It was one of those formal events where there's someone who introduces the person who introduces the speaker, like six degrees of separation or something. But once Vicki Ruiz started her lecture, I got really into it. I had to struggle to remember enough of my American History class to keep up, but when I did the make connections, it was pretty cool.
Ruiz used just the right combination of oral history and statistics. Personal testimonials from court cases concerning the custody of a mulatto child and letters about racism in a small town gave me beautiful details to hang on to. But the statistics about the number of Latino soldiers fighting in World War Two gave me a better sense of the big picture.
During the question and answer session she connected all of her scholarly work to the real world. Yay!
But the end was the best part. After her lecture she stayed to talk to the students in small groups. I would have thought someone who had published so many books would be aloof and run off to catch a flight back to Irvine right after her lecture. She shattered all of my ideas about lectures by shaking hands and chatting with all the gathered students.
I, of course, was too shy to approach her. But maybe next time.