Author Luis Alberto Urrea Visits Montclair State

Photo: Mike Peters

Luis Alberto Urrea

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 evening.

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.