A. from Bennington College in Vermont. He is currently a full-time Assistant Professor in the University of Texas El Paso’s Bilingual M.F.A. in Creative Writing Program.

25 responses to “Biography

  1. Tim–I had the local library order “All They Will Call You”. Great book! I was disappointed and a bit confused to see that they had classified it as a fiction book. Doesn’t seem that way to me!

    • Dan, thank you for your generous comments. Sometimes bookstores and libraries will take it upon themselves to shelf the book where they see fit, rather than follow the Library of Congress cataloguing data, where it is listed as “Creative Non-fiction.” Thank you again!

  2. Mr Hernandez, I can’t wait to read your book, I just heard about it today on cspan.
    I had heard the song deportee when I was in high school back in 70 ‘s and I never forgot the song or the opinions expressed in it. I’m so happy on the work you have done to honor these hard working people, who were ignored by almost everyone leaving a bearly visable trail for you to follow. I think in these times is the perfect time for your book. I’m sure it will show the true value that these humble people brought with them to this country. Anyway thank you again for the book, and more info on a story that’s been on and in my mind for decades. True book lover j.s.taylor

  3. Tim,
    LOVED “All They Will Call You”. Library ordered it for me (and their shelf). Enjoyed your research and reaching out to the victims’ families. The song has haunted me since I first heard Pete Seger perform it in the mid 70’s. Any plans on updating on your website as you encounter more families? Thanks again, for a great read!
    Michael Cuslidge
    Corvallis, MT

  4. Tim – Dan let me know when he was checking it in so I could get it before anyone else got it. I loved it! It was a moving experience to read it and sort of put a face on the names. I really admire and appreciate all that you did for the memory of those that died. I don’t think I had the opportuntiy to meet you but I used to be in a group with Dan and we played Plane Wreck at Los Gatos regularly. We often closed with it – always an emotional experience. Thanks again for your work in putting it all together!!

    Doug Coppock

  5. Hola Dan, Do you have an email list? Would love to know when you are reading again in the Bay Area. Thanks!

  6. I just reread “Manana Means Heaven” for the second time and found it just as compelling. However, THIS time I also pulled out Kerouac’s “On The Road” and read the pages he’d written about “Terry” the Mexican girl. I found his descriptions so shallow and coarse, compared to yours. I also found discrepancies in a few areas. It will always appear to me, that he dismissed her so freely and easily. I too have spent thousands of miles on the road and published my memoir in 2014, “Queen of the Road.” So I know the lure of the road. But Kerouac will be forever diminished in my view. Thanks again for your wonderful accounting and for finding Bea Franco.

  7. Hello Tim my 6th grade daughter is doing a history paper on the Braceros and on our research we came across the song and you. The song your book and the information really touched us. She can wait to read the book. Thank you !

  8. Tim, I have just finished reading your book _”All They Will Call You”. I was just taken aback by it. I had heard the song a while back and have since done reading and research on Woody Guthrie. Your book means so much to the memory of the people who died and their descendants. Thank you for writing it and I hope when I go to El Paso I can get my book autographed and share my story of how I became acquainted with this song with you.

    • Jesus, thank you. I’m glad the story resonated with you, and that the song holds special meaning in your life. Look me up anytime you’re in El Paso!

      • Tim, Last week John McCutcheon and I performed Deportee in Portland, OR. I told him some interesting facts that I had discovered about the newspaper coverage of the accident, but I haven’t been able to confirm it, and he suggested that I contact you. I can’t find your email address, and I don’t use social media. Please send me your email.

        Mike Sands 1419ms@gmail.com

  9. I just read your book All They Will Call Me, the book was so emotional that I cried when I was reading it. I hope you find the other families so that they can have closure. Thank you for sharing the story of these hard working beautiful people. May God Bless themand God Bless you.

  10. Mr. Hernandez, I am a 1979 (B.A.) and 1986 (M.Ed.) UTEP graduate. I Just finished reading your book “All They Will Call You”. It was read in about 8 hours. Thank you for doing the research and writing this book to tell this migrant workers’ story and give names to the deceased. I have lived in Sacramento Ca for 28 years. I plan on visiting the grave site in Fresno and pay homage to them. I belong to El Coro de Sacramento within the Latino Arts and Culture Center. We practiced singing the Gutherie/Hoffman song for last week’s Cesar Chavez march. When researching the song I came across your book. I knew I had to read it. I was in El Paso visiting family about 3 weeks ago. On my next visit to El Paso I will definitely stop by your office on the Utep campus. Hopefully I may meet you and congratulate in person for such an outstanding piece of work! GRACIAS!

  11. I just finished reading your book “All They Will Call You” The book brought me to tears at times as I found myself feeling the same thoughts of the relatives and the stories of their loved ones. I had almost completed reading the book when the actual date of the crash hit me. Jan 28th has significance for me in several ways. My youngest sister, and my brother’s daughter were born on Jan 28th. I was stationed at Lowry AFB when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded after take off. Finally, it is the day my mother died. I could hardly believe I didn’t think about when I started reading the book.

    • Fred, thank you. Yes, this book and story are filled with more synchronicities than any person can fit into one book. January 28 seems to hold a lot of significance for a lot of people. I appreciate your support of my book and work. Thank you and happy new year!

  12. Hola Sr. Hernandez,

    I grew up near Coalinga (Cantua Creek), my grandfather and great uncle were braceros from Guanajuato too! but not involved in that crash. However, our family did climb to the “three rocks” a few times. and we often ate at Ole Frijole! My family (as am I) is also from Guanajuato (San Miguel de Allende). at the time of the show on Latino USA, your count was being able to reach 8 of the 40. Has that count changed?
    <ps. just downloaded the e-book from amazon 🙂

  13. Dear Tim,
    I am at an international affairs conference this week on Star Island, off the coast of Rye New Hampshire, where a large group of families and adults are hearing talks on the topic of Human Migration (an ASU prof, Pardis Mahdavi, spoke on Sunday). I asked a group to sing the song Deportee with me (will rehearse today, perform Thursday night). In my research I discovered your work to name and honor the victims of the plane crash & have asked our high school kids to help us name and honor them as well. Your work has inspired me and other folks here, including, I hope, the young people. Thank you for this important work, and I wish you were here with us this week. With gratitude,
    Emily Denham Swomley denham.swomley@gmail.com

  14. Hi Tim-

    I’m the librarian at Monarch HS in Louisville, CO. I heard you speak a few years ago at a conference at CU and had the impression you spent some time in CO and help out w students in BVSD schools. Would you ever consider coming out to speak w our kids here at Monarch HS next time you are up here visiting?

    Beatrice Gerrish

  15. I have your name from a message thatRichard Montoya shared that I believe he said came from you. When I saw it I thought it was his father, José, who was my great supporter in starting Chicano Theatre performance and coursework at Cal State Sacra. I am going to ask you to friend me on Facebook. I am retired in Texas and Look forward to knowing more about your work. I have books and many articles on performance.
    Elizabeth C Ramirez

  16. This story has always weighed heavy on my heart. My first account of it was the Song, is the crash site accessible by foot? I would like to visit the site and the grave.

  17. Dear Tim…Two years ago, for my most recent book, “The Dog Went Over the Mountain,” my rescue dog Albie and I retraced Steinbeck’s route in “Travels with Charley.” While in California we stayed with an old friend of mine who is now the Majority Leader of the California State Senate, Bill Monning. For years Bill worked as a lawyer with the California Rural Legal Assistance representing the United Farm Workers. As we were traveling through the Central Valley on that trip, Bill suggested I stop at La Paz, the national monument that honors Cesar Chavez, which I found extremely moving. During my visit Bill gave me a copy of “All They Will Call You.” Took me a bit to get to it but now that I’ve read it I wanted to drop you a note. My childhood heros were Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. In fact, on my cross-country trip two years ago I made a point of spending a day in Woody’s hometown of Okemah, OK, (I devote an entire chapter in my book to that day) and way back, in 1979, I spent a week crewing on The Clearwater, the Hudson River Sloop that was one of Pete’s creations. I was well familiar with the song Deportee before reading your book, but confess that until I read it I didn’t know that the tune was written by someone other than Woody. I am so glad someone, you, has put names and faces and lives to those “anonymous” souls who perished in the plane crash. All these decades later the struggle continues. Best to you…Peter Zheutlin

  18. I was part of the UTMB group that you spoke with last week. I finished reading All They Will Call You last night. This book has been one of the best I’ve ever read, and that is no small compliment from a voracious reader like myself. The way you placed their names on the page made it look like they were falling from the sky OR angels in heaven. Your writing affected me deeply, and I will be purchasing the book so that I can hold it and reread it over and over. You accomplished your goal of bringing all the people on that plane to life, and I am deeply grateful that you told the story and that I heard of it. Thank you! Janet Enderle

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