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


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

So This is How it Ends

By Tui T. Sutherland

Place: Publisher & Year: New York: Eos, 2006

Genre: Fantasy, time travel fantasy, adventure, mythic fiction, science fiction

Series: Avatars; 1

ISBN: 9780060750299

Intended audience: Young adult

Number of pages: 480

Settings: Many various settings including: Los Angeles, NYC, Chile, Mexico

Time periods: 2003 – 2012, 2087

Plot summary: Five teenagers in various parts of the world find themselves alone in a post-apocalyptic world.  Most of them must travel great distances to meet at a gathering place in New York City, while avoiding mutant animals, crystal robot hunters, and a few deranged humans.  Once they reach their destination, they learn more details about what has become of the world they once knew.  They also learn that they will be participating in a battle – whether they want to or not. Continue reading

If I Die in Juárez

By Stella Pope Duarte

Place: Publisher & Year: Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2008

Genres: General fiction, suspense

Series: Camino del Sol

ISBN: 0816526672

Intended audience: Adult

Number of pages: 328

Setting: Ciudad Juárez and the village of Montenegro, Mexico (located in the Chihuahuan desert)

Time period: 1995- 96

Plot summary: Since 1993, the bodies of hundreds of young women have been found raped, mutilated, tortured, and dumped in the Chihuahuan desert in the outskirts of Ciudad Juarez.  While Mexican law officials have arrested men who have confessed to some of the murders, or “femicides”, bodies continue to be found.  To date, about four hundred bodies have been found with many women still missing.  Duarte’s novel follows the lives of three young women as they try to navigate through Juarez’s vicious streets and culture.  In addition to their everyday struggles to survive, the young women find themselves stuck in no win situations where they are lucky to escape with their lives. Continue reading

Che : a graphic biography

By Spain Rodriguez ; edited by Paul Buhle

Place: Publisher,Year: New York : Verso, 2008

Genres: Non-fiction, biography, history

Format: Graphic novel

ISBN: 1844671682

Intended audience: Adult

Number of pages: 106

Setting: Argentina, Peru, Mexico, Cuba, Congo, and Bolivia

Time period: 1928 – 1967 and beyond

Plot summary: The story of Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s life and death is presented in a graphic novel format.  The story begins with Ernesto’s birth in 1928 in Rosario, Argentina and gives the reader some background on both Ernesto’s family and Argentinian history.  The story then follows Che’s life as he journeys across South America on a motorcycle with his friend Alberto, finishes medical school, and then begins his life’s work as a revolutionary. Continue reading