Luis Alberto Urrea Returns to Tucson Nov. 1



Sometimes exciting things do happen on the internets, such as last night's announcement that author and Mexican-American studies champion Luis Alberto Urrea returns to Tucson for a Day of the Dead celebration at 4 p.m. on Thursday, Nov. 1, at the UA Student Union.

Praise the literature gods!

Press release from the UA Bookstore and the Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry:

A celebration of Day of the Dead (“Día de los Muertos”), including traditional Mexican food and entertainment and Day of the Dead altars created by UA students will be held on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2012 at the University of Arizona Student Union Memorial Center beginning at 4 p.m. All events are free and open to the public and sponsored by Confluencenter for Creative Inquiry.

Luis Urrea, a member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame, will join in the festivities at the University of Arizona BookStores, Student Union Memorial Center in the lower level, speaking with the UA students who have designed their own Day of the Dead Altars for the occasion and meeting with the public. The altars, traditional remembrances of the deceased, will be on display at the bookstore through Nov. 3.

The festivities begin at 4 p.m. and will include performances by Grupo Folklórico Miztontli and Las Aguilitas de Davis Mariachis. Traditional bread made for this holiday, “Pan de muerto” or Day of the Dead sweet bread, will be served along with hot chocolate at the bookstore event.

At 5:00 p.m., the mariachis and dancers will lead the audience in a procession to the Student Union Ballroom where Urrea will give a reading followed by a book signing. Along with the UA BookStores, the event is co-sponsored by Asian Pacific American Student Affairs/JEDI, Binational Migration Institute, Mexican American Studies, Chicano/Hispano Student Affairs and the Department of English.

A celebration of life and a way to honor deceased loved ones, Día de los Muertos is a 3,800-year-old indigenous Mexican tradition. It is a holiday that is gaining popularity in the United States. The holiday focuses on gatherings of family and friends to pray for and remember friends and family members who have passed away. Despite its name, this holiday does not glorify death and is not associated in any way with Halloween. Rather, it is a time of reflection on and appreciation for life.

Chicano/Hispano Student Affairs (CHSA) is also holding a Día de los Muertos Celebration with altars created by CHSA students available for viewing in Chavez Building Room 211 from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. with students available to answer questions about their altars from 12:15 to 3 p.m. Altars created by SEED teachers will be available for viewing in Chavez Building Room 205 from noon to 4 p.m. and the teachers will present the traditional altar at 12:20. At noon there will be a procession from the center of the UA Mall to the Chavez Building. The procession is open to all and will include a Catrina Hat contest. At 12:15 pm, the procession will arrive at Chavez Building where there will be refreshments including “Pan de muerto,” champurrado and chocolate on the second floor. Face painting will take place from 12:15 to 1 p.m. in Chavez Room 211.

Luis Alberto Urrea, 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for nonfiction and member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame, is a prolific and acclaimed writer 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, Urrea has published extensively in all the major genres. The critically acclaimed and best-selling author of 13 books, Urrea has won numerous awards for his poetry, fiction and essays. 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 and the Pacific Rim Kiriyama Prize. An historical novel, The Hummingbird's Daughter tells the story of Teresa Urrea, sometimes known as the Saint of Cabora and the Mexican Joan of Arc. The book, which involved 20 years of research and writing, won the Kiriyama Prize in fiction and, along with The Devil's Highway, was named a best book of the year by many publications. It has been optioned by acclaimed Mexican director Luis Mandoki for a film to star Antonio Banderas.

Urrea's most recent novel, Into the Beautiful North, was picked for the Big Read for 2013 by the National Endowment for the Arts, which means groups of people will be reading and celebrating the book across the nation. The novel imagines a small town in Mexico where all the men have immigrated to the U.S. A group of young women, after seeing the film The Magnificent Seven, decide to follow the men north and persuade them to return to their beloved village. A national best-seller, Into the Beautiful North earned a citation of excellence from the American Library Association Rainbow Project. A short story from Urrea's collection Six Kinds of Sky was recently released as a stunning graphic novel by Cinco Puntos Press. Mr. Mendoza's Paintbrush, illustrated by artist Christopher Cardinale, has already garnered rave reviews and serves as a perfect companion to Into the Beautiful North as it depicts the same village in the novel.

Into the Beautiful North, The Devil's Highway and The Hummingbird's Daughter have been chosen by more than 30 different cities and colleges for One Book community read programs. Urrea has also won an Edgar award from the Mystery Writers of America for best short story (2009, “Amapola” in Phoenix Noir). His first book, Across the Wire, was named a New York Times Notable Book and won the Christopher Award.

Urrea also won a 1999 American Book Award for his memoir, Nobody's Son: Notes from an American Life. Six Kinds of Sky, was named the 2002 small-press Book of the Year in fiction by the editors of ForeWord magazine. He has also won a Western States Book Award in poetry for The Fever of Being and was in The 1996 Best American Poetry collection. Urrea's other titles include By the Lake of Sleeping Children, In Search of Snow, Vatos, Ghost Sickness and Wandering Time.

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. After serving as a relief worker in Tijuana and a film extra and columnist-editor-cartoonist for several publications, Urrea moved to Boston where he taught writing workshops at Harvard. Urrea lives with his family in Naperville, IL, where he is a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

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