Luis Alberto Urrea

"Everybody Loves Luis Urrea…a big personality…a gregarious guy…a phenomenal speaker." —The Chicago Tribune


Luis Alberto Urrea

Luis Alberto Urrea is a prolific and award-winning writer. He is a master of language and a gifted storyteller who uses his dual-culture life experiences to explore greater themes of love, loss and triumph.

Born in Tijuana, Mexico to a Mexican father and an American mother, Luis grew up in San Diego, Califomia. Like so many great writers, Luis got his start in literature writing poems to impress girls in junior high school. His early heroes were all rock stars, but not being especially musically gifted Luis chose to follow in the steps of his literary role models. A fanatical hunger for reading pushed him over the edge at the age of 13,”1 just had to do what my heroes were doing” he has said.

As a young man Luis served as a relief worker amongst people living in the Tijuana garbage dumps prior to receiving a teaching Fellowship to Harvard University. “The border” has defined his life and colored much of his writing. Regarding this point he once said “the border is simply a metaphor that makes it easier for me to write about the things that separate people all over the world, even when they think there is no fence.”

The author of fourteen books, Luis Urrea has published extensively in many gemes and has received many prestigious awards. In 2009 on a bit of a whim he wrote his first-ever mystery short story (“Amapola”) and won nothing less than an Edgar Award. The Devil’s Highway,his 2004 non-fiction account of a group of Mexican immigrants lost in the Arizona desert, won the Lannan Literary Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize. His highly acclaimed historical novels; The Hummingbird’s Daughter and Queen of America together tell the story of Teresita lJrrea, a great aunt who was a healer and Mexican folk hero at the tum of the 20th century. These two books, which involved more that 20 years of research and writing, are arrepic work honoring the life of an incredible woman. Collectively The Devil’s Highway, The Humming Bird’s Daughter and his 2008 novel Into the Beautiful North have been chosen by more than thirty different cities and colleges across the country for One Book community read programs.

Luis Urrea attended the University of California at San Diego, earning an undergraduate degree in writing, and did his graduate studies at the University of Colorado-Boulder. Aside from his Fellowship at Harvard he has also taught at Massachusetts Bay Community College, the University of Colorado and the University of Louisiana-Lafayette. Luis is currently a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago. He lives with his wife Cinderella (“Cindy”) and their youngest daughter in Naperville, IL.


Universal Border: From Tijuana to the World…Best-selling author Luis Alberto Urrea will share his story of transformation from his beginnings on a dirt street in Tijuana to Pulitzer Prize finalist and beloved storyteller. Though recognized as a writer who concentrates on the border regions of the Southwestern United States, Urrea says, “Borders don’t interest me. I’m really in the business of building bridges.”


Luis Alberto Urrea’s Website



Kankakee Gets Its Groove Back” for The New York Times

“A Weird Calm at the Edge of the Abyss” for Playboy


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