Sergio Troncoso

Sergio Troncoso
Born 1961
El Paso, Texas
Occupation Novelist, short story writer, essayist, editor
Nationality United States
Subject Chicano literature, philosophy in literature, literary fiction
Notable works The Last Tortilla and Other Stories, From This Wicked Patch of Dust, Crossing Borders: Personal Essays, The Nature of Truth
Notable awards Premio Aztlán Literary Prize; Fulbright Scholarship; Literary Legacy Award; Hispanic Scholarship Fund's Alumni Hall of Fame; Texas Institute of Letters; Southwest Book Award; Bronze Award for Essays from ForeWord Reviews; International Latino Book Award

Sergio Troncoso is an American author of short stories, essays and novels. He often writes about the United States-Mexico border, immigration, philosophy in literature, families and fatherhood, and crossing cultural, religious, and psychological borders.

Biography and Literary work

Troncoso, the son of Mexican immigrants, was born in El Paso, Texas. He grew up on the east side of El Paso in rural Ysleta. His parents built their adobe house, and the family lived with kerosene lamps and stoves and an outhouse in the backyard during their first years in Texas.[1] Troncoso attended South Loop School and Ysleta High School, where he was editor of the high school newspaper and won a Gannett Foundation scholarship to attend the Blair Summer School for Journalism in New Jersey.

He was accepted to Harvard College and struggled to adapt to this new world. "When I was at Harvard, I was scared and intimidated and I wasn’t sure I belonged,” he said in an interview for his 25th-Year reunion.[2] Troncoso studied Mexican history and politics to learn about his heritage and graduated magna cum laude in Government, with a Latin American Certificate. He won a Fulbright Scholarship to Mexico, where he studied economics, politics, and literature. Later he received two graduate degrees in international relations and philosophy from Yale University, where his interests evolved to questions of the self, philosophy and psychology, and philosophy in literature.

In 1999, his book of short stories, The Last Tortilla and Other Stories (University of Arizona Press), won the Premio Aztlán Literary Prize for the best book by a new Chicano writer, and the Southwest Book Award from the Border Regional Library Association. In his story "Angie Luna," the tale of a feverish love affair in which a young man from El Paso rediscovers his Mexican heritage, Troncoso explores questions of self-identity and the ephemeral quality of love. "A Rock Trying to Be a Stone" is a story of three boys playing a dangerous game that becomes a test of character on the Mexico-U.S. border. "My Life in the City" focuses on a transplanted Texan's yearning for companionship in New York City. "Remembering Possibilities" delves into the terror of a young man attacked in his apartment while he takes solace in memories of a lost love. Troncoso typically sets aside the polemics about social discomfort sometimes found in contemporary Chicano literature and concentrates instead on the moral and intellectual lives of his characters.

His novel, The Nature of Truth (Northwestern University Press), was first published in 2003, and is a story about a Yale research student who discovers that his boss, a renowned professor, hides a Nazi past. A reviewer from Janus Head, a journal of Philosophy, Literature, and Psychology, wrote: "The subtlety, and fairness, with which Troncoso presents these conflicting frameworks [Nietzschean valor, Christian pragmatism, and blind inductivism] stand as the novel's crowning intellectual achievement, side by side with the artistic one: a convincing tale of murder and ruminating guilt."[3] In 2003, Troncoso was also inducted into the Hispanic Scholarship Fund's Alumni Hall of Fame.[4]

In 2011, Troncoso published two books. His second novel, From This Wicked Patch of Dust (University of Arizona Press), is a story about the Martinez family, who begins life in a shantytown on the U.S.-Mexico border, and struggles to stay together despite cultural clashes, different religions, and contemporary politics. A reviewer from The Dallas Morning News wrote: "In a media market where cultural stereotypes abound, it's refreshing to read a novel featuring Latino characters who are nuanced and authentic. Sergio Troncoso’s latest, From This Wicked Patch of Dust, follows a family from humble beginnings in a Texas border town through several decades as its members move beyond their Mexican Catholic culture to inhabit Jewish, Muslim and Ivy League spaces....These middle spaces have long been fodder for writers, though the El Paso-born and Harvard-educated Troncoso has created new, empathetic characters to explore it. No, the real beauty of this book is that it mines the rich diversity of tradition and culture among Latinos, as well as the commonalities they share with other Americans- love of family, faith and country."[5] The novel was named as one of the best books of the year by Kirkus Reviews and won the Southwest Book Award from the Border Regional Library Association. The novel was chosen as a Notable Book by Southwest Books of the Year. Troncoso's novel was also a finalist for Reading The West Book Award from the Mountains and Plains Independent Booksellers Association, and was shortlisted runner-up for the biannual PEN/Texas Southwest Book Award for Fiction.

Crossing Borders: Personal Essays (Arte Público Press) was also published in 2011, and is a collection of sixteen essays about how Troncoso made the leap from growing up poor along the border to the Ivy League, his wife's battle against breast cancer, his struggles as a writer in New York and Texas, fatherhood, interfaith marriage, and Troncoso's appreciation of Judaism. A reviewer for The El Paso Times wrote: “These very personal essays cross several borders: cultural, historical, and self-imposed....We owe it to ourselves to read, savor and read them again.”[6] The collection of essays won the Bronze Award for Essays from ForeWord Reviews, and Second Place for Best Biography in English in the International Latino Book Awards.

Troncoso was inducted into the Texas Institute of Letters in 2012.

In 2013, he co-edited Our Lost Border: Essays on Life amid the Narco-Violence (Arte Público Press), a collection of essays on how the unique bi-national and bi-cultural existence along the United States-Mexico border has been disrupted by recent drug violence. Publishers Weekly called it an “eye-opening collection of essays,” and the San Antonio Express-News said it was “exceptionally beautiful and poignant writing.”[7][8] The collection won the Southwest Book Award from the Border Regional Library Association and First Place in the International Latino Book Awards for Best Latino-focused Nonfiction Book (Bilingual) from Latino Literacy Now. In 2013, Troncoso also received the Literary Legacy Award from the El Paso Community College.

Sergio Troncoso Branch Library, 9321 Alameda Avenue, El Paso, Texas.

On July 29, 2014, the El Paso City Council voted unanimously to rename the Ysleta public library branch in honor of Sergio Troncoso. At the re-dedication ceremony on October 2, 2015, the author announced the creation of the annual Troncoso Reading Prizes to encourage the love of reading and writing in grade school, middle school, and high school students in the Ysleta area.[9]

Troncoso was a judge for the Shrake Award for Best Short Nonfiction from the Texas Institute of Letters in 2014. For three years, he also served on the Literature panel of the New York State Council on the Arts, and in 2014 he was co-chair of that panel. In 2015, the author was elected to a two-year term on the board of councilors of the Texas Institute of Letters.

Arte Público Press also published a revised and updated paperback edition of Troncoso's novel The Nature of Truth in 2014. The revised edition of The Nature of Truth won the Bronze Award for Multicultural Fiction from ForeWord Reviews in 2015, and was also chosen as one of the Top Ten Best Fiction Books for 2014 by In a review of the revised novel from Prime Number Magazine, Brandon D. Shuler wrote: "Without the intellectual questioning of truth in The Nature of Truth, his mature works, I believe, would not have been possible. Troncoso, primarily known for his US-Mexican Border works, is, as The Nature of Truth suggests, the brightest and most able of the modern Border writers and thinkers."[10]

Troncoso served as one of three national judges for the 2016 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

He has taught fiction and nonfiction workshops as a resident faculty member of the Yale Writers' Conference in New Haven, Connecticut and as an instructor at the Hudson Valley Writers' Center in Sleepy Hollow, New York.

His stories have been featured in many anthologies, including Critical Thinking, Thoughtful Writing (Cengage Learning), Camino Del Sol: Fifteen Years of Latina and Latino Writing (University of Arizona Press), Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature (Pearson/Longman Publishing), Hecho en Tejas: An Anthology of Texas-Mexican Literature (University of New Mexico Press), Once Upon a Cuento (Curbstone Press), City Wilds: Essays and Stories about Urban Nature (University of Georgia Press), and New World: Young Latino Writers (Dell Publishing). His work has also appeared in Texas Monthly, Review: Literature and Arts of the Americas, Origins Literary Journal, Newsday, Pembroke Magazine, Hadassah Magazine, Other Voices, and many other newspapers and magazines.



Anthologies (contributing author)

Anthology (editor)


  1. Ramon Renteria (1999). "New Voice in Chicano literature". El Paso Times (24 August).
  2. Liz Goodwin (2008). "Identity Seeker". Harvard Magazine (May–June).
  3. Bryan R. Farrow (2005). "The Will to Murder". Janus Head, a journal of Philosophy, Literature, and Psychology. 8.1 (Summer): 343–6.
  4. "Hispanic Scholarship Fund Inducts Five into Hall of Fame". The Hispanic Outlook in Higher Education (15 December): 42. 2003.
  5. Beatriz Terrazas (2011). "Book Review: From This Wicked Patch of Dust". The Dallas Morning News (11 November).
  6. Manuel Ramos (2011). "Getting personal: In Troncoso's essays nothing is all that easy". El Paso Times (18 September).
  7. Staff (2013). "Nonfiction Reviews". Publishers Weekly. 260.15 (April 15).
  8. Ed Conroy (2013). "An 'exceptional situation' on the border". San Antonio Express-News (June 14).
  9. City of El Paso (2015). "Library branch renamed in honor of local author". El Paso Herald-Post (September 30).
  10. Brandon D. Shuler (2014). "Sergio Troncoso's The Nature of Truth". Prime Number Magazine. 59 (July–September): 72–3.
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