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Author & historian Lydia Otero to headline Pima Library's annual LGBTQ+ talk

Tucson native and notable queer author Lydia R. Otero will speak at the Pima County Public Library’s annual LGBTQ+ Author Talk on Saturday, discussing their books about the growth of Tucson's Hispanic community in the mid-20th century. Anyone can register online to see the free virtual event.

Otero has won a collection of awards over the past few years for literary and academic work focused on Tucson and its Mexican-American history. Most recently, they were made a distinguished lecturer by the Organization of American Historians in 2021.

The library’s LGBTQ+ Services Committee and the Nuestras Raíces Committee, which is focused on spotlighting Hispanic heritage in the county, are hosting the event, with members from both committees moderating the conversation.

Otero's most recent work is “In the Shadows of the Freeway: Growing Up Brown & Queer.” The memoir uses historical research to surround their memories of growing up brown and queer in Tucson’s barrios as Interstate 10 expanded during and after the 1950s. The Pima County Public Library selected the book to receive a 2021 Southwest Book Award.

In 2010, Otero wrote “La Calle: Spatial Conflicts and Urban Renewal in a Southwestern City, opens a new window.” The book chronicles the urban development of Tucson as it displaced its Hispanic community, and the effort by local residents to preserve the vibrant La Calle district.

Otero is also the historian for the Tucson-Pima County Historical Commission, a group that reviews and advises the city and county about preserving historical parts of Tucson. They were appointed to the post in 2020 by Mayor Regina Romero and Ward 1 Councilwoman Lane Santa Cruz.

The commission was set up in response to the “significant destruction of Tucson’s historic urban core due to urban renewal in the 1960s, which displaced entire neighborhoods and demolished hundreds of historic buildings in and surrounding the Tucson Presidio,” according to a Pima County memo.

Otero also won a Dolores Huerta Legacy Award from the Arizona César E. Chåvez Holiday Coalition in 2019, in recognition of their activism and scholarship.

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They were also a University of Arizona faculty member at the Department of Mexican American Studies from 2003 to 2020, where they specialized in history and urbanization around Hispanic communities.

The Public Library has been holding the LGBTQ+ Author Talk for more than 20 years, and has hosted famous authors like Chaz Bono and Alison Bechdel. Both the LGBTQ+ Service and Nuestras Raíces Committees are made up of library employees and regularly have new blog posts and events.

Bennito L. Kelty is TucsonSentinel.com’s IDEA reporter, focusing on Inclusion, Diversity, Equity and Access stories, and a Report for America corps member.

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Courtesy of Pima County Public Library

Lydia R. Otero will speak at the annual LGBTQ+ Author Talk at the Pima County Public Library on Saturday, Oct. 16 for a virtual conversation with the author.

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