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Luis Alberto Urrea

Born: 1955 Tijuana, Mexico
Pen Name: None

Connection to Illinois: Urrea lives in Naperville and is a distinguished 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; 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 2018, NPR, American Library Association, San Francisco Chronicle, BookPage, Newsday, BuzzFeed, Kirkus, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Literary Hub; 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, NPR, and Men's Journal
  • Good Night, Irene An Instant New York Times Bestseller, Starred Review - Publishers Weekly, Illinois Reads Book Selection, Illinois Reading Council, 2024
  • Body of Work Fuller Award, Chicago Literary Hall of Fame, 2021; 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.

Poetry from Western States Book Award winner.

Good Night, Irene: A Novel
ISBN: 0316265853 OCLC:

Little, Brown and Company 2023

In 1943, Irene Woodward abandons an abusive fiancé in New York to enlist with the Red Cross and head to Europe. She makes fast friends in training with Dorothy Dunford, a towering Midwesterner with a ferocious wit. Together they are part of an elite group of women, nicknamed Donut Dollies, who command military vehicles called Clubmobiles at the front line, providing camaraderie and a taste of home that may be the only solace before troops head into battle. After D-Day, these two intrepid friends join the Allied soldiers streaming into France. Their time in Europe will see them embroiled in danger, from the Battle of the Bulge to the liberation of Buchenwald. Through her friendship with Dorothy, and a love affair with a courageous American fighter pilot named Hans, Irene learns to trust again. Her most fervent hope, which becomes more precarious by the day, is for all three of them to survive the war intact.

In Search of Snow: A Novel
ISBN: 0816520151 OCLC: 41621293

University of Arizona Press, Tucson : 1999.

In a novel set against the multicultural backdrop of Arizona in the mid-1950s, Mike McGurk journeys from one unlikely adventure to another as he searches for love and the meaning of life, accompanied by prizefighter-turned-mechanic Bobo Garcia.

Into the Beautiful North: A Novel
ISBN: 0316025275 OCLC: 248539798

Little, Brown and Company, New York : 2009.

This powerful novel from a bestselling and Pulitzer Prize winning author tells the story of a young woman's journey—both emotionally and physically—as she travels north to America.Nineteen-year-old Nayeli works at a taco shop in her Mexican village and dreams about her father, who journeyed to the US to find work. 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

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: Notes from an American Life
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: A Collection of Short Fiction
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: A True Story
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 Fever of Being is a series of poems, some written entirely or partly in Spanish, ranging in mood from comic to tragic and dealing with Urrea's life within the Hispanic-Anglo border culture.

The House of Broken Angels
ISBN: 0316154881 OCLC: 993420376

The Hummingbird's Daughter: A Novel
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: Stories
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: Western Notebooks
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