National Endowment of the Arts - The Big Read
Into the Beautiful North

Into the Beautiful North

by Luis Alberto Urrea

…I always hopelessly, passionately, root for the underdog.


Luis Alberto Urrea. Photo by Nicole Waite Photography.

Puerto Rican singer, actress, and translator Cristina Arsuaga began her professional career at the age of 16. As an interpreter and translator, she has covered events and conducted voice-over work for ABC, CNN, HBO, and NY1, among others. As a narrator, she was nominated for an Audie Award in 2006 for her rendition of The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd.

Jeff Biggers is the American Book Award-winning author of several works of history and memoir, including State Out of the Union: Arizona and the Final Showdown Over the American Dream (2012) and In the Sierra Madre (2006). His stories have appeared on National Public Radio and in the New York Times and the Washington Post, among others.

Melinda Palacio is a 2007 PEN USA Emerging Voices Fellow. Her poetry chapbook Folsom Lockdown (2009) won the Kulupi Press "Sense of Place" award, and her debut novel, Ocotillo Dreams (2011), received the 2012 ILBA Mariposa Award for Best First Book and the 2012 PEN Oakland Josephine Miles Award.

Josephine Reed is the media producer for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA). She produces and hosts the NEA’s weekly podcast Art Works, a program that features interviews with artists and creative thinkers. Before coming to the NEA, she directed XM Satellite Radio’s book and contemporary theater channel and hosted the program Writers on Writing. In partnership with the NEA, she also created the series The Big Read on XM.

Born in Mexico to an Eastern European Jewish family, Ilan Stavans is the Lewis-Sebring Professor of Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College. His books include The Hispanic Condition: Reflections on Culture and Identity in America (1995) and Spanglish: The Making of a New American Language (2003). His most recent books as translator include Juan Rulfo’s The Plain in Flames (2012) and Pablo Neruda’s All the Odes (2013).

Writer Helen Thorpe’s magazine stories have appeared in The New Yorker, the New York Times Magazine, 5280, and Westword. Her first book, Just Like Us: The True Story of Four Mexican Girls Coming of Age in America, was published in 2009.

Luis Alberto Urrea grew up in Tijuana, Mexico, and San Diego, California. He is the author of many books of poetry, fiction, nonfiction, and memoir, earning him membership into the Latino Literary Hall of Fame. In addition to Into the Beautiful North (2009), he is best known for his novel The Hummingbird’s Daughter (2005), inspired by the true story of his great-aunt Teresita Urrea. Urrea is a professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois-Chicago.

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