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Author Archive: "Luis Alberto Urrea"


Soon I will be leaving my beloved West Coast and taking this show to New York. A friend of mine in San Francisco, taking a page from Bob Dylan's history, calls my travels The Rolling Blunder Review. I like that.

This book I'm touring with has taken me 26 years (it's the second half of a project that originally took 20 years). Much of my adult life has been spent wrestling with this material and now it's done.

I feel like I'm graduating from the longest high school experience in history. I guess that makes this book tour my commencement ceremony. Heck, with the multitudes of old high school chums and former girlfriends I have seen so far, all that seems lacking is a rented gown and mortarboard.

These 26 years have taken me from a humorous, yet angry young man consumed by class rage to suburban dad and burgeoning elder who tries to comfort angry young writers consumed by class rage.

I know how lucky I am to go out and talk about my ...


My wife's been bugging me. Ok, I can see that she has a point. Readers invariably ask me who I read or who is my favorite author or who is my biggest influence. As the most regular witness to this, she noticed that I seem to dodge the question.

I usually say something like, "How long have you got?" or I'll say "Oh, there are hundreds." It doesn't matter that I'm not trying to be funny, it happens to be true. I know readers would like to know some real answers.

My wife seems to think that what moves me or attracts me or makes me spend my money would surprise readers. So, she made me think about what I did at Powell's tonight. I came all the way across the country knowing that Powell's was the one place I would find the book I was looking for. I walked straight to the Blue Room, straight to the poetry section, straight to the shelf marked with a K and found the book. Not Stephen King, not Jack Kerouac, but What?: ...

Night People

San Francisco: Two nights, two readings, one radio interview, one newspaper interview, seven bookstore signings in a row. We get back to the hotel late and fortunately this place is famous for its tomato soup and grilled cheese sandwich on the late night menu.

The room service guy brings the food and he has an accent like my relatives in Colonia Independencia had. I ask him, "Are you Mexican?" As always, there's a slight pause and he looks at me out of the corner of his eye. "I am," he says.

Then I drop the bomb he didn't expect to hear: "I'm from Tijuana."

He cries, "I am from Tijuana!"

Suddenly, there is a two-man street party in my room. It only takes us 30 seconds to find our way through that remembered city to our favorite sidewalk taco stand. How did I know he loved Tacos El Paisano, too? How did I know he was from Tijuana, too? There is no way of explaining it, I just did.

I come to these places where I wouldn't have dared enter for much of my life. In fact, I would have been scared ...

Aunt Bear

If you touch greatness at the right time, its powerful gravity can change the direction of your orbit.

I didn't mean to go to college, I really didn't. I thought if I kept writing poems in my notebook and doing street theater with my acting group, life would simply fall into place. My parents knew better and pushed me into UCSD. In my senior year, the worst and best things happened, one after the other.

My father died in Mexico and immediately thereafter, Ursula K. Le Guin came to my college. I was feeling like a lost soul. My dad so suddenly gone and my dreams of art seemingly impossible, as remote as distant mountains.

In those days, Ursula smoked a pipe. I had never seen a woman smoke a pipe. It made such a deep impression on me that you find women in Queen of America smoking pipes. Now you know where I stole that.

I had never met a person like Ursula. I did not think I was allowed to meet a person like Ursula. When I realized to my profound shock that we loved each other ...

Pomegranate Tequila

I was awakened this morning by singing sea lions. You don't hear many of those in Chicago , but I'm out here on book tour riding Queen of America like a tiny magic carpet.

My wife and I used to joke that the best way to deal with family and your home town was to maintain a 1,000-mile buffer zone. But what you're really staying away from is the poverty and the struggle of the old days. And now, I am here with this fat novel that depends so heavily on my family's history.

It's amazing to find that words I give to strangers are little objects of gold that my relatives clutch dear to their hearts. After a few full days of appearances, we sat together tonight in a kitchen near the border and I found out to my shock that this strange writing life of mine means something profound to these people I have loved sometimes from so far away.

They had made bottles of pomegranate tequila. Blanca, who turns 75 this week, said "This is fruit I planted, I raised, ...

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