This month we are reading Luis Alberto Urrea's novel Into the Beautiful North and it just so happens that the book was chosen as part of the National Endowment for the Arts Big Read for this year. That means that not only are we reading this cross-border adventure with lots of other folks around the country (see some of the great events others have planned here), but also that the NEA has supplied this nice audio introduction to the book as well. You can also catch up with how the Big Read is going at the author's website which includes Luis account of Big Read happenings.
If Mr. Urrea's going to be speaking at an event near you, take advantage! After spending some time with Luis via YouTube, I can say that he is both entertaining and inspiring. But be forewarned, he managed to convince me to read one of his other books (where do I apply for extra credit?), his nonfiction account of death on the border, The Devil's Highway: A True Story, which may be one of the best books I've read this year. So what are some of the videos I would recommend? Lots of laughs in the hometown presentation for San Diego's One City/One Book program at the top of this post --here's Part 2-- and for inspiration, you can't beat this Zocalo audio presentation 'Humanity & Legality' (also available via iTunes).
For those who prefer print, this Powell's interview has lots of great insights into the book's humor,
Somebody said to me about a week ago, "You've invented a genre which I call slapstick immigration." I thought that was hilarious, because I hadn't thought of it that way. But I like it.Bookslut also has some great stuff,
Here's what I think: I, of course, write about the border because I'm from the border. Others who are not from the border, write these books about the border that are more like "my day at the zoo," books filled with little brown people running amuck. They write without sensitivity; they certainly don't write with any love of the place. That sort of thing bothers me.
I've been accused of being a Polyanna by some of those very writers. Yes, everyone knows it's hell at the border, but it's not hell all the time; that's where my grandmother lives!There's more to share about Luis Urrea, but I'll save it for other posts. Just a brief reminder here though-- be sure to check out Amnesty International's 'Immigrant Rights are Human Rights' page and this fresh Urgent Action concerning Mexican community activists to round out our consideration of this warm-hearted novel.