Luis Alberto Urrea, the award-winning author of The Devil’s Highway and The Hummingbird’s Daughter
discussed his life and works in two special appearances at the Montclair State
University Conference Center on September 19.
At the afternoon session, Urrea related his life story from
his birth in Tijuana, Mexico to a Mexican father and an American mother,
to his high school days in California at the now famous Ridgemont High and his decision
to switch from studying drama to becoming a writer.
He also discussed and recited passages from The Hummingbird’s Daughter, his
historical novel about Teresa Urrea, the Saint of Cabora, a book that took him
20 years to research and write. “I was so
happy when it was done,” he said, laughing. “I can’t tell you how happy I was!”
An engaging and entertaining speaker, Urrea clearly
connected with the audience and was generous with his time in answering
questions, posing for photos and signing autographs for the students.
Later, the Conference Center was filled to overflowing with
hundreds of students, faculty, staff and guests from the surrounding
communities for the evening keynote session where Urrea spoke about The Devil’s Highway,
the work that was selected for Montclair
Book 2013. The Devil’s Highway is
the account of a group of Mexican immigrants who attempted to cross the border
into the desert of southern Arizona, one of the harshest and deadliest regions
on the continent. Of the 26 men who set out on the crossing, only 12 survived.
After an introduction by Provost and Vice President for
Academic Affairs Willard Gingerich, Urrea regaled the audience with stories about
his experiences researching and writing The
Devil’s Highway and took questions from the floor. He then signed books, chatted with
students and visitors, and posed with them for photos until late into the
The events were big hits with their audiences and as with past Montclair Book author visits, were jointly sponsored by the Center for Writing Excellence, the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, the First-Year Writing Program and Student Development and Campus Life.