The Devil’s Highway by Luis Urrea

Luis Urrea, authorThe Devil's Highway, Luis Urrea of The Devil’s Highway, will meet with readers from the university and northwest Arkansas communities Thursday, Oct. 15, and Friday, Oct. 16, as part of the first “One Book, One Community” program. One Book, One Community is designed to engage readers in a year-long conversation about the book and the issues it raises.

The Devil’s Highway was a national bestseller in 2004 and was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize in nonfiction. It recounts the deadly odyssey of 26 men who tried to cross the border from Mexico into the Sonora desert of southern Arizona. Only 12 survived the six-day ordeal. The book was named to “best book” lists for 2004 by the Los Angeles Times, the Miami Herald, the Chicago Tribune, the Kansas City Star and many other publications.

Urrea will meet with university students and others taking part in the One Book, One Community program for two sessions, from 12:30 to 1:45 p.m. and from 2 to 3:15 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15, in Giffels auditorium. That evening he will present a public lecture on the book and the issues of illegal immigration it raises at 7 p.m. in the Donald W. Reynolds Center for Enterprise Development Auditorium; overflow seating will be available in the Willard J. Walker Hall Auditorium.

The Fayetteville Public Library is encouraging book groups in northwest Arkansas to join the One Book, One Community program and add The Devil’s Highway to their reading lists. At noon on Friday, Oct. 16, Urrea will be the featured speaker at the library’s annual “Gathering of the Groups” luncheon. He is also scheduled to appear at Nightbird Books on Dickson Street for a book-signing event at 2:30 p.m. Friday afternoon.

 Luis Alberto Urrea is an award-winning poet and essayist and author of 11 books. He was born in Tijuana, Mexico, to a Mexican father and American mother, and he uses his dual-culture experiences to explore themes of love, loss and triumph, as well as political and cultural issues. He is a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

Organizers of One Book, One Community chose The Devil’s Highway as the initial book in the program because they felt it raised timely and important issues for northwest Arkansas and the nation.

“The book raises important issues that people concerned about the sanctity of life, human rights and immigration will find very compelling," said David Jolliffe, the Brown Professor of English Literacy.

Kevin Fitzpatrick, the Bernice Jones Professor of Community, agreed and said that Urrea’s presence on campus will add an extra dimension to the discussion of these issues.

“Having an opportunity to engage someone who had spent a great deal of time researching and talking with the range of actors in this complicated story is a unique opportunity for the campus and community.”

Luis Urrea’s visit also coincides with Hispanic Heritage month.