Rueben Martinez grew up in a small town in Arizona with only one newspaper, a weekly.
He described his joy at discovering, after he moved to Los Angeles in 1957 at age 17, that four newspapers were published here every day:
- The Los Angeles Herald Express,
- La Opinion,
- The Los Angeles Times, and
- The Los Angeles Examiner.
"I would read each one every day, and tomorrow there would be another four, and the next day another four because the newspaper comes no matter what the weather is," he said.
"I read in two languages-- in English and also things written in the passion and emotion of Spanish--so I'm double-hearted. You keep on writing and I'll keep on selling."
Tonight at the LA Times Book Prizes he won the Innovator's Award for his contribution to the literary life of Southern California.
"Books are the treasure and pleasures of my life," he said. "They made me think, and those thoughts made me do things I'd never done before."
Martinez began life in LA working for Bethlehem Steel in Maywood, but in the 1990s he started selling books in his Santa Ana barber shop, and then moved out the barber chairs. His store "quickly became a cornerstone of the community, evolved into a nationally renowned center of Chicano/Latino literature and art, and lives on today through the Centro Comunitario de Educacion--Chapman University's learning center which houses Martinez's book collection," writes the LA Times.