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Luis Alberto Urrea

Born: 1955 Tijuana, Mexico
Pen Name: None

Connection to Illinois: Urrea lives in Naperville and is a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Biography: A finalist for the Pulitzer Prize, Luis Alberto Urrea is the bestselling author of ''The Devil's Highway'', ''The Hummingbird's Daughter'', ''Into the Beautiful North'', and ''Queen of America'', among others. He has won the Lannan Literary Award, the Pacific Rim Kiriyama Prize, an American Book Award, the Christopher Award, and an Edgar Award, among other honors. Born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and American mother, he lives outside of Chicago and is a distinguished professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago. A member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame, he is a prolific and acclaimed writer who uses his dual-culture life experiences to explore greater themes of love, loss and triumph. Download the following link to watch Luis speak at the 2018 National Book Festival -

  • """Across the Wire"""
  • -- Notable Book, New York Times, 1994
  • -- Christopher Award, 1994
  • """The Devil's Highway"""
  • -- Finalist, Pulitzer Prize
  • -- Lannan Literary Award, 2004
  • -- Finalist, Pacific Rim Kiriyama Prize
  • -- Southwest Book Award, Border Regional Library Association
  • -- Montclar Book, Montclair State University, 2013
  • -- All-Freshman Read, University of Texas-San Antonio
  • -- One Book Read, Sac State, 2010
  • """Ghost Sickness"""
  • -- Western States Book Award
  • """The Hummingbird's Daughter"""
  • -- Starred Review, Publishers Weekly
  • -- ILLINOIS READS Book Selection, Illinois Reading Council, 2013
  • """The House of Broken Angels"""
  • -- New York Times Notable Book
  • -- One of the Best Books of the Year, NPR, 2018
  • -- One of the Best Books of the Year, American Library Association, 2018
  • -- One of the Best Books of the Year, San Francisco Chronicle, 2018
  • -- One of the Best Books of the Year, BookPage, 2018
  • -- One of the Best Books of the Year, Newsday, 2018
  • -- One of the Best Books of the Year, BuzzFeed, 2018
  • -- One of the Best Books of the Year, Kirkus, 2018
  • -- One of the Best Books of the Year, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 2018
  • -- One of the Best Books of the Year, Literary Hub, 2018
  • -- Illinois READS Book Selection, Illinois Reading Council, 2019
  • """Into the Beautiful North"""
  • -- Big Read Book, NEA
  • "Nobody's Son"
  • -- American Book Award, 1999
  • "Six Kinds of Sky"
  • -- Small-Press Book of the Year in Fiction, Foreward Magazine, 2002
  • """The Water Museum"""
  • -- Starred Review, Kirkus
  • -- Finalist, PEN/Faulkner Award
  • -- Notable Book of the Year, Washington Post
  • -- Best Books of the Year, Kirkus
  • -- Best Books of the Year, NPR
  • -- Best Books of the Year, Men's Journal
  • """Body of Work"""
  • -- Fuller Award, Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, 2021
  • -- Lannan Literary Award, 2004
  • -- American Book Award, 1999
  • -- Western States Book Award
  • -- Colorado Book Award
  • -- Latino Literary Hall of Fame, 2000
  • -- Christopher Award
  • -- Kiriyama Prize
  • -- Hispanic Cultural Center's Literary Award
  • -- Edgar Award, 2010
  • -- American Library Association Citation of Excellence
  • -- LAS Distinguished Professor
  • -- Founders Award, Tucson Festival of Books, 2019

Primary Literary Genre(s): Fiction; Non-Fiction; Poetry

Primary Audience(s): Adult readers


Selected Titles

Across the wire :
ISBN: 0385425309 OCLC: 26551974

Anchor Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York : 1993.

This is a book of fragments, stories of moments in the lives of people along the Mexican border.

By the lake of sleeping children :
ISBN: 9780307773807 OCLC: 773355373

Anchor Books, New York : [2010]

Luis Alberto Urrea's first book, Across the Wire: Life and Hard Times on the Mexican Border, was a haunting and unprecedented look at what life is like for those living on the Mexican side of the border, eking out only the barest of lives not far from the white sands and coral reefs of Southern California. His poignant, widely acclaimed account of the struggle of these people to survive amid the abject poverty, unsanitary living conditions, and legal and political chaos that reign in the Mexican borderlands vividly illustrated why so many are forced to make the treacherous and illegal journey across the wire into the United States. Written with the same unflagging curiosity, compassion, mordant wit, and novelistic sense of detail that made Across the Wire a work of investigative reporting that is also a bittersweet song of human anguish (Los Angeles Times), By the Lake of Sleeping Children explores the post-NAFTA and Proposition 187 border purgatory of garbage pickers and dump dwellers, gawking tourists and relief workers, fearsome coyotes and their desperate clientele. In sixteen indelible portraits, Urrea illuminates the horrors and the simple joys of people trapped between the two worlds of Mexico and the United States - and ignored by both. The result is a startling and memorable work of first-person reportage.

Ghost Sickness: A Book of Poems
ISBN: 093831730X OCLC: 37011265

Cinco Puntos Press, El Paso, Tex. : ©1997.

In search of snow :
ISBN: 0816520151 OCLC: 41621293

University of Arizona Press, Tucson : 1999.

Into the beautiful North :
ISBN: 0316025275 OCLC: 248539798

Little, Brown and Company, New York : 2009.

"Nineteen-year-old Nayeli works at a taco shop in her Mexican village and dreams about her father, who journeyed to the US when she was young. Recently, it has dawned on her that he isn't the only man who has left town. In fact, there are almost no men in the village--they've all gone north. While watching The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli decides to go north herself and recruit seven men--her own "Siete Magníficos"--To repopulate her hometown and protect it from the bandidos who plan on taking it over."--Provided by publisher.

Mr. Mendoza's paintbrush /
ISBN: 1933693231 OCLC: 213408607

Tells a story of a graffiti artist, Mr. Mendoza, who goes about the Mexican village of Rosario creating masterpieces that reflect the social ills of the city. One day his paintbrush creates a miraculous event that no one in Rosario ever forgets.

Nobody's son :
ISBN: 9780816522705 OCLC: 38304377

University of Arizona Press, Tucson : ©1998.

Born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and an Anglo mother, Urrea moved to San Diego at age three. In this memoir of his childhood, Urrea describes his experiences growing up in the barrio and his search for cultural identity.

Queen of America :
ISBN: 0316154865 OCLC: 707964757

Little, Brown, New York : 2011.

The remarkable heroine of The hummingbird's daughter returns in this epic novel of love and loss in a restless America. Teresita's passage will take her across the nation as she comes to terms with her place in a new world. She must finally ask herself the ultimate question: is a saint allowed to fall in love?

Six kinds of sky :
ISBN: 0938317636 OCLC: 48176845

Cinco Puntos Press, El Paso, Tex. : ©2002.

Offers a collection of six stories featuring Native American and Hispanic characters, set in various locations from Mexico City and Tijuana to the Sioux nation in South Dakota.

The devil's highway :
ISBN: 0316010804 OCLC: 52937749

Little, Brown, New York : ©2004.

Describes the attempt of twenty-six men to cross the Mexican border into the desert of southern Arizona, a region known as the Devil's Highway, detailing their harrowing ordeal and battle for survival against impossible odds. Only 12 men came back out. 2 maps.

The fever of being :
ISBN: 0931122783 OCLC: 31347920

West End Press, Albuquerque, N.M. : 1994.

The house of broken angels :
ISBN: 0316154881 OCLC: 993420376

"In Urrea's exuberant new novel of Mexican-American life, 70-year-old patriarch Big Angel de la Cruz is dying, and he wants to have one last birthday blowout. Unfortunately, his 100-year-old mother, America, dies the week of his party, so funeral and birthday are celebrated one day apart. The entire contentious, riotous de la Cruz clan descends on San Diego for the events. High rollers and college students, prison veternaos and welfare mothers, happy kids and sad old-timers and pinches gringos and all available relatives. Not to mention figurative ghosts of the departed and an unexpected guest with a gun. Taking place over the course of two days, with time out for an extended flashback to Big Angel's journey from La Paz to San Diego in the 1960s, the narrative follows Big Angel and his extended familia as they air old grievances, initiate new romances, and try to put their relationships in perspective. Of the large cast, standouts include Perla, Big Angel's wife, the object of his undimmed affection; Little Angel, his half-Anglo half-brother, who strains to remain aloof; and Lalo, his son, trailing a lifetime of bad decisions. Urrea (The Hummingbird's Daughter) has written a vital, vibrant book about the immigrant experience that is a messy celebration of life's common joys and sorrows"--Publisher's weekly.

The hummingbird's daughter :
ISBN: 0316154520 OCLC: 57068438

Little, Brown, and Co., New York : 2005.

This historical novel is based on Urrea's real great-aunt Teresita, who had healing powers and was acclaimed as a saint. Urrea has researched historical accounts and family records for years to get an accurate story.

The water museum :
ISBN: 0316334375 OCLC: 905855219

A short story collection that examines the borders between nations and between people, including the Edgar-winning Amapola and his now classic Bid farewell to her many horses.

Wandering time :
ISBN: 0816518661 OCLC: 39391080

University of Arizona Press, Tucson : ©1999.

Fleeing a failed marriage and haunted by ghosts of his past, Luis Alberto Urrea jumped into his car several years ago and headed west. Driving cross-country with a cat named Rest Stop, Urrea wandered the West from one Spring through the next. As nature opened Urrea's eyes, writing opened his heart. In journal entries that sparkle with discovery, Urrea ruminates on music, poetry, and the landscape. With wonder and spontaneity, he relates tales of marmots, geese, bears, and fellow travelers. He makes readers feel mountain air "so crisp you feel you could crunch it in your mouth" and reminds us all to experience the magic and healing of small gestures, ordinary people, and common creatures.