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, and I harvested with these hands." I realized that was the family history she herself had made for us and together we drank a toast to our stories.
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Luis Alberto Urrea is the recipient of a Lannan Literary Award, an American Book Award, a Western States Book Award, and a Colorado Book Award, and has been inducted into the Latino Literary Hall of Fame. He lives in Chicago.
Books mentioned in this post
Luis Alberto Urrea is the author of Queen of America