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Luis Alberto Urrea biography

Author Biography  | Interview  | Books by this Author  | Read-Alikes

Luis Alberto Urrea
photo: Joe Mazza Brave-Lux

Luis Alberto Urrea

How to pronounce Luis Alberto Urrea: oo-Ray-ah

Luis Alberto Urrea Biography

Hailed by NPR as a "literary badass" and a "master storyteller with a rock and roll heart," Luis Alberto Urrea is a prolific and acclaimed writer who uses his dual-culture life experiences to explore greater themes of love, loss and triumph.

A 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for nonfiction and a Guggenheim fellow, Urrea is the critically acclaimed and best-selling author of 19 books, winning numerous awards for his poetry, fiction and essays. Born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and American mother, Urrea is most recognized as a border writer, though he says, "I am more interested in bridges, not borders."

Urrea's book, Good Night, Irene, takes as inspiration his mother's own Red Cross service. With its affecting and uplifting portrait of friendship and valor in harrowing circumstances, Good Night, Irene powerfully demonstrates yet again that Urrea's "gifts as a storyteller are prodigious" (NPR).

The House of Broken Angels (2018) is a novel of an American family, which happens to be from Mexico. Angel de la Cruz knows this is his last birthday and he wants to gather his progeny for a final fiesta. A national bestseller, The House of Broken Angels was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in fiction and a New York Times Notable Book.

In 2017, Urrea won an American Academy of Arts and Letters Fiction award and his collection of short stories, The Water Museum, was a finalist for the 2016 PEN-Faulkner Award and was named a best book of the year by the Washington Post and Kirkus Reviews, among others. Into the Beautiful North, his 2009 a novel, is a Big Read selection by the National Endowment of the Arts and has been chosen by more than 50 different cities and colleges as a community read. The Devil's Highway, Urrea's 2004 non-fiction account of a group of Mexican immigrants lost in the Arizona desert, won the Lannan Literary Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Pacific Rim Kiriyama Prize. The Hummingbird's Daughter, his 2005 historical novel, tells the story of Urrea's great-aunt Teresa Urrea, sometimes known as the Saint of Cabora and the Mexican Joan of Arc. The book, which involved 20 years of research and writing, won the Kiriyama Prize in fiction and, along with The Devil's Highway, was named a best book of the year by many publications.

In all, more than 100 cities and colleges have chosen Into the Beautiful North, The Devil's Highway or The Hummingbird's Daughter (or another Urrea book) for a community read.

Urrea has also won an Edgar award from the Mystery Writers of America for best short story (2009, "Amapola" in Phoenix Noir and featured in The Water Museum). Into the Beautiful North earned a citation of excellent from the American Library Association Rainbow's Project. Urrea's first book, Across the Wire, was named a New York Times Notable Book and won the Christopher Award. Urrea also won a 1999 American Book Award for his memoir, Nobody's Son: Notes from an American Life and in 2000, he was voted into the Latino Literature Hall of Fame following the publication of Vatos. His book of short stories, Six Kinds of Sky, was named the 2002 small-press Book of the Year in fiction by the editors of Foreword magazine. He has also won a Western States Book Award in poetry for The Fever of Being and was in the 1996 Best American Poetry collection. Urrea's other titles include By the Lake of Sleeping Children, In Search of Snow, Ghost Sickness and Wandering Time.

Urrea attended the University of California at San Diego, earning an undergraduate degree in writing, and did his graduate studies at the University of Colorado-Boulder.

After serving as a relief worker in Tijuana and a film extra and columnist-editor-cartoonist for several publications, Urrea moved to Boston where he taught expository writing and fiction workshops at Harvard. He also taught at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.

Urrea lives with his family in Naperville, IL, where he is a distinguished professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Luis Alberto Urrea's website

This bio was last updated on 05/14/2023. In a perfect world, we would like to keep all of BookBrowse's biographies up to date, but with many thousands of lives to keep track of it's simply impossible to do. So, if the date of this bio is not recent, you may wish to do an internet search for a more current source, such as the author's website or social media presence. If you are the author or publisher and would like us to update this biography, send the complete text and we will replace the old with the new.

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Interview

Luis Alberto Urrea talks about his writing and in particular his 2018 novel The House of Broken Angels

You have written some extraordinary books, both fiction and nonfiction, about the Mexican-American experience, but The House of Broken Angels seems to be your most personal work in capturing multicultural family life in modern America.

You are dead-on. Sometimes you feel like you're writing with your own blood and sometimes, as Jim Harrison told me, God hands you your novel. The way in which my big brother died two years ago was very much reflected in the process of mortality in The House of Broken Angels. What struck me at the time was how much a celebration of one man's life it was. How a single working-class dad changed the world in his own small way. And, of course, that "small way" was in every way epic. So the novel is a hymn to our daily lives, how sacred they truly are. Finally, the tone of the recent presidential election made me know I had to speak up for the de La Cruz family.

The interplay between "Big Angel" de La Cruz and his half-brother "Little Angel" is so funny and heartwarming. Little Angel is half-gringo, and this lends itself to an examination of white culture versus Latinx culture. Is this tension between the two cultures something you experience in your own life, and, if so, how do you navigate it ...

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Books by this Author

Books by Luis Alberto Urrea at BookBrowse
Good Night, Irene jacket The House of Broken Angels jacket The Water Museum jacket Queen of America jacket
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Read-Alikes

All the books below are recommended as read-alikes for Luis Alberto Urrea but some maybe more relevant to you than others depending on which books by the author you have read and enjoyed. So look for the suggested read-alikes by title linked on the right.
How we choose read-alikes

  • Margaret Cezair-Thompson

    Margaret Cezair-Thompson

    Margaret Cezair-Thompson was born in Jamaica, West Indies; she attended St Andrews High School for Girls, a long-established government-subsidized school that has produced many of Jamaican's most prominent women.  ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    The Hummingbird's Daughter

    Try:
    The Pirate's Daughter
    by Margaret Cezair-Thompson

  • Megan Chance

    Megan Chance

    Megan Chance is the critically acclaimed, award-winning author of several novels. Her novel, The Spiritualist was chosen as one of Borders Original Voices, and An Inconvenient Wife was a Booksense pick. The Best Reviews has ... (more)

    If you enjoyed:
    The Hummingbird's Daughter

    Try:
    Bone River
    by Megan Chance

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