Luis Alberto Urrea
Fellow: Awarded 2019
Field of Study: Fiction
Competition: US & Canada
Luis Alberto Urrea, a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for nonfiction and member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame, is the author of 18 books, winning numerous awards for his poetry, fiction and essays. Born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and American mother, Urrea is most recognized as a border writer, though he says, “I am more interested in bridges, not borders.”
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. His latest novel, The House of Broken Angels, was a 2018 finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and named to many best of the year lists. He won an American Academy of Arts and Letters Fiction award in 2016 for his collection of short stories, The Water Museum, which was a finalist for the PEN/Faulkner Award. Urrea’s novel Into the Beautiful North is a Big Read selection of the National Endowment of the Arts. The Hummingbird’s Daughter, an historical novel based on the life of Teresita Urrea, known as the Mexican Joan of Arc, won the Kiriyama Prize for fiction.
Urrea has also won an Edgar award from the Mystery Writers of America for best short story (2009, “Amapola”). His first book, Across the Wire, was named a New York Times Notable Book and won the Christopher Award. He also won a 1999 American Book Award for his memoir, Nobody’s Son: Notes from an American Life and his book of short stories, Six Kinds of Sky, was named the 2002 small-press Book of the Year in fiction by the editors of ForeWord magazine. He won a Western States Book Award in poetry for The Fever of Being and was in the 1996 Best American Poetry collection.
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. He is a distinguished professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.
Profile photograph by Joe Mazza/BraveLux