Acclaimed ‘border writer’ Luis Alberto Urrea highlights annual Spring Humanities Festival

KINGSTON, R.I. – March 22, 2021 – Canceled last year due to the pandemic, the University of Rhode Island’s annual Spring Humanities Festival returns this April with renowned author Luis Alberto Urrea in a virtual discussion on Thursday, April 8, at 4 p.m.

According to his website, Urrea has been hailed by NPR as a “master storyteller with a rock and roll heart.” A prolific and acclaimed writer, his work is informed by dual-culture life experiences as he explores themes of love, loss and triumph. Urrea was a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for “Devil’s Highway,” a nonfiction account of a perilous border crossing by more than two dozen Mexican immigrants through one of the most dangerous regions of the continent.

His April 8 lecture will focus on “The Humanities in Action: A Writer’s Perspective on the Border.” The online lecture and discussion are free and open to the public.

“Urrea is incredibly prolific as a nonfiction writer, a novelist, and a poet,” said Evelyn Sterne, associate professor of history and director of the Center for the Humanities. “His work engages on so many levels, borders and border identity, and the reception of and attitudes toward undocumented immigrants. This is a topic that is very much in the news and presents a nice opportunity to demonstrate the relevance of the humanities to understanding the world we live in. It’s also a chance for the humanities and social sciences to come together around a topic of mutual interest.”

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.” A member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame, Urrea is the critically acclaimed and best-selling author of 17 books, winning numerous awards for his poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and essays. More than 100 cities and colleges have chosen his books for community reads, including his 2009 novel, “Into the Beautiful North,” which was selected by the National Endowment for the Arts for its Big Read program.

Urrea was the planned speaker for last April’s Humanities Festival before it was canceled, and in preparation, the Center for the Humanities and the College of Arts and Sciences distributed about 90 copies of his novel, “Into the Beautiful North,” for a community read and held two small virtual group discussions. Copies of the book were also given to three local libraries.

At 2 p.m. on the afternoon of Urrea’s April 8 lecture, he will have an informal online chat with students in the humanities and social sciences. Any students interested in the event may register here. The evening before the program, the Center for the Humanities will present its annual excellence awards to students who have made important contributions in the humanities. Also, during and after Urrea’s presentation, audience members will be able to submit questions for the author.

To register for Urrea’s online lecture, sign up at the event website.

“I truly regret that we can’t all be together in person, and we’re going to miss the opportunity to actually shake Urrea’s hand and talk to him one on one,” said Sterne. “But the online format allows us to potentially reach a much larger audience. We always want members of the community to participate in our humanities programming, and doing it virtually opens it up to the public on a much broader level.”