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Once I Was You

A Memoir of Love and Hate in a Torn America


“Maria’s perspective is powerful and vital. Years ago, when In the Heights was just starting off-Broadway, Maria got the word out to our community to support this new musical about our neighborhoods. She has been a champion of our triumphs, a critic of our detractors, and a driving force to right the wrongs our society faces. When Maria speaks, I’m ready to listen and learn.” —Lin-Manuel Miranda

Emmy Award–winning journalist and anchor of NPR’s Latino USA, Maria Hinojosa, tells the story of immigration in America through her family’s experiences and decades of reporting, painting an unflinching portrait of a country in crisis.

Maria Hinojosa is an award-winning journalist who has collaborated with the most respected networks and is known for bringing humanity to her reporting. In this beautifully-rendered memoir, she relates the history of US immigration policy that has brought us to where we are today, as she shares her deeply personal story. For thirty years, Maria Hinojosa has reported on stories and communities in America that often go ignored by the mainstream media. Bestselling author Julia Alvarez has called her “one of the most important, respected, and beloved cultural leaders in the Latinx community.”

In Once I Was You, Maria shares her intimate experience growing up Mexican American on the south side of Chicago and documenting the existential wasteland of immigration detention camps for news outlets that often challenged her work. In these pages, she offers a personal and eye-opening account of how the rhetoric around immigration has not only long informed American attitudes toward outsiders, but also enabled willful negligence and profiteering at the expense of our country’s most vulnerable populations—charging us with the broken system we have today.

This honest and heartrending memoir paints a vivid portrait of how we got here and what it means to be a survivor, a feminist, a citizen, and a journalist who owns her voice while striving for the truth. Once I Was You is an urgent call to fellow Americans to open their eyes to the immigration crisis and understand that it affects us all.

Also available in Spanish as Una vez fui tú.

Photograph by Kevin Abosch

Maria Hinojosa’s nearly thirty-year career as a journalist includes reporting for PBS, CBS, WGBH, WNBC, CNN, NPR, and anchoring and executive producing the Peabody Award–winning show Latino USA, distributed by NPR. She is a frequent guest on MSNBC, and has won several awards, including four Emmys, the Studs Terkel Community Media Award, two Robert F. Kennedy Awards, and the Edward R. Murrow Award from the Overseas Press Club. In 2010, she founded Futuro Media, an independent nonprofit organization with the mission of producing multimedia content from a POC perspective. Through the breadth of her work and as the founding co-anchor of the political podcast In The Thick, Hinojosa has informed millions about the changing cultural and political landscape in America and abroad. She lives with her family in Harlem in New York City.

“A powerful memoir that doubles as an essential immigration primer.”

– Publishers Weekly (starred)

Once I Was You is many books in one, a searingly honest memoir by one of this country’s most accomplished women, an inside view of the media, and a fact-filled indictment of our treatment of immigrants over time. Because Maria Hinojosa identifies with each one, anyone striving to understand and improve this country should read her story of what’s wrong and how to change it.”

– Gloria Steinem, author of My Life on the Road

“In these times of love and hate, Maria Hinojosa’s astonishing story is medicine, healing, illumination. She swallows fear as if she were a circus performer swallowing fire. She encourages, inspires, and challenges us to find our own courage. Once I Was You is a dazzling gift she has bestowed upon us and America.”

– Sandra Cisneros, author of The House on Mango Street

“I’ve known and admired Maria for many years. She is truly an outstanding journalist. I loved reading Once I Was You: A Memoir of Love and Hate in a Torn America. It was so personal and moving, and told a very timely and critically important story for all Americans. I learned a lot about Maria, but more importantly, I learned a lot about what’s going on in so many parts of our country. Thanks, Maria, for writing this powerful book.”

– Wolf Blitzer, lead political anchor for CNN

“As a POC journalist, feminist, survivor of sexual assault, and truth-teller, Maria Hinojosa is tough as nails. This expressive and captivating book not only reveals how she has fought to tell stories that are so often silenced by the mainstream media, but also lays bare the deep fissures in our politics and our society. Once I Was You is essential reading for anyone who wants America to do better.”

– Jane Fonda, actor and activist

“Maria’s perspective is powerful and vital. Years ago, when In the Heights was just starting off-Broadway, Maria got the word out to our community to support this new musical about our neighborhoods. She has been a champion of our triumphs, a critic of our detractors, and a driving force to right the wrongs our society faces. When Maria speaks, I’m ready to listen and learn.”

– Lin-Manuel Miranda, creator and original star of Hamilton

“Maria Hinojosa writes about her life, her family, and her immigrant story in ways that will inspire you and break your heart—because that is what the immigration story is in America: part inspiration, hope, and triumph; part rejection, struggle, and heartbreak. Maria’s voice rings loud and clear, and her battle cry for America’s immigrants of color is both poignant and necessary.”

– Joy-Ann Reid, host of MSNBC's AM Joy

“I loved this heart wrenching, yet ultimately hopeful, book. Maria Hinojosa’s Once I Was You puts you in the shoes of frightened immigrant children while laying out a path from fear to success. A guide to joy and empowerment—even in the hard-knock business of journalism—this story is a must-read for anyone who ever wondered how an immigrant could possibly love an America that has always undervalued newcomers.”

– Esther J. Cepeda, nationally syndicated columnist for The Washington Post Writers Group

Once I Was You throws down, proving that Maria Hinojosa is beyond bad assery: esta mujer es una chingona to be reckoned with. In warm, journalistic prose, Hinojosa unfurls a map of una vida extraordinaria that shows her developing, nurturing, and sustaining a career best described as iconoclastic. Her skills as a writer and reporter enable her to trace the ugly contours of US racial politics as she simultaneously narrates a compulsively readable autobiography. Quedé inspirada and perhaps you will too.”

– Myriam Gurba, author of Mean

“Maria Hinojosa is hands down one of the most important, respected, and beloved cultural leaders in the Latinx community. . . . Hers is a voice we need to hear at this moment in our country!”

– Julia Alvarez, author of How the García Girls Lost Their Accents