NEW BOOK – “ONCE I WAS YOU: A MEMOIR OF LOVE AND HATE

Encore: July 20, 2021

For nearly thirty years, journalist Maria Hinojosa has made it her life’s work to report on the lives and struggles of some of America’s most marginalized communities. Her keen journalistic eye has earned her a number of awards, including a Peabody and multiple Emmys. And now, the Emmy award–winning journalist, and anchor and executive producer of Latino USA is hoping to connect once again by telling her own story. In her new book, “Once I Was You: A Memoir Of Love And Hate In A Torn America”, she shares her own experience as a Mexican American woman, offering an eye-opening account of how the rhetoric and policy over immigration has shaped modern day America.

For more information on “Once I Was You: A Memoir Of Love And Hate In A Torn America,” click here.

Aired on December 1, 2020

TRANSCRIPT

> WELCOME TO 'METROFOCUS,' I'M JAKE FORD.

FOR NEARLY 30 YEARS, JOURNALIST MARIA HINOJOSA MADE IT HER LIFE'S WORK TO REPORT ON THE LIVES AND STRUGGLES OF SOME OF AMERICA'S MOST MARGINALIZED COMMUNITIES.

THE JOURNALISTIC EYE ALONG WITH HER GIFT OF ILLUMINATING THE HUMANITY OF OUR SUBJECTS HAS EARNED HER A NUMBER OF AWARDS.

NOW, HOWEVER, SHE'S TURNING THAT JOURNALISTIC EYE ON HERSELF.

HER NEW BOOK IS TITLED 'ONCE I WAS YOU.'

A MEMOIR OF LOVE AND HATE IN A TORN AMERICA.

IT TELLS A STORY OF HER OWN EXPERIENCES AS A MEK MEXICAN-AMERICAN WOMAN.

AND HOW THE RHETORIC AND POLICY OVER IMMIGRATION HAS SHAPED MODERN DAY AMERICA.

WE ARE DELIGHTED TO HAVE HER JOINING US NOW.

AWARD-WINNING JOURNALIST, ANCHOR AND EXECUTIVE PRODUCER OF LATINO USA.

MARIA HINOJOSA.

HEY, JACK, IT'S GREAT TO BE WITH YOU.

THIS IS, I'M GOING TO SAY, IT'S A MARVELOUS BOOK.

THANK YOU.

IT'S JUST SUCH A WONDERFUL INTERWEAVING OF YOUR PERSONAL LIFE AND OBSTACLES AND STRUGGLES AND SUCCESSES AND THE BIGGER PICTURE OF HISTORY AND IMMIGRATION.

LET ME START WITH, IF I CAN, THE -- I'M ALWAYS FASCINATED BY THE TITLES OF BOOKS.

AND I LOOKED AT YOURS AND I SAID, OKAY, 'ONCE I WAS YOU.'

I'M GOING TO ASK MARIA ABOUT WHERE THAT CAME FROM AND THEN I READ THE ANECDOTE THAT YOU START WITH BOOK WITH.

GIVE ME A SENSE OF THAT ANECDOTE AND HOW IT BROUGHT YOU TO THIS TITLE.

YOU KNOW, JACK, I LOVE THE FACT THAT YOU'RE FASCINATED WITH TITLE SO I'LL CALL YOU NEXT TIME --

IT'S THE HARDEST THING TO DO.

I'VE WRITTEN THREE BOOKS.

HARDEST THING IS TO COME UP WITH A TITLE.

WE DID NOT HAVE A TITLE.

WE WERE STRUGGLING.

AND THEN WE HAD A FRESH TAKE AND SOMEBODY WROTE THE INTRODUCTION TO THE BOOK, WHICH I WROTE, ACTUALLY, ONCE I HAD FINISHED THE BOOK, I WENT BACK AND WROTE THE INTRODUCTION AND IT WAS, THE GREAT AMERICAN WRITER WHO WROTE 'THE HOUSE ON MANGO STREET' IS A DEAR FRIEND OF MINE AND SAID, DON'T ALWAYS WRITE ABOUT WHAT YOU REMEMBER, WRITE ABOUT THE THINGS THAT YOU SHOULD FORGET.

I THOUGHT THAT WAS A FABULOUS LINE.

I THOUGHT, WHAT GREAT ADVICE TO A JOURNALIST AND A WRITER.

RIGHT?

AND SO THEN, I THOUGHT, WHAT DO I WISH I COULD FORGET?

WHAT IS THAT THING?

AND I REMEMBERED THIS SCENE IN THE McALLEN AIRPORT RIGHT AROUND THE TIME WHEN EVERYBODY WAS BECOMING AWARE OF THE FACT THAT CHILDREN WERE BEING RIPPED OUT OF THE ARMS OF THEIR PARENTS AS A FORM OF POLICY AND PUNISHMENT FOR PEOPLE WHO WERE BASICALLY REFUGEES AND SO I -- I SEE THIS LITTLE GIRL IN THE AIRPORT AND, YOU KNOW, JACK, BACK WHEN WE WERE FLYING AROUND, YOU KNOW, ALL THE TIME, I HAVE A LOT OF GOOD AIRPORT -- I KNOW HOW TO JUDGE AIRPORT VIBE.

LITTLE KIDS IN AIRPORTS ARE ALWAYS HAPPY, PERIOD.

THIS LITTLE GIRL WAS NOT.

SHE WAS SITTING THERE ALMOST CATATONIC BUT GORGEOUS AND STHE I REALIZED THERE WAS A GROUP OF KIDS THE SAME, ALL JUST LIKE BLANK-FACED.

AND THEN I REALIZED WHAT WAS HAPPENING.

I WAS WITNESSING A GROUP OF THESE CHILDREN WHO HAD BEEN TAKEN FROM THEIR PARENTS AND WAS NOTHING BUT TAKEN SOME PLACE ELSE ON A FLIGHT IN McKALLEN.

AND SO AS A JOURNALIST, YOU KNOW, I WAS JUST LIKE, OH, MY GOD, THIS IS MY MOMENT, AND SO I WENT AND I SAT NEXT TO HER AND I STARTED SPEAKING WITH HER AND THEN, OF COURSE, SOON AFTER, THE PEOPLE WHO WERE TRANSPORTING THESE CHILDREN, YOU KNOW, PULLED THEM ALL UP, GOT THEM INTO LINE, I WAS TOLD I COULD NOT SPEAK TO THEM.

AND THEN I WAS SPEAKING, AS WE SAID IN SPANISH, I STARTED SPEAKING OUTLOUD IN SPANISH TO THESE PEOPLE WHO WERE TRANSPORTING THE CHILDREN AND I SAID, IN SPANISH, 'I WANT THESE CHILDREN TO HEAR ME, THEY HAVE A RIGHT TO SPEAK TO JOURNALISTS, THEY HAVE A RIGHT TO KNOW THERE ARE PEOPLE IN THIS COUNTRY WHO CARE ABOUT THEM, WHO CARE ABOUT THEIR WHEREABOUTS, WHO DON'T SEE THEM AS A THREAT OR THE ENEMY.

JTS AND THEN AS I WAS WRITING, I SAID, I WANTED THIS LITTLE GIRL TO HEAR ME, BECAUSE I WANTED HER TO KNOW THAT I SEE YOU, BECAUSE ONCE I WAS YOU.

AND THEN THE THING THAT HAPPENED, JACK, IN THE WRITING OF THIS BOOK, AND FRANKLY, IN THE POLICIES UNDER THIS ADMINISTRATION, THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION, IS THAT I REALIZED SOMETHING THAT I -- I JUST DIDN'T REALLY UNDERSTAND THE POWER OF IT, BUT WHEN I ARRIVED IN THIS COUNTRY WITH PRIVILEGE, WITH A GREEN CARD, WITH MY MOTHER, BY PLANE, TO MEET MY FATHER AT THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO, SO, WE'RE TALKING PRIVILEGE, NOT WEALTH, BUT PRIVILEGE, IMMIGRATION AGENTS IN TEXAS AT THE DALLAS AIRPORT TRIED TO TAKE ME.

AND THAT -- THAT IS PART OF THE STORY AND I DIDN'T EVEN REALIZE IT.

AND AGAIN, I DON'T KNOW, HAD IT NOT BEEN FOR THIS PARTICULAR ADMINISTRATION, IF I WOULD HAVE BEEN PUSHED TO KIND OF SEE THAT TRAUMA.

IS THAT THE WHY -- BECAUSE THE NEXT QUESTION I WAS GOING TO ASK YOU WAS THIS, AND BY THE WAY, THAT FIRST, THAT ANECDOTE, I READ IT AND I SAT BACK AND I SAID, OH, OKAY.

NOW I UNDERSTAND WHY FOR HER, FROM MY PERSPECTIVE.

YEAH.

WHY NOW?

WHY THIS BOOK?

BECAUSE THIS IS -- YOU COULD HAVE WRITTEN THIS TEN YEARS AGO, YOU COULD WRITE IT TEN YEARS FROM NOW.

WHY NOW?

SO, JACK, YOU AND I ARE JOURNALISTS, WE ARE VERY USED TO DAILY DEADLINES, WEEKLY DEADLINE.

WE WRITE LIKE THIS.

WELL, BUT YOU'RE A BOOK WRITER, SO, YOU KNOW.

TO ME, BOOK WRITING IS LIKE, OH, MY GOD, NO, LIKE, THE LAST THING I WANT TO DO IS WRITE A BOOK, BECAUSE IT TAKES SO MUCH OUT OF YOU.

AND SUCH A COMMITMENT.

I DIDN'T WANT TO WRITE A ACTUALLY, I WAS AFRAID.

I ADMIT THAT I WAS REALLY SCARED OF WRITING ANOTHER BOOK, BUT IT WAS 2016 AND I HAD THIS VIRAL MOMENT ON MSNBC WHERE I SAID TO STEVE CORTEZ, A TRUMP SURROGATE, ILLEGAL IS NOT A NOUN.

HE WAS USING ILL AS A NOUN.

I SAID, ILLEGAL IS NOT A NOUN.

THE FIRST THING THE NAZIS DID WAS TO CALL THE JEWS AN ILLEGAL PEOPLE.

A COLLEAGUE SAID, OH, THAT'S THE BOOK.

I SAID, OH, I CAN WRITE A LITTLE POCKETBOOK, YOU KNOW, THE KIND THAT WE COURTHOUSED TO PICK UP WHEN WE WERE AT THE AIRPORT, YOU WOULD PICK IT UP AND READ IT IN ONE SITTING.

I WAS LIKE, I CAN WRITE THAT BOOK.

THAT'S A SMALL BOOK.

MY PUBLISHER, WHEN I KIND OF GOT AN AGENT, ET CETERA, THEY WERE LIKE, WE ACTUALLY DON'T WANT A SMALL BOOK, WE WANT A BIG BOOK FROM YOU AND THAT'S WHEN I WAS LIKE, OH, MY GOD.

WHAT DID I GET MYSELF INTO?

WHAT DID I GET MYSELF INTO?

AND YOU KNOW, ALSO, WHEN I WAS -- I HAD JUST FINISHED IT AT THE END OF 2019 AND I WAS LIKE, NOBODY'S GOING TO KCARE ABOUT THIS BOOK, THERE'S NOTHING NEW TO SAY.

SO, I LOVE IT WHEN PEOPLE SAY IT FEELS SO PERFECT FOR THIS MOMENT, BECAUSE -- YOU KNOW, IT WAS JUST LIFE THAT LED ITSELF TO BE THIS WAY, AND AGAIN, I DON'T KNOW -- IT'S WEIRD.

I'VE ACTUALLY NEVER SAID THIS BEFORE, BUT HAD IT NOT BEEN FOR THIS PARTICULAR ADMINISTRATION, MAYBE I MIGHT NOT HAVE BEEN FORCED, IN A WAY, TO WRITE THIS BOOK.

WELL, IT WAS THE RIGHT TIME FOR IT.

LET ME ASK YOU, AS I MENTIONED, IT'S THIS INTERESTING WORK AND YOU DESCRIBED IT AS A HISTORICAL MEMOIR.

SO, THE MEMOIR PART IS FASCINATING AND IT'S AGAINST THE BACKDROP OF THE HISTORY, YOUR HISTORY, OUR HISTORY.

I WAS STRUCK BY THE FACT THAT WITH THE GREAT SUCCESSES YOU'VE HAD AS A JOURNALIST THAT YOU TALK ABOUT THE FIRST DAY YOU WALKED INTO THE NPR NEWSROOM AND YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF AS BEING TERRIFIED.

WHY TERRIFIED?

OH, MY GOD.

WELL, LOOK, JACK, THERE WAS JUST NO WAY TO GET AROUND IT.

IT WAS THE FIRST LATINA HIRED TO WORK IN THE NEWSROOM AT NPR.

THE FIRST.

IT WAS 1985.

SO, OF COURSE YES, I HAD GRADUATED FROM BARNARD, BUT ONE OF THE THINGS I WRITE ABOUT IN THE BOOK A LOT IS THE IMPOSTER SYNDROME.

JUST ALWAYS FEELING LIKE, AM I REALLY SUPPOSED TO BE HERE?

OH, MY GOD, THEY'RE GOING TO FIND OUT THAT I'M JUST THIS MEXICAN IMMIGRANT KID AND I'M NOT SUPPOSED TO BE HERE, I'M NOT GOOD ENOUGH.

THAT'S ONE OF THE THEMES THROUGHOUT THE BOOK THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE ACTUALLY CONNECTED TO.

SO I -- I WAS TERRIFIED, I MEAN, I HAD A TREMENDOUS RESPONSIBILITY.

TO ME, IT WASN'T JUST, LIKE, OH, YOU GOT A JOB AS A JOURNALIST.

IT WAS, TO ME, YOU GOT A JOB AS A JOURNALIST AT NPR BECAUSE OF THE KIND OF -- OF JOURNALIST, ALREADY, BECAUSE I WAS A BUDDING JOURNALIST AT BARNARD, THAT YOU HAVE BECOME.

AND THAT'S A TESTAMENT TO JAY, WHO HIRED ME AND WAS THE CREATOR OF 'MORNING EDITION' AND FORMER PRODUCER OF '60 MINUTES' AND NOW IS AT 'CBS SUNDAY MORNING.'

JAY HIRED ME BECAUSE OF THE PERSON THAT I WAS, TO BRING THAT INTO HIS NEWSROOM, BECAUSE HE SAW THAT.

SO, IT WASN'T ADDED WEIGHT, IT WASN'T JUST, LIKE, IT'S MY FIRST DAY ON MY JOB, BUT IT'S LIKE, IT'S YOUR FIRST DAY ON YOUR JOB AND YOU ARE THE FIRST.

AND THERE WERE PEOPLE THAT ABSOLUTELY SAW ME AS AN AFFIRMATIVE ACTION HIRE.

BUT THE WAY I DEALT WITH IT WAS, I'M IN THIS ROOM, I'M IN THIS PLACE, I HAVE PRIVILEGE, I'VE GOT RESPONSIBILITY, I'VE GOT TO DO SOMETHING NOT JUST FOR ME, BUT FOR ALL OF THESE STORIES THAT NEED TO BE TOLD.

YOU THINK -- YOU'RE TALKING ABOUT 1985.

A LOT OF PEOPLE WOULD BE SURPRISED BY HEARING THAT YOU WERE THE FIRST PERSON AND IT WAS 1985.

DO YOU THINK THAT OUR NEWSROOMS ACROSS THIS COUNTRY, AND I'M TALKING ABOUT, YOU KNOW, BROADCAST, CABLE, DIGITAL, ONLINE, DO YOU THINK WE ARE -- WE ARE -- WHERE WE SHOULD BE IN TERMS OF RECOGNIZING THE CONTRIBUTIONS OF PEOPLE WHO DON'T LOOK LIKE US?

OR SOUND LIKE US?

OR ARE WE STILL WAY BEHIND ON THAT?

WE'RE STILL WAY BEHIND.

AND THE REASON WHY I SAY THAT, JACK, IS BECAUSE THE IMPORTANCE OF HAVING JOURNALISTS OF COLOR AND OF CONSCIENCE, AND BY THE WAY, YOU DO NOT HAVE TO BE A JOURNALIST OF COLOR TO BE A JOURNALIST OF CONSCIENCE.

BUT THE TRAJECTORY THAT WE HAVE IN THIS COUNTRY IS SO ESSENTIAL.

I DON'T KNOW IF YOU READ THIS BOOK, BUT YOU'RE GOING TO LOVE IT, IT'S CALLED 'NEWS FOR ALL THE PEOPLE' WRITTEN BY JUAN GONZALEZ.

AND WHAT IT DOES IS, IT TALKS ABOUT THE ROLE, PARTICULARLY OF JOURNALISTS OF COLOR.

AND WHEN I UNDERSTOOD THAT, I WAS LIKE, NOW I UNDERSTAND MY ROLE.

I'M TIED TO FREDRIK DOUGLAS, WHO WAS BORN INTO SLIFRY AND THEN LAUNCHES THE FIRST BLACK-OWNED BLACK-EDITED NEWSPAPER IN OUR COUNTRY.

SO, WHAT WE'RE TALKING ABOUT IS ACTUALLY DOING THE BEST JOURNALISM THAT WE CAN DO.

IMAGINE IF FREDRIK DOUGLAS HAD BEEN EDITOR IN CHIEF OF 'THE WASHINGTON POST' FOR EXAMPLE.

IMAGINE HOW WE WOULD HAVE BEEN TALKING ABOUT OR COVERS THE ISSUE OF SLAVERY IF HE HAD BEEN THE EDITOR IN CHIEF.

NOW, IT'S NOT TO SAY THAT THE PEOPLE WHO HAVE BEEN EDITORS IN CHIEF HAVE BEEN TERRIBLE PEOPLE, THEY'RE GREAT JOURNALISTS, BUT YOU ONLY SEE -- THAT'S WHY I LOVE WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT BEING RAISED BY A SINGLE MOTHER, BY THE FACT THAT YOU, YOU KNOW, YOU HAD TO -- YOU WERE NOT A CHILD OF PRIVILEGE, YOU HAD TO FIGHT TO GET INTO THIS BUSINESS, BECAUSE THOSE ARE THE THINGS THAT YOU BRING INTO THE NEWSROOM THAT EFFECT HOW YOU SEE THE STORY.

AND THE TRUTH IS THAT THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA IS INCREDIBLY DIVERSE, WE ALL KNOW IT.

HAS BEEN SINCE FOREVER.

THE MORE DIVERSE OUR NEWSROOMS ARE, THE BETTER JOURNALISM WE DO.

PERIOD.

IT'S NOT A POLITICAL ISSUE.

AND IT'S ACTUALLY BETTER BECAUSE THEN WE'RE GOING TO HAVE MARKETS TO SELL TO, OR IN THE CASE OF PUBLIC MEDIA, MARKETS THAT WILL WANT TO DONATE TO PUBLIC MEDIA.

QUESTION OF EQUALITY OF THE WORK THAT IS BEING DONE.

MARIA, I COULD TALK FOREVER WITH YOU ABOUT THIS, AS I SAID, IT'S JUST SUCH A MARVELOUS BOOK.

SO MANY MESSAGES, AS YOU SAID, HISTORICAL MEMOIR, ONE OF THE GREAT MESSAGES, BUT I'M OUT OF TIME, AS YOU SAY, MESSAGES DON'T GIVE UP.

DON'T GIVE UP.

ONCE AGAIN, THE BOOK IS TITLED 'ONCE I WAS YOU.'

MARIA, THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING US.

IT'S A PLEASURE.

LOOK FORWARD TO TALKING TO YOU AGAIN REAL SOON HOPEFULLY.

THANK YOU, JACK.

THANK YOU SO MUCH.

YOU BE WELL.

Funders

MetroFocus is made possible by Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, the Sylvia A. and Simon B. Poyta Programming Endowment to Fight Anti-Semitism, The Peter G. Peterson and Joan Ganz Cooney Fund, Bernard and Denise Schwartz, Barbara Hope Zuckerberg, The Ambrose Monell Foundation, Janet Prindle Seidler, Jody and John Arnhold, the Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judy and Josh Weston and the Dr. Robert C. and Tina Sohn Foundation.

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