On this episode of Arts & Letters, we talk with novelist Luis Urrea The House of Broken Angels, published by Little Brown, is a meditation on life and death. Two brothers, Big Angel and Little Angel grapple with "the duties of those who grow old together and share the same grave had not been fulfilled" (from poet Issa).
Urrea says, "Big Angel was late to his own mother's funeral. What kind of Mexican did that?"
This episode will air Friday May 11 at 7 pm (CST) and Sunday May 13 at 9 pm (CST) on KUAR 89.1.
What follows is an excerpt from letter to the reader from Luis Urrea about the genesis of the book:
Dear Literary Companion,
When my eldest brother was in the last month of a terminal disease, he had to bury his own mother. Her funeral happened to be on the day before his birthday. He knew it was to be his last, though I believe he kept that certainty to himself . . .
His name was Juan. He was whittled down in size, but not in ferocity or presence; he burned with light and good humor. [His birthday] party, a living wake, was astonishing. Around every corner, there seemed to be a remarkable scene of comedy or tragedy. Avalanches of food. Storms of music. Generations come to bend a knee and thank this man for his 74 years of life. Juan sat in his wheelchair in the middle of this swirl of bodies and stories and behaviors–some of them glorious in their inappropriateness–like some king. Which, of course, he was. . .
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. After serving as a relief worker in Tijuana and a film extra and columnist-editor-cartoonist for several publications, Urrea moved to Boston where he taught expository writing and fiction workshops at Harvard. He also taught at the University of Louisiana-Lafayette.
He has won an American Academy of Arts and Letters Fiction award and his collection of short stories, The Water Museum, was a finalist for the 2016 PEN-Faulkner Award and was named a best book of the year by The Washington Post and Kirkus Reviews, among others. Into the Beautiful North, his 2009 a novel, is a Big Read selection by the National Endowment of the Arts and has been chosen by more than 50 different cities and colleges as a community read.
The Devil’s Highway, Urrea’s 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 and the Pacific Rim Kiriyama Prize.
The Hummingbird’s Daughter, his 2005 historical novel, tells the story of Urrea’s great-aunt Teresa Urrea, sometimes known as the Saint of Cabora and the Mexican Joan of Arc. The book, which involved 20 years of research and writing, won the Kiriyama Prize in fiction and, along with The Devil’s Highway, was named a best book of the year by many publications. Urrea lives with his family in Naperville, IL, where he is a distinguished professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
Thank you to The September 2017 Big Read Event at U.A. Little Rock.
Thank you to the stunning guitar work of Mr. Daniel Breen.
Thank you to David Ramirez for his song "People Call Who They Wanna To Talk To."
Thank you to Stickyz Rock 'N' Roll Chicken Shack for keeping music alive and well in Arkansas.
Let's heed the words of poet Issa: "Tree after tree gives out its name in bud after bud."
Executive Producer & Host: J. Bradley Minnick
Producer: Mary Ellen Kubit
Recorded by Daniel Breen
Interns: Krista Hancock, Marty Burton, and Kaitlin Strain