From the author of Pulitzer-nominated The Devil’s Highway and national bestseller The Hummingbird’s Daughter comes an exquisitely composed collection of poetry on life at the border. Weaving English and Spanish languages as fluidly as he blends cultures of the southwest, Luis Urrea offers a tour of Tijuana, spanning from Skid Row, to the suburbs of East Los Angeles, to the stunning yet deadly Mojave Desert, to Mexico and the border fence itself. Mixing lyricism and colloquial voices, mysticism and the daily grind, Urrea explores duality and the concept of blurring borders in a melting pot society.
Urrea’s facility with language (he writes in English and Spanish, at times in the same poem) and with sound is absolutely striking....[R]eaders won’t dispute Urrea’s storytelling ability, as many of these poems are efficiently packaged narratives of seemingly real people at the real border, burdened with desire and pain and oppression, and even routine; nor will they be able to dispute this book’s tremendous, thumping heart.
He has an undeniable technical skill and his poems move adroitly through rich images, using physicality to make history (personal, cultural, and national) immediately present....Urrea displays accomplished movement in tight, driving narratives and poems that end with disarmingly succinct and arresting lines....[T]he book includes many moments of touching insight and poems that readers will rightfully celebrate.
This most recent book of poems pays homage to the bloodshed and homicide that has become a hallmark of American drug wars, transporting readers from the vast expanse of the Sonoran Desert to urban decay in downtown Chicago. [Tijuana Book of the Dead] oscillates between brutal ultraviolence ... rapturous beauty ... and fanciful whimsy....Peppering lyrics with shoe polish, hair tonic, and wood varnish, Urrea echoes originators of Latino literature, such as Luis Valdez and Lalo Delgado, bridging literary generations in unflinching, evocative verse.
The Tijuana Book Of The Dead is overflowing with stance and heat, truthfulness and lyric musicality. No surprise, Urrea is masterful in telling the right parts of a story; his craftsmanship is formidable in its ease and transparency. I love this collection’s astringent comedy and corresponding moments of outrage and despair, the ways it insists on ethical consciousness in an epoch of numbing and puerile ironies. So it’s possible that "Poetry makes nothing happen," directly, immediately, but it’s clear Urrea understands the essential and clarifying effect poetry has on people’s souls over time. Urrea understands the essential and clarifying effect poetry has on people’s souls over time.
An award-winning poet, fiction writer and essayist, Urrea should be required reading for anyone living in the Southwest. Pure Urrea means being part Mexican, part Indian and part gringo. Reading his work means getting lost in stories that have both fable-like romance and visceral hopelessness, in voices that shift beautifully from sharp and quick-witted to meditative and soft.
Jaunty, bawdy, gritty, sweet...a bottomless comic energy and a heart large enough to accept--even revel in--all of human folly.
Superb....Nothing less than a saga on the scale of the Exodus and an ordeal as heartbreaking as the Passion....The book comes vividly alive with a richness of language and a mastery of narrative detail that only the most gifted of writers are able to achieve."
The book’s rare power is that it is both epic in scope -- a trek through the wilderness in search of ’the promised land’ -- and intensely personal.
The Hummingbird’s Daughter breathes with life, populated with multiple, complex and genuinely individual characters.... It is an immensely entertaining work that is intelligently and sympathetically told.... [A] classic, a tribute and love song to the colorful and vibrant heart of all things Mexican.
To the very end, The Hummingbird’s Daughter is a book of surprises and savory treasures.
’Who is more of an outlaw than a saint?’" one of Luis Urrea’s characters poses. The answer is this ferocious, ribald romance of the border. Jaunty, bawdy, gritty, sweet, Queen of America has a bottomless comic energy and a heart large enough to accept-even revel in-all of human folly.
Captivating...With deft humor and a poetic lyricism that seamlessly folds one scene into another, Urrea unfolds the story of his real-life great-aunt Teresita, a teenage saint who was known for healing miracles... Each scene in Queen of America unfurls gracefully like delicate wisps of smoke. Whether Teresita is being held captive in Northern California by a band of profiteering medical professionals, or being feted like a queen in New York’s social circles, this epic novel paints a portrait of America-and its inhabitants-with grace and style. It will spark fire in readers’ hearts.
Urrea delights in the texture of things. Turn-of-the-century America, particularly New York, comes alive at his fingertips: He sees both the silk and the mud... In imagining the story of his great-aunt Teresita, Urrea might have chosen to make her a hero; that would have been easier. What we get is more complicated, more modern... Hers is the story of what it means to have a gift, and how a talent can also be a burden.
Colorful [and] exuberant.
A magnificent work of literary alchemy, so masterfully infused with myth and history, you will feel these characters in your heart, your gut. You will grieve for their immortal souls.
A gritty, bold, and much-anticipated sequel to The Hummingbird’s Daughter... Fiercely romantic and at times heart-breaking but also full of humor, Urrea’s latest novel blends fairy tale, Western adventure, folk tale, and historical drama. Fans of Hummingbird and readers new to Urrea’s work will surely enjoy this magnificent, epic novel.