I started this blog series as a service to all the people, many of them librarians and teachers, who wanted to know about talented writers of color beyond the ubiquitous ultra-famous writers, such as Sandra Cisneros and Toni Morrison, the established writers that everyone knows about. In recent months, however, I have come to realize that, with the exception of those two fabulous and famous writers and a few others, such as Alice Walker, even the established writers of color, those with big publishers and major awards, are too often unknown to literate, educated people who aren't in the literary game. This came as a shock to me, but of course, books and literature have been my life for most of my life.
Consequently, I'll be stopping now and then to look at a writer everyone should know but may not. Since I recently did a "creative conversation" with Luis Alberto Urrea at the 20th annual Alliance of Artists Communities national conference, I decided to start with him--because we had such fun together and such a wonderful reception, because he has a major new book coming out this month, and because Urrea is definitely one of the writers everyone should know.
Urrea writes with the lyrical language of a poet, even when he writes hard-hitting investigative nonfiction about the broken immigration system and the tug-of-war that is modern border policy. His impeccably researched historical novels about Teresita Urrea, the Saint of Cabora and Mexican Joan of Arc, have been described by critics as magic realism as a convenient classification, but it is really the lyricism of the poet applied to the novel that leads them to this label--and his obsession with transformation, which can be found in all of his writing. I find myself wondering what label they will give the novel he is currently working on about his white East Coast ancestors.
Here is the link to pre-order Queen of America, the second of those books about Teresita, one of Urrea's own ancestors. I've linked to Indiebound so you can pre-order from independent bookstores.
Urrea grew up in San Diego and graduated from the University of California-San Diego with an undergraduate degree in writing. He served as a relief worker in Tijuana, a film extra, and columnist and cartoonist before teaching expository writing and fiction workshops at Harvard. After graduate studies at the University of Colorado-Boulder, he taught at Massachusetts Bay College and was writer in residence at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.He is currently professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
The Fever of Being (West End Press)
Ghost Sickness (Cinco Puntos Press)
Vatos (Cinco Puntos Press)
Six Kinds of Sky (Cinco Puntos Press)
In Search of Snow (University of Arizona Press)
The Hummingbird's Daughter (Little, Brown, and Company)
Mr. Mendoza's Paintbrush (Cinco Puntos Press) graphic novel
Into the Beautiful North (Little, Brown, and Company)
Queen of America (Little, Brown, and Company)
Across the wire: life and hard times on the Mexican border (Anchor Books)
By the Lake of Sleeping Children (Anchor Books)
The Devil's Highway (Little, Brown, and Company)
Wandering Time: Western Notebooks (University of Arizona Press)
Nobody's Son: Notes from an American Life (University of Arizona Press)