Book Notes from Visiting Scholar Natalia Molina

Visiting Scholar Molina Photo

ΦBK Visiting Scholar Natalia Molina is Distinguished Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity and Dean’s Professor of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. Her research explores the interconnected histories of race, place, gender, culture, and citizenship. Her award-winning books include How Race Is Made in America: Immigration, Citizenship, and the Historical Power of Racial Scripts; Fit to Be Citizens?: Public Health and Race in Los Angeles, 1879-1940; and, most recently, A Place at the Nayarit: How a Mexican Restaurant Nourished a Community.

During a recent Key Conversations podcast discussion with ΦΒΚ Secretary Frederick M. Lawrence, Molina shared her thoughts on the top three books she would recommend and why.

Looking for a book about contemporary history and the current moment? Try The Hispanic Republican by Geraldo Cadava (ΦBK, Dartmouth). “It tells us the role of Latinos in politics, past and present,” Molina said. “We know that the Latino population has long been considered a sleeping giant. Once they start to vote more actively, they can change elections, and we’re already seeing that to some degree.” 

If you like a book that helps you to reassess your understanding of what you think you already know, you might like Kelly Lytle Hernández’s Bad Mexicans. In this book, Molina explained, Hernández is writing “about the United States, but more as an empire, and she’s placing the Mexican Revolution at the heart of U.S. history, so the book reorientates our idea of what borders are and the U.S.’s relationship to Mexico.” 

Interested in a local book and how small histories actually tell big stories? Read George J. Sanchez’s Boyle Heights. “Like Echo Park, it’s a multiracial, multi-ethnic neighborhood and teaches us a lot about people migrating to the U.S., how people find connection across racial and ethnic bounds, and then how a neighborhood completely changes,” Molina said.

Want to learn more? Listen to our Key Conversations podcast with Molina or explore what additional ΦBK Visiting Scholars have to say, including the books they recommend, at