Nobody’s son: notes from an American life

By Luis Alberto Urrea

Place: Publisher & Year: Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 1998

Genres: Non-fiction, autobiography, memoir

Series: Camino del Sol

ISBN: 9780816518654

Audience: Adults

Number of pages: 189

Setting: Various locations in Mexico and the US,  including Tijuana and San Diego

Time period: late 1950s – 1990s

Description: Urrea describes key moments of his life in regards to growing up as a child of both the US and Mexico.  Written in a non-linear fashion, the book is divided into chapters which focus upon places and themes.

Appeal factors:

Pacing: Moderately fast paced – uses a conversational tone.

Characterization: Written in first person with a wide range of characters.  The most important secondary characters are Urrea’s parents;  as in life, some minor characters (such as Mr. Jones) have a deep impact.

Frame: The opening quote for this book is a Cajun folk saying – “You’re in big trouble when you got to apologize for being yourself”.  This quote along with the title of the book set the frame for the story, which is a sense of not belonging.

Story line: The story focuses upon how Urrea’s family and culture impacted his life.

Subject headings:

From Pima County Public Library:

Urrea, Luis Alberto.

Mexican American authors — 20th century — Biography.

Mexican Americans — Social life and customs.

Mexico — Social life and customs.

Southwestern States — Social life and customs.

Somewhat similar works:

Bess Me, Ultima by Rudolfo Anaya (fiction)

Yoruba Girl Dancing by Simi Bedford (fiction)

Autobiography of a Face Lucy Grealy

Shooting Polaris: a Personal Survey in the American West by John Hales

Hunger of Memory: the Education of Richard Rodriguez by Richard Rodriguez

Nisei Daughter by Monica Itoi Sone

Wandering Time: Western Notebooks by Luis Alberto Urrea

Personal notes: I loved this book!  I want to read it again.  It had me laughing on one page and almost crying on the next.  I bookmarked a bunch of different pages where I just loved the descriptions and writing.  These are a few:

“Home isn’t just a place, I have learned.  It is also a language.  My words not only shape and define my home.  Words – not only for writers – are home” (p. 12).

“My life isn’t so different from yours.  My life is utterly alien compared to yours.  You and I have nothing to say to each other.  You and I share the same story.  I am Other.  I am you” (p. 58).

“Gringos have a strangely difficult time with the bizarre details of the daily life of Latinos.  People scoff at the personal testimonials of wonders, but they love to read them in novels from Colombia.   To us, however, magic realism is basically reality” (p. 84).

Other: Diversity – Mexican Americans, Mexicans, Black Americans, WWII female Red Cross worker

Luis Alberto Urrea’s website

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