5 Questions with Tim Z. Hernandez, Author of All They Will Call You

We’re thrilled to be hosting Tim Z. Hernandez this Tuesday at City Lights Bookstore in order to celebrate the recent release of All They Will Call You, Published by University of Arizona Press. Joining Tim will be special guests Margi Dunlap, Connie Ann Mart, and Lance Canales. Tim took the time to answer our five questions: more on him, and his answers, below.

Event: Tuesday, February 7th, 2017 at 7:00pm. 261 Columbus Ave, San Francisco, CA 94133

About All They Will Call You: All They Will Call You is the harrowing account of “the worst airplane disaster in California’s history,” which claimed the lives of thirty-two passengers, including twenty-eight Mexican citizens—farm workers who were being deported by the U.S. government. Outraged that media reports omitted only the names of the Mexican passengers, American folk icon Woody Guthrie penned a poem that went on to become one of the most important protest songs of the twentieth century, “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos (Deportee).” It was an attempt to restore the dignity of the anonymous lives whose unidentified remains were buried in an unmarked mass grave in California’s Central Valley. For nearly seven decades, the song’s message would be carried on by the greatest artists of our time, including Pete Seeger, Dolly Parton, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, and Joan Baez, yet the question posed in Guthrie’s lyrics, “Who are these friends all scattered like dry leaves?” would remain unanswered—until now.

Tim Z. Hernandez will be joined by Margi Dunlap and Connie Ann Mart, two women directly related to the song and the incident, as well as Lance Canales, a musician who helped secure a long-overdue memorial for the Mexican victims of the crash.

Combining years of painstaking investigative research and masterful storytelling, award-winning author Tim Z. Hernandez weaves a captivating narrative from testimony, historical records, and eyewitness accounts, reconstructing the incident and the lives behind the legendary song. This singularly original account pushes narrative boundaries, while challenging perceptions of what it means to be an immigrant in America, but more importantly, it renders intimate portraits of the individual souls who, despite social status, race, or nationality, shared a common fate one frigid morning in January 1948.

About Tim Z. Hernandez:  Tim Z. Hernandez was born and raised in California’s San Joaquin Valley. Hernandez makes his home in El Paso, where he is an assistant professor at the University of Texas at El Paso’s MFA Program in Creative Writing. You can find more information at his website, www.timzhernandez.com


City Lights: If you’ve been to City Lights before, what’s your memory of the visit? If you haven’t been here before, what are you expecting?

Tim Z. Hernandez: Yes, I’ve been going to City Lights for many years. Long before I had any aspirations to be a writer, I was a fan of all the books that came out of City Lights Publications. And then when I did realize that writing was a calling, I envisioned one day I might have my own book on a shelf there. The space itself holds history, and I’m just excited to be a small part of it.

CL: What’s the first book you read & what are you reading right now?

TH: The first book I read with the intention of reading for myself, and not part of any formal study, was probably On the Road by Jack Kerouac. I must’ve been around 16 years old. It’s what lead me to reading more works by him, and by many other writers affiliated with City Lights. I’m currently reading Randa Jarrar’s Him, Me, Muhammed Ali, and Afterland by Mai Der Vang.

CL: Which 3 books would you never part with?

TH: Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, Changing Season: A Father, a Daughter, a Family Farm by David Mas Masumoto and Nikiko Masumoto, and The Heart of Understanding: Commentaries on the Prajnaparamita Heart Sutra, by Thich Nhat Hanh.

CL: If your book had a soundtrack, what would it be?

TH: If All They Will Call You had a soundtrack it would include the song “Plane Wreck at Los Gatos (Deportee),” or any music by Woody Guthrie, Pete Seeger, The Haunted Windchimes, Valerie June, Lance Canales, Rage Against the Machine, Odetta, and Jorge Negrete.

CL: If you opened a bookstore tomorrow, where would it be located, what would it be called, and what would your bestseller be?

TH: I’ve often dreamed of this. My bookstore would be located in the heart of the San Joaquin Valley, Fresno maybe, and it would be called “In the Grove,” and the bestsellers would be works by all the wonderful writers that have come from that neck of the woods: Lee Herrick, Michael Medrano, Juan Felipe Herrera, Mia Barraza Martinez, Marisol Baca, David Campos, William Saroyan, and many others.


Please join us on Tuesday, February 7th to celebrate Tim Z. Hernandez’s latest work, All They Will Call You. The book is available directly through University of Arizona Press, as well as at the City Lights website. Be sure to visit Tim’s website for more on him and his work. Check out our calendar for a complete list of upcoming events.

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