I’m a sociologist, and I worked at USC for 30 years. My research relies on interviews and ethnography to highlight the contributions and struggles of disenfranchised and often under-appreciated Latina/o immigrants.
Doing this kind of research is sparked by own life experiences. My immigrant parents left rural backgrounds in different countries (mother from Chile, father from France—kind of unusual, I know). They made their way from peasant origins, to working class jobs, and ultimately to the suburban San Francisco Bay Area, where I was comfortably raised and educated in public schools and Catholic schools—growing up, I really hated the repressive atmosphere of Catholic school, but I’ve also come to appreciate how I benefited from some of the teachers and practice with writing. As a young adult, I studied at the University of California, San Diego and the University of California at Berkeley, and I spent some formative years in Mexico City and Chile.
Random facts about me: I like being surrounded by plants and gardens. Until fairly recently, I wouldn’t even touch dogs, but now I love them, especially our dog Dusty. I’m now splitting my time between two beautiful places, California and Santa Fe, New Mexico.
I made my career and raised my family in Los Angeles (with Michael A. Messner, I have two young adult sons, Miles and Sasha). With the exception of my first book, Los Angeles has been the site of all of my research. It’s an exciting global city, always changing, full of challenges and endlessly fascinating. Many years ago, the writers Helen Hunt Jackson and Carey McWilliams (in separate publications) referred to LA as “an island on the land.” It is that, but it also a deeply connected node in our planet, bringing together people and practices from around the globe. It’s kind of a window on the world.
My latest book, South Central Dreams (2021), co-authored with Manuel Pastor and the result of a multi-year quantitative and qualitative research study, examines South Los Angeles, where Latino immigrants have settled in historically African American neighborhoods. We chronicle Latino immigrant homemaking processes and the social struggles and solidarity they share with African Americans, and we put forth some new sociological lenses for understanding these processes.
You can learn more about the book at our website here.
And you can order a copy of the book here.