Tim Z. Hernandez

Last updated
Tim Z. Hernandez
Born Dinuba, California
  • Poet
  • writer
  • performer
  • activist
Education California State University, Long Beach
Naropa University
Bennington College
Notable worksSkin Tax
All they Will Call You
Notable awards American Book Award, 2006
Premio Aztlán Literary Prize
Tim Z. Hernandez website

Tim Z. Hernandez is an American writer, poet, and performer. His first poetry collection, Skin Tax (Heyday, 2004), received the 2006 American Book Award, and his debut novel, Breathing, in Dust (Texas Tech University Press, 2010), was awarded the 2010 Premio Aztlán Literary Prize, and was a finalist for the California Book Award. In 2011, Hernandez was named one of sixteen New American Poets by the Poetry Society of America. In 2014 he received the Colorado Book Award for his poetry collection, Natural Takeover of Small Things, and the 2014 International Latino Book Award for his historical fiction novel, Mañana Means Heaven. In 2018, he received the Luis Leal Award for Distinction in Chicano Letters administered by UC Santa Barbara, and in 2019 he was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters.


Hernandez's research of the 1948 Los Gatos DC-3 crash near Los Gatos, California which killed 32 people, primarily Mexican farm laborers, resulted in his successful campaign to install a monument at the mass grave site. In 2017, he published the book, All They Will Call You, on the crash and the subsequent investigation. Hernandez was one of four finalists for the inaugural Freedom Plow Award from the Split This Rock Foundation for his work on locating the victims of the plane wreck at Los Gatos.

Early life

Born in Dinuba, California, Hernandez was raised in the San Joaquin Valley of Central California, where he lived in predominantly farm-worker communities in the agricultural region. His family roots are in Texas, New Mexico, and East Los Angeles. Early in his life, Hernandez's parents were migrant farmworkers, following the seasons across the southwest. It was during this time on the road that he developed an interest in travel and stories. [1]

In his adolescent years, Hernandez was immersed in acting and visual arts. As a teenager, he focused mainly on painting. He met the artist Joseph De La Cruz in 1990 and began his first apprenticeship at the age of 16. In 1999, he apprenticed with Bay Area muralist Juana Alicia on a traditional fresco mural located at the San Francisco International Airport. [1]

In the mid 1990s Hernandez studied poetry and performance at CSU Long Beach under the tutelage of Juan Felipe Herrera. Here he also studied with poets, June Jordan, Li Young Lee, and performance artists such Guillermo Gomez-Pena, and Commedia dell'arte.

He earned his B.A. degree in Writing & Literature from the first accredited Buddhist institute in the west, Naropa University. He holds an M.F.A. in Writing & Literature from Bennington College in Vermont. He is currently an Associate Professor at the University of Texas El Paso's Bilingual M.F.A. Creative Writing program. [2]


Hernandez's performances have been featured at the Getty Center, Denver Center for the Performing Arts, Dixon Experimental Theater in NYC, The Loft Literary Center, Intersection for the Arts, Stanford University, and at the Jack Kerouac School, among other venues. In 2000 he was commissioned by the United Way of Greater Los Angeles and the National Fanny Mae Foundation to write and perform an original one-man show on homelessness and poverty. From 2006 through 2011 he has worked with Poets & Writers Inc. and the California Center for the Book at UCLA, offering writing workshops to marginalized communities across the state of California. [3]

In March 2013, NPR hosted Hernandez, in regards to a new rendition of the song Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos). With the help of Lance Canales, whose parents were also migrant farmworkers, the two released a version of the song that included the names of those who perished in the 1948 Los Gatos plane crash. After months of research, Hernandez was able to discover the identities of these people within the Fresno County Hall of Records, in Fresno, CA. As stated by Hernandez, within this interview, [4]

It all comes down to the same idea of why it matters that their names are even brought up. You know, here we are, 65 years later. I mean, at the end of the day - right? - Our names are really what represent who we are. They're our stamp on the fact that we've existed here, at one point. And obviously, too, names are about lineage - where we come from, the culture we come from, who we are. [4]

Later in 2013, Hernandez's research of the 1948 Los Gatos plane crash culminated in his successful drive to provide a proper monument at the mass grave of the 28 migrant farmworkers who perished nearly nameless, which had inspired the song Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos). [5] He has since published a related non-fiction book, All They Will Call You. [6]






Audio CD

Anthologies (partial listing)

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  1. 1 2 "Tim Z. Hernandez: On Herrera, Guthrie, Kerouac's Bea Franco, and connecting with Texas roots". Lone Star Literary.com. Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  2. "Page does not exist | Naropa University". www.naropa.edu.[ dead link ]
  3. "Literature in Conversation: Tim Z. Hernandez" . Retrieved 4 December 2018.
  4. 1 2 "The People Behind Guthrie's 'Deportee' Verses". NPR.org.
  5. "Join UFW President Arturo Rodriguez at memorial dedication for 28 'deportees' Labor Day, Sept. 2 in Fresno: The 'deportees' finally have their names". Press release. United Farm Workers. August 26, 2013. Archived from the original on March 19, 2014. Retrieved March 19, 2014.
  6. Hernandez, Timothy Z. (October 9, 2013). "All They Will Call You: An Excerpt". Timothy Z. Hernandez. Retrieved March 19, 2014.
  7. "Freedom Plow Award for Poetry & Activism". Split this Rock. Retrieved 5 December 2018.