All They Will Call You

by Tim Z. Hernandez

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Memory as the Core of Identity

Tim Hernandez explains that he visited his grandfather and recorded stories about the man's life, and he says the details made up a story of who the man was in a different way than hospital records and medical charts could. That identity—that memory—is what Hernandez is able to give the people who were killed in the Los Gatos crash. By finding out who they were and how people remember them, he humanizes the men who were killed and makes them real long after their death. He finds their identities when possible and uses the clues he has to create outlines of the other victims.

Erasure as a Result of Prejudice

One of the things that encouraged Woody Guthrie to write a song about the plane crash in Los Gatos was that the Mexican workers who were being deported weren't named in the newspaper reports. They were part of a group—not white, not citizens—that was disadvantaged by those telling the story. In the same way, their remains and their families were treated callously because of their nationality, race, immigration status, and group association. More care would likely have been paid in laying their remains to rest and finding the next of kin if they had shared more in common with the officials performing those tasks. They were seen as less and thus treated with less respect and care.

The Importance of Connection

One idea that is apparent again and again in All They Will Call You is the importance of connection to other people. Decades have passed since the plane crashed, but the people Hernandez was able to find still remember their beloved dead with tenderness. This connection between people matters; that's one of the reasons why Hernandez wrote the book at all. Telling people's stories help enhance connections through blood and through choice—family and friends. The author shows the importance of that connection by detailing how acutely those left behind felt the loss of their loved ones.

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