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10:00 am, Monday, October 15, 2012

Convocation: "The Border, Immigration & the Devil's Highway: A Journey with the Author Luis Urrea"

Luis Urrea is a Mexican-American poet, essayist and novelist. This convocation is the 2012 S. A. Yoder lecture, sponsored by the English department. The lecture is free and open to the public.

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, California. 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,"I 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 14 books, Luis Urrea has published extensively in many genres 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 Urrea, 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 Cindy and their youngest daughter in Naperville, Ill.

Contact: Ann Hostetler, phone 574-535-7469, email anneh@goshen.edu

See also: Watch a May 4, 2012 interview with Urrea on Bill Moyers & Company about the modern reality of life on the U.S.-Mexico border