Trailer Park Nirvana image created by Stefany Kleeschulte.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Luis Alberto Urrea

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 cafĂ© 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.


  1. I've been reading Hummingbird's Daughter for a couple of weeks now. Alamos...have spent many incredible days there. Viva Teresita!

  2. as i roamed the streets of alamos last year i was able to see the town through Teresita's eyes. will safford hold the same magic? haha, we shall see. (i believe that's where she and her dad wind up...)

  3. No women writers, nette? Makes me wonder. Or is it just wall candy? I know your musical tastes include women (while I lean toward male voices). Any Lucinda Williams posters on your tiny wall?

  4. well, no women writers i have crushes on. although i probably have one on nuala o'faolain. she'd be there. anne patchett. it's funny but i generally prefer the grittyness (?) of male writers and over the years have read less women. what does that say? carson mccullers would be there... what about you, dg? which women writers would be on your wall?

  5. Annette--aw, shucks! That was very sweet of you. By the way, I have a lot of woman-crush-writers. But of your list, I can say I'm pals with Bowden and spent an uproarious time in Aspen with Colum. Part 2 f Hummingbird is another epic. Sad because she's in exile, but really interesting and really...American. She never got to go home. But she had a wild (god and BAD) time in the USA. Send me an address and I'll send ya somthing.

  6. Luis...that's right! Doesn't Colum (haha, now I'm on a first-name basis with him) owe you twenty bucks? Where is that bill? I'd love to know who your women writer crushes are. I'll send you my address but mostly I want to say I think you're terrific! I've learned so much about Sonora and Sinaloa thanks to you.

  7. Annette--it's that dead beat Neil Gaiman who owes me $20! This should tell you all you need to know about Colum: 7 am in Aspen. We're going to our car to drive out. Colum comes out of the woods with a scarf, a bottle of whiskey,a bottle of wine and a bag of chocolates.I start laughing.He says, "What?" As if everybody comes out of the woods with booze and candy at 7 am.