Into the Beautiful North

By Luis Alberto Urrea

Place: Publisher & Year: New York: Back Bay Books, 2009

Genre: General fiction

ISBN: 9780316025263

Audience: Adult, young adult

Number of pages: 338

Setting: Tres Camarones & Tijuana, Mexico, San Diego, CA, & Kankakee, IL

Time period: Contemporary

Plot summary: When narcos come to the sleepy town of Tres Camarones, nineteen year old Nayeli, comes up with a brilliant plan for getting rid of them.  Inspired by the movie, The Magificient Seven, she and three of her friends embark on a mission to find seven warriors (cops or soldiers) to drive off the bandits and help repopulate the town.  Nayeli hopes to travel as far as Kankakee, IL to find her father, who (along with most of the other town’s men) left many years earlier in search of work. Continue reading

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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. Continue reading

Six Kinds of Sky: A Collection of Short Fiction

By Luis Alberto Urrea

Place: Publisher & Year: El Paso: Cinco Puntos Press, 2002

Genres: Short stories, general fiction, magical realism

ISBN: 9780938317630

Intended audience: Adult

Number of pages: 146 (includes an afterword)

Settings: Range from Rosario to the outskirts of the city dump in Tijuana, Mexico and various locations in the US, including the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.

Time period: 1970’scontemporary

Description: This collection includes six stories which are followed by an afterword: “Mr. Medoza’s Paintbrush”, “Taped to the Sky”,  “First Light”, “A Day in the Life”, “Father Returns from the Mountain”, “Bid Farewell to Her Many Horses”, and “Amazing Grace: Story And Writer”.  In the author’s words – “the book is some kind of downward spiral.  It starts out all full of jokes and ends in fire and poverty and death.  It reflects an early fascination with escape, then deals with returning, then staying put and dealing with it, whatever it is” (p. 145).  While this is an accurate description of the collection, it’s not a depressing spiral, but rather an uplifting one.  In the non-joking stories, Urrea’s characters find grace and beauty in their situations. Continue reading

The Hummingbird’s Daughter

By Luis Alberto Urrea

Place: Publisher & Year: New York: Little, Brown, and Company, c2005, 2006

Genres: Historical fiction, magical realism

Series: Not a series, but the author is currently working on a sequel to this book.

ISBN: 9780316154529

Intended audience: Adult

Number of pages: 499

Setting: Ocoroni, Sinaloa & Cabora (near Alamos), Sonora, Mexico

Time period: 1873 – 1892

Plot summary: When Teresita Urrea was born, Huila – the curandera of The People – knew that Teresita would become a powerful person one day.  Born into extreme poverty as the daughter of a Mayo native and rich Mexican landowner, Teresita endures many hardships until Huila becomes responsible for her and begins teaching her the practice of healing.  Teresita grows up on her father’s ranch as a wild child – riding horses and hanging out with the vaqueros – until she becomes an acknowledged member of the family as a teenager.  After dying and returning to life, her healing practices and her life takes a radical shift as she becomes known as the “Saint of Cabora”. Continue reading