By Sarah Dahlen
The Mexican-American experience is widely considered to be a worthwhile field of academic inquiry, to the extent that today’s college student may not be aware of the struggles involved in arriving at such widespread recognition.
This is why Moving Beyond Borders: Julian Samora and the Establishment of Latino Studies is a must-read book for students of this field and others interested in its history and the man who has been called its founding father.
Edited by Alberto Lopez Pulido, Barbara Driscoll de Alvarado, and Carmen Samora, this volume is a collection of essays by those who knew Julian Samora and were deeply affected by his teaching, research, and activism. Together, the essays comprise not only a tribute to a great scholar and mentor, but also a history of the establishment of Latino Studies.
Julian Samora was raised by his mother and grandmother in Pagosa Springs, Colorado and came of age at a time when it was not uncommon for restaurants and hotels to post signs stating “no dogs, Mexicans, or Indians allowed.”
As the first Mexican-American to receive a PhD in sociology, Samora considered it his responsibility to be not only a scholar, but also a mentor to young Latinos with academic inclinations.
To this end, in 1971 he established the Mexican American Graduate Studies Program at the University of Notre Dame, where he taught by example the importance of pursuing education not just for one’s own benefit, but for the benefit of one’s community.
The lesson was well learned, as evidenced by the essays of the students he trained to follow in his footsteps. While their praise of Samora’s leadership can at times feel repetitive, the fascinating life stories of these students keep the reader engaged.
Though specific in scope, this book is certain to inspire anyone motivated to effect change within their community.
Sarah Dahlen is an university librarian and part of the Review ‘n Receive book review program.