An acclaimed cross-cultural writer will visit the Owens Valley as the fundamental event in this year’s Inyo County Community Reads agenda.
“Into the Beautiful North” author Luis Alberto Urrea will speak about his novel, his craft and his life journey – from “growing up on dirt streets in Tijuana to becoming a Pulitzer Prize finalist, beloved storyteller” and literature professor at numerous universities, said Trinity Ray, president of the Tuesday Agency, Urrea’s lecture agent.
Following a private reception to welcome the author to Bishop, Urrea will be featured in a public presentation from 7-8 p.m. on Monday, March 11 at the Bishop Union High School auditorium, 301 N. Fowler St. The presentation will include a lecture, Q&A with the audience and book sale and signing.
“Into the Beautiful North” is a novel about a young Mexican villager who is inspired by the movie “The Magnificent Seven” to cross the U.S. border in search of men to come to the rescue of her drug-dealer-infested hometown.
According to Ray, Urrea is a “prolific” award-winning writer, “a master of language and a gifted storyteller who uses his dual-culture life experience to explore greater themes of love, loss and triumph.”
Although “Into the Beautiful North” is set in the world of illegal border crossings, Urrea said, “The border is simply a metaphor that makes it easier for me to write about the things that separate people all over the world, even when they think there is no fence.”
Urrea was born virtually on the U.S./Mexico border in Tijuana, Mexico to an American mother and a Mexican father. He grew up in San Diego where the seeds of his literary career were planted and fanned by adolescent romance. At 13, Urrea began writing poetry to impress girls. That, and “a fanatical hunger for reading” inspired him to follow the path of his literary heros. “I just had to do what my heroes were doing.”
Later, Urrea’s cross-cultural life path found him serving impoverished people who lived on Tijuana garbage dumps and then later earning a teaching fellowship to Harvard University.
Life on the border informed much of his writing, as well.
Urrea has penned 14 books and his work spans many genres. Urrea’s 2004 nonfiction work about a group of Mexican immigrants who get lost in an Arizona desert, “The Devil’s Highway, won him the Lannan Literary Award and put him on the Pulitzer Prize finalists list. “In 2009, on a bit of a whim,” Ray said, Urrea wrote his first mystery short story, “Amapola,” and promptly won the Edgar (Allan Poe) Award.
Urrea has written numerous historical novels, as well. Two such novels, “The Hummingbird’s Daughter” and “Queen of America,” took Urrea more than 20 years to research and write. Together, they memorialize Terresita Urrea, the novelist’s great-aunt, who was a turn-of-the-century healer and Mexican folk hero.
Although many of his works focus on Southeastern U.S. border life, Urrea said, “Borders don’t interest me. I’m really in the business of building bridges.”
To top off his extensive literary and academic resume, the Chicago Tribune said, that as a person, “everybody loves Luis Urrea” – a “phenomenal speaker” and “a gregarious guy” with a “big personality.”
For more information about Urrea, visit www.luisurrea.com  or www.tuesdayagency.com . For more information about final Inyo County Community Reads events, visit http://inyo.org/calendar/  or Inyo Council for the Arts at 137 S. Main or call (760) 873-8014.