Luis Alberto Urrea: Online
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Literary Arts

Luis Alberto Urrea: Online

Past Event: Wednesday, May 20, 2020


This event will be streamed online—click the “Learn More” button to see details. Hailed by NPR as a “master storyteller with a rock and roll heart,” Luis Alberto Urrea is a prolific and acclaimed best-selling poet, novelist, and essayist who uses his dual-culture life experiences to explore greater themes of love, loss, and triumph.

About the online format: We are happy to say that we will be able to stream Luis Alberto Urrea’s event online. We hope that offering his event in a new format will enable you to hear his compelling message from the safety of your home. Urrea’s lecture will only be available to ticket holders, streamed digitally on, at the original date and time of his event. The event will also be available online for a week afterwards, so you can hit the “pause” button and return to it at your leisure. Closer to the event, we will send ticket holders a password they will use to access his event with further instructions.

We are also excited to announce that the Q&A portion of the evening, moderated by Kristen Millares Young, the Seattle-based writer and author of the novel Subduction, will be FREE and open to the public on

Luis Alberto Urrea was born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and American mother and raised primarily in the United States. Urrea often felt like there was a border wall running through his family’s San Diego apartment, the kitchen being the United States; the living room Mexico, one side struggling with all her might to make him an American boy, and the other side, with all of his might, trying to keep him Mexican. Often confused as a child by his own dual culture, a “super-American look” combined with a “super-Mexican outlook and accent,” as an adult, Urrea realized that he could draw on his heritage in his work.

Most recognized as a so-called “border writer,” he claims to be more interested in bridges than borders. The tragic murder of his father on a trip to his home village to retrieve money to spend on Urrea’s college graduation inadvertently launched his writing career when he wrote an essay about the incident published in 1980 as way of processing his grief.

A 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for nonfiction and member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame, Urrea since became the critically acclaimed and best-selling author of 17 books, winning numerous awards like the Lannan Literary Award, an Edgar Award, and a 2017 American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, among many other honors.

His latest book, The House of Broken Angels, released in 2018, is “the story of an American family—one that happens to speak Spanish, and admire the Virgin of Guadalupe.” Inspired by the death of his brother, Urrea’s novel mines his own family history to tell a once-in-a-lifetime tale about a dying patriarch that assembles his relatives for a final, epic birthday party, well knowing it will be his last. Over the course of one weekend, the family members reminisce under the San Diego sun and stars, sharing stories about growing up in and then leaving Mexico to make a home in the U.S.

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 currently lives with his family in Naperville, IL, outside of Chicago, and is a distinguished professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Kristen Millares Young, who will be moderating the Q&A portion of Urrea’s event, is the author of Subduction, a novel forthcoming from Red Hen Press on April 14, 2020. An essayist, journalist and book critic, Kristen is Prose Writer-in-Residence at Hugo House, a nonprofit home for writers. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, the Guardian, the New York Times, Poetry Northwest, Crosscut, and more. Her personal essays are anthologized in Pie & Whiskey: Writers Under the Influence of Butter & Booze, a 2017 New York Times New & Notable Book, Latina Outsiders: Remaking Latina Identity, and Advanced Creative Nonfiction: A Writer’s Guide and Anthology.

Event Details

Know Before You Go

How do I access the online event?

Two days before Luis Alberto Urrea’s online event, we will email all ticket holders the special link and passcode to access his talk. We will also send another email the day of his talk for later ticket buyers, containing the same information. If you have opted out of receiving SAL emails, you will miss this important information—please email us at and we will assist you.

Have a question for the speaker?

Ticket holders, watch for an email that will give you information on how to send in your Q&A questions.


If you don’t already own copies of Urrea’s work, we recommend you purchase them online at Elliott Bay Book Company, our bookstore partner for the evening.


Closed Captioning is an option for people who have hearing loss, where captioning displays the words that are spoken or sung at the bottom of the video. Captioning is available for all online events; click the “CC” button to view captions during the event.

Sign Language Interpretation is available upon request for Deaf, DeafBlind, and hard of hearing individuals at online events. To make a request for ASL interpretation, please contact us at or 206.621.2230×10, or select Sign Language Interpretation from the Accessibility section during your ticket checkout process, and we will reach out to you to confirm details. Please note: we appreciate a two-week advance notice to allow us time to secure interpretation.

We are pleased to offer these accessibility services for online events, and they are provided at no additional cost to ticket holders. Please contact us with any questions and feedback about how we can be more accessible and inclusive. Our Patron Services Manager is available at, or Monday-Friday from 10:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. at 206.621.2230×10. For more accessibility information, please head to