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Fields of Toil

A Migrant Family’s Journey

Isabel Valle


As a newspaper reporter on special assignment, Isabel Valle lived and traveled with a migrant family for an entire year. WSU Press, in collaboration with the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, compiled her award-winning reports in this dramatic book.



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Isabel Valle’s story is a window into a world that few Americans understand, even though migrant workers—large numbers of whom are U.S. citizens—are virtually our neighbors. As a reporter on special assignment for the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, Valle lived and traveled with a migrant family for an entire year. Her widely acclaimed reports appeared every Sunday in the “Fields of Toil: A Migrant Family’s Journey” series.

The Washington State University Press, in collaboration with the Walla Walla Union-Bulletin, compiled these award-winning reports into a dramatic book. Valle shared domestic and other responsibilities with the Raul and Maria Elena Martinez family during their annual cycle of living and working in the Inland Pacific Northwest and South Texas. Valle investigates many topics, including the drug smuggling and illegal aliens, children working in the fields, Hispanic customs, the difficulties of asparagus cutting, and the problems of cultural acceptance, and language barriers. Through Valle’s invaluable insights, Fields of Toil helps readers replace stereotypes and misconceptions with greater understanding and acceptance of the migrant’s life.

In 1992, the Associated Press Managing Editors Association selected this series as one of the 10 best in the nation published by a newspaper with a circulation of less than 50,000.

Photographs / map / index / 240 pages (1994)



“Readers will be impressed by the determination and endurance of the Martinez family, who have spent their lives in the field. Recommended for both lay readers and scholars.”
Library Journal

”The narrative is about a remarkable family of migrant workers, who, despite any number of hardships, continue to believe deeply in the American dream. The Martinezes celebrate the work ethic, responsibility, education, the goal of owning one’s own home, and the loathing of welfare. And, in an age in which cant about ‘family values’ is often hypocritical and phony, the Martinezes bring meaning to the concept.”
—LeRoy Ashby, historian, Washington State University

“To really understand what life is like for migrant workers, you have to do more than just scratch the surface. Isabel Valle knows what it’s like to raise a family when you don’t know what your next job will be, where it will be, or how long it might last. What it’s like to start each day at 3:30 a.m. and how it feels to keep your entire life packed and ready to move in a few hours’ notice.”
The Seattle Times

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Dimensions 6 x 9 in