Award-winning writer Luis Alberto Urrea to visit campus

Publication Date

Acclaimed poet, novelist and essayist Luis Alberto Urrea will speak Thursday, Oct. 26, at 7 p.m. in the Nott Memorial.

His talk, “Universal Border: From Tijuana to the World,” is free and open to the public.

Urrea is the best-selling author of 16 books, including 2004’s “The Devil's Highway: A True Story.”

The book chronicles the last days of the Yuma 14, a group of men and boys who died in the Arizona desert trying to cross into the U.S. from Mexico.

The Atlantic called it “the single most compelling, lucid, and lyrical contemporary account of the absurdity of U.S. border policy.”

The book won the Lannan Literary Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Pacific Rim Kiriyama Prize.

“It is a heartbreaking story, made all the more poignant because it presents the point of view of members of the Border Patrol as well as the victims,” said Teresa Meade, the Florence B. Sherwood Professor of History and Culture. “Urrea’s talk at Union will cover some of the most important topics of the day, including immigration, DACA, the criminalizing of immigrants from Mexico, the huge expense of current policies, and the ecological disaster posed by a potential border wall.”

Students in Meade’s class, “History of Mexico,” have been reading the book. Urrea will meet with them and students in classes taught by Jeffrey Witsoe, associate professor of anthropology (“Anthropology of Human Rights”) and Vicki Martinez, professor of Spanish (“Latin American Narrative”). Urrea will also attend a dinner and discussion with students and faculty in Beuth House.

Born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and American mother, Urrea is most recognized as a border writer, though he says, “I am more interested in bridges, not borders.”

A member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame, Urrea is the recipient of numerous awards for his poetry, fiction and essays. His most recent book, “The Water Museum,” a collection of short stories, was a finalist for the 2015 PEN-Faulkner Award and was named a best book of the year by The Washington Post and Kirkus Reviews, among others.

Urrea lives with his family in Naperville, Ill., where he is a distinguished professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Sponsors of the talk include UNITAS, Minerva Program, Speakers Bureau, Scholars Program, President's Office, Spanish Club, Latin American and Caribbean Studies, American Studies, Religious Studies, Africana Studies, Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies and Interdisciplinary Studies, along with the departments of Anthropology, English, History, Political Science, Economics, Modern Languages, Philosophy, Visual Arts and Sociology.

The dinner is co-sponsored by Beuth and Green Houses.