Introducing the Special Guest to Talk About ‘The Barbarian Nurseries’

In this week’s newsletter, we introduce Reyna Grande, a past CBC author, as our special guest for the gathering to discuss Héctor Tobar’s novel.

reyna grande, héctor tobar, john freeman

Héctor Tobar’s The Barbarian Nurseries was published in 2011, but it remains, unfortunately, as relevant as ever in our debates about immigrants and borders. So wrote Reyna Grande in her passionate foreword to the 10th-anniversary edition of the novel. Grande’s moving memoir The Distance Between Us was the November 2020 selection for the California Book Club. We are thrilled for her return to the CBC—this time as a special guest to talk with Tobar and host John Freeman about Tobar’s novel.

In 2012, The Distance Between Us was a finalist in the autobiography/memoir category of the National Book Critics Circle Award. Grande has also authored the critically acclaimed novels Across a Hundred Mountains and Dancing with Butterflies. She has received an American Book Award, the Premio Aztlán Literary Prize, and the International Latino Book Award.

In her foreword to Tobar’s novel, she noted the disappointment she feels when a list of “best books about California” comes out and very few Latinx writers are featured. She explained, “Latinxs are the largest ethnic group in the Golden State, yet our version of it is often overlooked.” She noted that she saw herself in Araceli, the undocumented live-in maid in Tobar’s novel.

Grande wrote in her foreword that she’d hoped to be able to show her son, now 19, Tobar’s novel. She had hoped to be able to say, “Here is how it used to be.” But 10 years later, sadly, it is still that way. The DREAM Act—legislation to give temporary conditional residency and create a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as minors—has still not passed.

Hopefully, one day, we’ll be able to say, with Grande, “Here is how it used to be.” But in the meantime, pull up a chair and join us in listening to Thursday’s insightful conversation about The Barbarian Nurseries. This is going to be good.

Here are the details:

  • When: Thursday, December 16, at 5 p.m. Pacific time.
  • Where: Join with the Zoom link below.
  • Author questions: Please send your questions for Tobar to You can also submit them using Zoom's chat feature after the event begins.
  • Bonus: We will be giving away five author-signed copies of The Barbarian Nurseries following the program.

    Thank you very much, and see you on Thursday!•


    orange county, suburbia


    John Freeman writes that Tobar’s The Barbarian Nurseries is to the American suburbs what Émile Zola’s Germinal was to coal mining in France in the 19th century. —Alta

    barbarian nurseries, héctor tobar
    Picador USA


    Alta assistant editor Jessica Blough explains that the critical reception of The Barbarian Nurseries recognized Tobar’s talent for portraiture and for capturing a heterogeneous region. —Alta

    orange county, south central los angeles


    Reyna Grande wrote the foreword for the recently published 10th-anniversary edition of The Barbarian Nurseries. Her words are a must-read. —Alta

    southern california books and movies


    Alta Journal associate editor Ajay Orona recommends four representations of a diverse region you might enjoy after reading The Barbarian Nurseries. —Alta

    light on fire, gabrielle selz
    University of California Press


    Gabrielle Selz’s Light on Fire: The Art and Life of Sam Francis offers the first full account of the life of the San Mateo–born painter, but not the last word. It is strongest in its account of Francis’s relationship with color. —Alta

    paul thomas anderson
    Helene Pambrun


    Director Paul Thomas Anderson discusses with David Remnick his writing process and the San Fernando Valley in the 1970s, the setting of not only his latest film, Licorice Pizza, but other films as well. —New Yorker

    california book club bookplates

    Alta’s California Book Club email newsletter is published weekly. Sign up for free and you also will receive four custom-designed bookplates.


    Anita Felicelli, Alta Journal’s California Book Club editor, is the author of the novel Chimerica and Love Songs for a Lost Continent, a short story collection.
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