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Sergio Troncoso Papers

Identifier: SWWC-143

Scope and Contents

The Sergio Troncoso Papers span 1975-2020 and are arranged into six series: Personal Papers, Published Work, Publications, Publicity, Reader Correspondence, and Digital Objects. The bulk of the collection is drafts of his early work, including The Last Tortilla and Other Stories, The Nature of Truth Crossing Borders: Personal Essays, and From This Wicked Patch of Dust. Also of note are his early writings, especially his academic essays from his graduate school studies at Yale. The collection was donated by Troncoso, and many items in the collection have a handwritten note by him explaining its significance.


  • 1975-2020, undated


Conditions Governing Access

Open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Materials from the Wittliff Collections are made available for use in research, teaching, and private study. The user assumes responsibility for determining copyright status, obtaining permission to publish, and abiding by U.S. copyright laws.

Biographical Notes

Sergio Troncoso (1961-) was born to Mexican immigrants in the Ysleta neighborhood of El Paso, Texas. The family lived in a colonia near the border in a house that Troncoso’s parents built, but without electricity or running water for their first two years in Ysleta.

His family had a long history of writing and storytelling. Troncoso’s paternal grandfather, Santiago Troncoso, was the editor and publisher of El Dia, the first daily newspaper in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. Santiago was arrested multiple times, and even had his office firebombed several times, for reporting on government corruption. Sergio’s maternal grandmother, Dolores Rivero, was a gifted oral storyteller who would tell him stories of being a teenager during the Mexican Revolution.

From an early age, Troncoso loved reading. On weekends he would often ride his bike the 15 miles to El Paso Public Library to check out books for the week. Troncoso attended Ysleta High School, and following in his grandfather’s footsteps, he became the editor of the high school newspaper, the Pow Wow(full issues can be found in the collection).

In 1979, Troncoso began his studies at Harvard College, which he describes as a complete cultural and linguistic shock. It was there that Troncoso became profoundly aware of his Mexican roots in a way that hadn’t been possible in El Paso. As he puts it in a 2004 profile in the Houston Chronicle, "Suddenly I was brown against this white background." After never feeling like a minority in El Paso, he used this new outsider status to delve into Latin American and Mexican history. In 1983, he graduated magma cum laude with a degree in Government, with a Latin American Certificate. After he graduated, he received a Fulbright Scholarship to Mexico where he studied economics, politics, and literature.

From 1985-1992, Troncoso earned graduate degrees in International Relations and in Philosophy from Yale University, where his interests included questions of the self, philosophy and psychology, and philosophy in literature. But before he earned his doctorate, he realized that his academic work was isolating, and that while he couldn’t necessarily discuss the details of what he was learning with his family, he could tell stories. His first published short story “The Abuelita” (1987), was a fictionalized account of the intersection of the knowledge that he was learning at Yale with the people and places of Ysleta. This exploration of deep philosophical questions in a border setting is a theme that runs throughout his career.

Troncoso’s first book of collected work, The Last Tortilla and Other Stories (1999) was published by University of Arizona Press, and includes “The Abuelita.” It won the Premio Aztlán Literary Prize for the best book by a new Chicano writer, and also the Southwest Book Award from the Border Regional Library Association.

Troncoso’s debut novel,The Nature of Truth(2003), was first published by Northwestern University Press and later revised and re-released in 2014 by Arte Público. In this philosophical thriller, a Yale graduate student finds out that his boss, an internationally renowned German professor, is hiding a Nazi past.

Crossing Borders: Personal Essays(2011) contains sixteen autobiographical essays, exploring how Troncoso navigates a life full of literal and metaphorical borders. It won the Bronze Award for Essays from ForeWord Reviews, and Second Place for Best Biography in English in the International Latino Book Awards.

From This Wicked Patch of Dust (2011) is a novel that chronicles the lives of the Ysleta-based Martinez family over the span of forty years. It won multiple awards and was named as one of the best books of the year by Kirkus Reviews, and was shortlisted as runner-up for the biannual PEN/Texas Southwest Book Award for Fiction.

On July 29, 2014, the El Paso City Council voted unanimously to rename the Ysleta public library branch in honor of Troncoso. At the dedication ceremony, he announced the creation of the annual Troncoso Reading Prizes to encourage students in the Ysleta area to read.

In 2019, Troncoso published a collection of linked short stories on immigration, A Peculiar Kind of Immigrant's Son(Cinco Puntos Press) to critical acclaim. In 2020, it won First Place in the category of Best Collection of Short Stories (English/Bilingual) at the International Latino Book Awards.

In 2020, Troncoso was elected President of the Texas Institute of Letters. Other honors include being inducted into the Hispanic Scholarship Fund’s Hall of Fame as well as serving as a judge for multiple literary awards such as the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction.

As of 2020, Troncoso lives in New York City with his wife Laura and their two sons. He teaches writing at Yale Writers’ Workshop.



The Last Tortilla and Other Stories(University of Arizona Press, 1999)

The Nature of Truth(Northwestern University Press, 2003); (Arte Público Press, 2014)

Our Lost Border: Essays on Life amid the Narco-ViolenceArte Público Press, 2013)

Crossing Borders: Personal Essays(Arte Público Press, 2011)

From This Wicked Patch of Dust(University of Arizona Press, 2011)

A Peculiar Kind of Immigrant's Son(Cinco Puntos Press, 2019)

Nobody’s Pilgrims: A Novel(Cinco Puntos Press, 2021)

Nepantla Familias: An Anthology of Mexican American Literature on Families in between Worlds (Wittliff Collections Literary Series, Texas A&M Press, 2021)


New World: Young Latino Writers(Dell Publishing, 1997)

City Wilds: Essays and Stories about Urban Nature(University of Georgia Press, 2002)

Tierra Adentro: Cuentario(Consejo Nacional para la Cultura y las Artes, 2002)

Latino Boom: An Anthology of U.S. Latino Literature(Pearson Longman Publishing, 2005)

>Hecho en Tejas: An Anthology of Texas-Mexican Literature(University of New Mexico Press, 2007)

>Hit List: The Best of Latino Mystery(Arte Público Press, 2009)

>Literary El Paso(Texas Christian University Press, 2009)

Camino Del Sol: Fifteen Years of Latina and Latino Writing(University of Arizona Press, 2010)

You Don't Have a Clue: Latino Mystery Stories for Teens(Arte Público Press, 2011)

Nuestra Aparente Rendicion(Random House Mondadori, 2011)

Writing for Life: Paragraphs and Essays(Pearson Longman Publishing, 2013)

Writing for Life: Sentences and Paragraphs(Pearson Longman Publishing, 2013)

Critical Thinking, Thoughtful Writing(Cengage Learning, 2014)

NewBorder: Contemporary Voices from the US/Mexico Border(Texas A&M University Press, 2014)

We Wear the Mask: Fifteen True Stories of Passing in America(Beacon Press, 2017)

Nepantla Familias: An Anthology of Mexican American Literature on Families in between Worlds(Wittliff Collections Literary Series, Texas A&M Press, 2021)


8 Linear Feet

16 boxes

Language of Materials


Metadata Rights Declarations

  • The descriptive data created for this finding aid is licensed under the CC0 Creative Commons license and is free for use without restriction.


The Sergio Troncoso Papers span 1975-2020 and are divided into six series: Personal, Published Works, Magazine and Journal Contributions, Publicity, Student Letters, and Digital Material. The bulk of the collection is drafts of his early work, including The Last Tortilla and Other Stories,The Nature of Truth, Crossing Borders: Personal Essays, and From This Wicked Patch of Dust. Also of note are his academic essays from his graduate school studies at Yale.

Physical Location

Materials may be stored off-site. Advance notice is required for use:

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Gift of Troncoso, 2020

Related Materials

Sergio Troncoso Additions 2021-012.

Guide to the Sergio Troncoso Papers
Susannah Broyles
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note
Finding aid written in English.

Repository Details

Part of the The Wittliff Collections Repository

601 University Drive
San Marcos Texas 78666 USA