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.
“[A] gorgeous, engaging collection… [Urrea] captures the song and spirit of people who might otherwise be invisible… As difficult as the subject matter may be, the writing is radiant, showing how the worth of human beings can’t be dimmed by a border fence or hot-button politics.” —Washington Post
“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.” —Library Journal
“[Urrea] 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… many moments of touching insight and poems that readers will rightfully celebrate.” —Publishers Weekly
“Urrea is a proud Chicano, one who uses the written word to bring our culture — and his personal voyage — to the world without obfuscation or sham emotion. And The Tijuana Book of the Dead is a fitting addition to his oeuvre. It is muscular, gritty, cinematic, and often hilarious. This collection undermines the complaint — that sadly I hear from too many non-writers — that poetry is ‘difficult’ and better suited for ivory tower intellectuals. Simply put, Urrea brings us poetry for the people.” —Los Angeles Review of Books
“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.” —Erin Belieu, author of Slant Six and Los Angeles Times Book Prize finalist Black Box
“Tijuana Book of the Dead reminds me of a Southwestern American-Mexican answer to Edgar Lee Master’s Midwestern Spoon River Anthology, and E.A. Robinson’s New England Tilbury Town. The richness of character, the range of voice, and the human drama of these flawed, beautiful and resilient people are exactly what all fans of Urrea’s work have come to expect. In these poems he combines his marvelous story telling gifts with an equally impressive lyricism. Together this makes for a poetic page turner, a rare achievement.” —Alan Shapiro, author of Reel to Reel
“Every poem in Luis Urrea’s The Tijuana Book of the Dead is prayer and praise song and hymn. These poems are the portage poems of the bardos and borderlands of a specific place, each poem an embrace of the smells and toils of past life, each poem a belief and a hope inside transformation’s crucible. Here is wisdom literature created by an arbitrary line drawn to separate people from people, an essentially failed line when we hear these fierce songs of the passage toward new consciousness.” —Darrell Bourque, author of Megan’s Guitar and Other Poems from Acadie and former poet laureate of Louisiana