When I was younger, a teenager, I had movie star posters on my wall until my squirrel, Garfunkel, tore them down for her nest. Now if I had walls I’d tack up book jacket photos of my author crushes - Pete Dexter, Tim Winton, Colum McCann, Ian Rankin, Larry Brown, Nick Hornby, Charles Bowden, Willy Vlautin – to name a few. And Luis Alberto Urrea.
As my newest author crush, Luis should be grateful I’m too poor to leave Mexico thus saving him from a crazy stalker lady. With every book I read, my crush deepens. I’m liable to be thrown over the edge when book two of Hummingbird’s Daughter is published next year.
My first Urrea book was Devil’s Highway, the story of a disastrous immigrant crossing in the Sonoran Desert. I’d bought the book at 23rd Avenue Books in Portland for my southwest road trip. I was having lunch at a café in Sonoita, Arizona, when I started Devil’s Highway. It is a terrific primer on the struggles immigrants – and Border Patrol – face in the Arizona desert. I was struck by Luis’ ability to write a remarkable story without glorifying or demonizing either side.
I’ve since owned and loaned three copies of Devil’s Highway including my hard cover edition. I guess some books are meant to travel. My copies have most certainly traversed the Sonoran Desert - and the border - many times.
Into the North and The Hummingbird’s Daughter followed. Then In Search of Snow and Nobody’s Son. I own Hummingbird’s Daughter in both English and Spanish (Hija de la Chuparosa). I had fantasies of sitting with my friend Edgar as he read the English version and I the Spanish. Never happened. Both books are above our abilities, even Edgar’s who speaks nearly perfect English.
Luis is my “friend” on Facebook. I love that he posts nearly every day. He also has a website I visit often. For now I am limited to cyber stalking.
When I have a house with walls his jacket photo will be there along with Willy, Pete, Colum et al. When I have a house with walls maybe he’ll come visit after a reading in Tucson. I can have him to dinner with Pete Dexter (who has a house in southern Arizona) along with Charles Bowden ‘cause he lives in Arizona too. Maybe Willy will stop by after a gig in Tucson with his band Richmond Fontaine.
You're never too old to dream. And you're never too old to have crushes.