Into the Beautiful North


Luis Alberto Urrea (born 1955 in Tijuana, Mexico) is a Mexican American poet, novelist, and essayist.


Urrea is the son of a Mexican father and an American mother; he was born on August 20, 1955 in Tijuana Mexico.[1] In 1958 the family moved to Logan Heights in South San Diego.[1] He attended the University of California, San Diego, earning an undergraduate degree in writing in 1977.[1] Urrea completed his graduate studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder.

After serving as a relief worker in Tijuana, he worked as a teachers aid in the Chicano Studies department in San Diego's Mesa College in 1978. He also worked as a film extra and columnist-editor-cartoonist for several publications. In June 1982 Urrea moved to Boston where he taught expository writing and fiction workshops at Harvard University. He has also taught at Massachusetts Bay Community College, and the University of Colorado, and he was the writer in residence at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette. Urrea married in 1987, and later divorced in 1993. In 1994, Urrea's first novel, In Search of Snow, was published.

Urrea lives with his family in Naperville, Illinois, where he is a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois at Chicago.[2]

In two heavily researched historical novels, The Hummingbird's Daughter and Queen of America, Urrea tells the story of his great-aunt, Teresita Urrea, who was known as "The Saint of Cabora" and "The Mexican Joan of Arc".


Urrea's first book, Across the Wire, was named a New York Times Notable Book and won the Christopher Award in 1993.[3]

In 1994, he won the Colorado Book Award in poetry for The Fever of Being[4] as well as the Western States Book Award in poetry. He was also included in The 1996 Best American Poetry collection.

In 1999, Urrea won an American Book Award for his memoir, Nobody's Son: Notes from an American Life.[5]

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.[6]

In 2000, he was voted into the Latino Literature Hall of Fame[6] following the publication of Vatos.

The Devil's Highway won the 2004 Lannan Literary Award,[7] the Border Regional Library Association's Southwest Book Award,[8] and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and for the Pacific Rim Kiriyama Prize. It was also optioned for a film by CDI Producciones. The book was adopted as the 2010 One Book for Sac State.[9]

His short story "Amapola", which can be found in Phoenix Noir edited by Patrick Millikin and Urrea's own The Water Museum, won the Edgar Award in 2010 for best mystery short story.[10]


Mythiligi G. Rao of the New York Times compares both of Urrea's heavily researched novels in an article titled "The Most Dangerous Girl in Mexico goes to America"; Rao writes, "Where The Hummingbird’s Daughter was driven by an otherworldly mysticism and the call of fate, its sequel is largely occupied with the ordinary troubles of mortal life".[11] Stacey D'Erasmo, also from the New York Times has reviewed Urrea's novel "The Hummingbird's Daughter". Praising him for his literature style she writes, "The style that Urrea has adopted to tell Teresita's—and Mexico's—story [is]...simultaneously dreamy, telegraphic and quietly lyrical. Like a vast mural, the book displays a huge cast of workers, whores, cowboys, rich men, bandits and saints while simultaneously making them seem to float on the page".[12] Joanne Omang, from the Washington Post writes, "The Hummingbird's Daughter is paced beautifully, inexorable and slow-seeming as life itself. The daily trivia of Teresita's childhood is as fascinating as the punctuations of amazements, beauties and horrors".[13] Luis Alberto Urrea is also admired by Publisher's Weekly Sandra Dijkstra; she writes, "His brilliant prose is saturated with the cadences and insights of Latin-American magical realism and tempered by his exacting reporter's eye and extensive historical investigation".[14]



  • The Fever of Being. West End Press. 1994. ISBN 978-0-931122-78-1. 
  • Ghost Sickness. Cinco Puntos Press. 1997. ISBN 978-0-938317-30-2. 
  • Vatos. José Galvez, Josae Galvez (photog.). Cinco Puntos Press. 2000. ISBN 978-0-938317-52-4. 
  • "Walking Backwards in thee Dark". Virginia Quarterly Review. Spring 2007. 

Short Stories

  • Six Kinds of Sky. Cinco Puntos Press. 2002. ISBN 978-0-938317-63-0. 
  • The Water Museum. Little, Brown and Company. 2015. ISBN 978-0316334372


  • In Search of Snow. University of Arizona Press. 1994. ISBN 978-0-8165-2015-2. 
  • The Hummingbird's Daughter. Little, Brown and Company. 2005. ISBN 978-0-316-74546-8. 
  • Into the Beautiful North. Little, Brown and Company. 2009. ISBN 978-0-316-02527-0. 
  • Queen of America. Little, Brown and Company. 2011. ISBN 978-0-316-15486-4. 


  • Wandering Time: Western Notebooks. University of Arizona Press. 1999. ISBN 978-0-8165-1866-1. 
  • Nobody's Son: Notes from an American Life. University of Arizona Press. 1998. ISBN 978-0-8165-2270-5. 


  • Across the wire: life and hard times on the Mexican border. John Lueders-Booth (photog.). Anchor Books. 1993. ISBN 978-0-385-42530-8. 
  • By the Lake of Sleeping Children. Anchor Books. 1996. ISBN 978-0-385-48419-0. 
  • The Devil's Highway. Little, Brown and Company. 2004. ISBN 978-0-316-74671-7. 
  • Tijuana Book of the Dead. Soft Skull Press. 2015. ISBN 978-1619024823


  • "On Standing at Neruda's Tomb: An interview with Martín Espada". Poetry Foundation. 2006. 
  1. ^ a b c González-T., César A. "Luis Alberto Urrea." Chicano Writers: Third Series, edited by Francisco A. Lomeli and Carl R. Shirley, Gale, 1999. Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 209. Literature Resource Center, Accessed 7 Nov. 2017.
  2. ^ "Luis Alberto Urrea". Poetry Foundation. Poetry Foundation. 2017-11-14. Retrieved 2017-11-14. 
  3. ^ BookBrowse. "Luis Alberto Urrea author biography". Retrieved 2017-11-16. 
  4. ^ List of Winners, 1991-2007, accessed 18 July 2010.
  5. ^ "Urrea, Luis Alberto". Retrieved 2017-11-16. 
  6. ^ a b "Luis Alberto Urrea | U.S. Embassy in Argentina". U.S. Embassy in Argentina. Retrieved 2017-11-16. 
  7. ^ "Luis Alberto Urrea". Lannan Foundation. Retrieved 2017-11-14. 
  8. ^ "BRLA 2004 Southwest Book Awards." Border Regional Library Association. 2008. Web. 26 July 2009.
  9. ^ "ONE BOOK CONTINUES WITH "THE DEVIL'S". Sacramento State. October 12, 2010. Retrieved 2017-11-14. 
  10. ^ "2010 Edgar Awards | The Chamber Four Archive". Retrieved 2017-11-16. 
  11. ^ Rao, Mythili G. (2011-12-23). "Queen Of America – By Luis Alberto Urrea – Book Review". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-11-09. 
  12. ^ D'Erasmo, Stacey (2005-07-03). "'The Hummingbird's Daughter': A Saint With Grit". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2017-11-09. 
  13. ^ Omang, Reviewed by Joanne (2005-06-05). "Child of Fortune". ISSN 0190-8286. Retrieved 2017-11-16. 
  14. ^ "Fiction Book Review: THE HUMMINGBIRD'S DAUGHTER by Luis Alberto Urrea, Author. Little, Brown $24.95 (512p) ISBN978-0-316-74546-8". Retrieved 2017-11-10. 
External links
  • Author's website
  • "Four Corners: One Book author Luis Alberto Urrea", Kinsee Morlan, KSUT, 2009
  • "Conversations". Waterbridge Review. September 2006. 
  • Daniel Olivas interviews Luis Alberto Urrea for The Elegant Variation (2005)

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