ACROSS THE WIRE by Luis Alberto Urrea


Life and Hard Times on the Mexican Border
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 Tijuana-born Urrea calls lice, scabies, typhoid, etc., the ``many ambassadors of poverty''; his vignettes of borderland misery (most appeared previously in the San Diego Reader) are like a series of painful and shocking introductions at a demonic embassy party. Born to a Mexican father and an American mother, and raised in San Diego, Urrea spent much of his childhood in Tijuana but never saw real squalor there until 1978-82, when he volunteered, under the direction of renegade missionary ``Paster Von,'' to bring food, clothing, and medicine to the poor. He has made several visits since. After a brief look at the plight of ``undocumented workers'' crossing into the US, Urrea focuses on the families that remain on the Mexican side, scavenging a living from the border's comparative wealth: One trash-picker, originally from Michoac†n, explains that ``At least here you have garbage!''; glue-sniffing children prey violently on gringo tourists and on each other, taking shelter in hellish underground burrows; police corruption and brutality affect even Urrea's father, who dies violently. Characters are glimpsed vividly only to disappear into chaos, but Urrea reconnects with one, a little girl barred from school because she's barefoot. Urrea buys shoes for her; when they're stolen, she's expelled; her family disappears; ten years later, she lives in a chicken coop with her children, but her spirit and personality seem intact. Descriptive writing here sometimes reveals more than it feels decent to know, but Urrea's recognition of intact humanity--along with his accounts of kindness and generosity--gives this nightmarish tour its redeeming affection and hope. (Photographs.)

Pub Date: Jan. 1st, 1993
ISBN: 0-385-42530-9
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Anchor
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1st, 1992

Kirkus Interview
Luis Alberto Urrea
April 21, 2015

Examining the borders between one nation and another, between one person and another, Luis Alberto Urrea’s latest story collection, The Water Museum, reveals his mastery of the short form. This collection includes the Edgar-award winning "Amapola" and his now-classic "Bid Farewell to Her Many Horses," which had the honor of being chosen for NPR's "Selected Shorts" not once but twice. Urrea has also recently published a poetry collection, Tijuana Book of the Dead, mixing lyricism and colloquial voices, mysticism and the daily grind. We talk to Urrea about both of his new books this week on Kirkus TV. View video >


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