Saturday, June 25, 2005

Catching Up with Luis Urrea

“I just signed a contract for the sequel to 'The Hummingbird’s Daughter,'” a very happy Luis Alberto Urrea told me on the phone yesterday. “It will be titled 'The Queen of America.'” The acclaimed Chicano author was relaxing for a few days in Colorado after completing a whirlwind tour of readings and book signings for his new book, a magnificent novel about Teresita Urrea, an illegitimate Indian girl who became the celebrated Saint of Cabora. Set in Mexico during the late 1800s, this vastly entertaining and inspirational book is steeped in magical realism, filled with colorful characters, and alive with breathtaking sequences of suspense, passion, love and loss.

Representing 20 years of research and soul-searching, "The Hummingbird’s Daughter" (published by Little, Brown and Company) is Urrea’s heartfelt fictionalized version of his great aunt’s incredible journey and accomplishments. “I wanted to bring Teresita back from obscurity and give her the attention and respect she deserves so that people will understand her ministry in the world,” he said. “The deepest truth about the book is that it’s my own attempt to recognize sacredness.”

Despite the serious nature of "The Hummingbird’s Daughter," it contains many humorous moments. For example, Urrea includes amusing homages to good friends like Chicano Studies Professor César Gonzalez and author Rudolfo Anaya. “I put in all kinds of people I know,” Urrea recalled. “A cousin of mine said he thought I was making fun of him, but he fell off the chair laughing when he read that part.”

Urrea insists he is not proselytizing with this book. “I present what I believe Teresita saw, felt and thought – then it’s up to each reader to make their own decisions about it. Yesterday a man whose friend had just died came to the signing. He said he was a skeptic and didn’t believe in God. Handing me the book, he asked me to write something serious in it, and here’s what I wrote: ‘It’s all about hope –- and maybe that’s God enough.’”

According to Urrea, various movie groups are interested in "The Hummingbird’s Daughter," but I’ll report more extensively on that exciting development in a later Memosaic post.


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