HÃ©ctor Tobar was born in Los Angeles,
California, in 1963, to parents who had recently moved to the United
States from Guatemala. Tobar attended University of California at Santa Cruz.
After college, he worked briefly for a local paper in San Francisco before
moving on to the Los Angeles Times. Over the course of his career, he
has won a Pulitzer Prize with fellow staff members for his coverage of the
Los Angeles riots. Tobar took time off from the paper in the mid-1990s in
order to study creative writing at the University of California at Irvine,
where he earned an M.F.A.
Tobar's first novel, The Tattooed Soldier, was written during this
period. In this book, Tobar mines his own family's background, with an
extensive back story that takes place in Guatemala City. He recounts the
experiences of a leftist student named Antonio, his revolutionary wife
Elena, and a peasant named Guillermo, who becomes the leader of a death
squad that eventually kills Elena and her child. At the start of the novel,
Antonio has been reduced to a homeless pauper living on the streets of Los
Angeles, seeking his revenge on Guillermo. This goal is achieved during the
height of the Los Angeles riots.