Natalia Molina, Winner of the David J. Weber Book Prize

Book Prize Award Lecture: Thursday, February 22, 2024

A Place at the Nayarit: How a Mexican Restaurant Nourished a Community 

6 pm lecture followed by book signing.

The Texana Room, Fondren Library
6404 Robert S. Hyer Lane, SMU

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The 2022 David J. Weber Prize for the Best Non-fiction Book on Southwestern America will be presented to Natalia Molina at a special ceremony and book signing at SMU honoring her volume, A Place at the Nayarit: How a Mexican Restaurant Nourished a Community (University of California Press, 2021).

2020 MacArthur Fellow Natalia Molina unveils the hidden history of the Nayarit, a restaurant in Los Angeles that nourished its community of Mexican immigrants with a sense of belonging.

The judging committee wrote:

In her fascinating new monograph, A Place at the Nayarit: How a Mexican Restaurant Nourished a Community, Natalia Molina offers a rare glimpse into the everyday lives of immigrant laborers through the lens of the Nayarit restaurant in Echo Park, Los Angeles. Through skillful use of oral, family, urban, and social history, Molina demonstrates how sites such as the Nayarit often operate as worlds of their own, serving as workplaces, community spaces, and meeting grounds for diverse groups; they are crucial places of support for racialized and marginalized individuals. With engaging and humanizing storytelling, Molina’s work invites us to consider how sites similar to the Nayarit are spread throughout the region, thereby reconfiguring our understanding of the Southwest borderlands. 

Natalia Molina is a Distinguished Professor in the Department of American Studies and Ethnicity at the University of Southern California. She is currently serving as Interim Director of Research at the Huntington. Her research explores the interconnected histories of race, place, gender, culture, and citizenship. She is the author of the award-winning books, How Race Is Made in America:  Immigration, Citizenship, and the Historical Power of Racial Scripts and Fit to Be Citizens?: Public Health and Race in Los Angeles, 1879-1940. Her most recent book is A Place at the Nayarit: How a Mexican Restaurant Nourished a Community, on immigrant workers as placemakers —including her grandmother—who nurtured and fed the community through the restaurants they established, which served as urban anchors. She co- edited Relational Formations of Race: Theory, Method and Practice, and is now at work on a new book, The Silent Hands that Shaped the Huntington: A History of Its Mexican Workers. In addition to publishing widely in scholarly journals, she has also written for the LA Times, Washington Post, San Diego Union-Tribune, and more. Professor Molina is a 2020 MacArthur Fellow. 


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