In a continued effort to unite the communities of Inyo County, bridge cultural differences and promote reading, the Inyo County Office of Education is launching its Fifth Annual Community Reads Program.
Inyo County Superintendent of Schools Terry McAteer announced this week that the 2013 program will revolve around the book “Into the Beautiful North,” by best-selling author and Pulitzer Prize finalist Luis Urrea.
“Into the Beautiful North” is a fictional story about a young woman from a remote Mexican village who, after watching the famous American movie “The Magnificent Seven,” is determined to cross the border into the United States in order to recruit former townsmen back to her town before it is overrun by drug dealers.
“It’s a funny book that has real relevance to our community. In the past we have celebrated our climbing community and Native American community along with Manzanar and Jill Kinmont Boothe,” said McAteer. “It was only appropriate that we highlight our Latino community and foster discussions surrounding immigration and Latino heritage.”
In addition to encouraging everyone in Inyo and Mono counties to read the same book, the Community Reads program includes a number of events planned around the work, including talks by the author and gatherings designed to share the culture the book represents.
Over the past four years, McAteer said the Community Reads program has grown significantly, drawing hundreds of residents to the community events, and prompting thousands to read the selected book.
This year’s Kick-Off event will include a performance by the local “Estrella de Mexico” dancers and a salsa tasting contest at the Inyo Council for the Arts. The event is scheduled for 5:30-7 p.m. next Friday, Feb. 1 at the Inyo Council for the Arts in Bishop. Like many Community Reads events, it is open to the public and is free of charge.
The main attraction of the two-month-long Community Reads celebration will be a visit by the author. Urrea will speak at a community presentation scheduled for 7-8 p.m. Monday, March 11 at the Bishop High School Auditorium.
At the presentation, Urrea will tell his story about being born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and American mother and his transformation from his beginnings on a dirt street to Pulitzer Prize finalist and beloved storyteller.
In addition to his public talk, Urrea will be speaking to all middle and high school students and teachers the next day about immigration and his success story. (For a full list of Community Reads events, see the calendar of events on A-5.)
Urrea attended the University of California, San Diego, earning an undergraduate degree in writing, and did his graduate studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder.
After serving as a relief worker in Tijuana, and a film extra and columnist-editor-cartoonist for several publications, he moved to Boston where he taught expository writing and fiction workshops at Harvard University. He also taught at Massachusetts Bay Community College and University of Colorado before becoming the writer-in-residence at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.
Urrea lives with his family in Naperville, Ill., where he is a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois at Chicago.
In addition to “Into the Beautiful North,” Urrea has written two historical novels, “The Hummingbird’s Daughter” and “Queen of America,” as well as “The Devil’s Highway,” the non-fiction account of a group of Mexican immigrants lost in the Arizona desert.
Urrea has received numerous prizes and awards for his fiction, poetry and journalism. “Into the Beautiful North” has also been chosen as the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read for 2013.
Copies of “Into the Beautiful North” are available at Spellbinder Books in Bishop, the Booky Joint in Mammoth and local libraries.