Photo courtesy of Joe Mazza
Luis Alberto Urrea is one of America’s foremost chronicles of the messy, swirling, often embarrassing chaos that we politely call “family.” Yet Urrea, a Pulitzer-finalist and a master of multiple genres, didn’t think he was going to write about the death of his half-brother Juan—the experience was too fresh, too devastating.
Then fate brought Urrea and the late novelist Jim Harrison together at the Tucson Festival of Books.
“It was a bucket list event,” Urrea says about spending ...
Photo courtesy of Beowulf Sheehan
When Francisco Cantú told his mother he wanted to join the United States Border Patrol, she asked a simple question: “Are you crazy?”
She had a point. Cantú was an unlikely candidate for the United States Border Patrol. He had no law enforcement experience. He was from Arizona but had spent the past few years studying the U.S.–Mexico border in Washington, D.C. A graduate program would have been a natural next step: earn a Ph.D ...
Photo courtesy of Beowulf Sheehan
Stefan Merrill Block’s third novel, Oliver Loving, took him five years to write, but the roots of the novel go back even further—to his childhood in Plano, a suburb of Dallas.
In the 1990s, Plano was a rapidly growing city that was one of the first wealthy areas to be hit by the opioid epidemic. “The population changed from something like 20,000 to 250,000 in the blink of an eye,” Block says. “It became a jumble of ...
Photo courtesy of Hugo Rojo
Daniel Alarcón was in a staff meeting at Columbia University, where he is an Assistant Professor in Broadcast Journalism, when friends started texting him congratulatory messages.
“I was totally surprised,” he says. “And I didn’t know what they were talking about.”
They were talking about Alarcón’s latest collection of short stories, The King Is Always Above the People, being longlisted for The National Book Award. This is just the latest accolade for one of the nation’s top young ...
Photo courtesy Sergio Bastani
Rodrigo Hasbún’s first novel in English, Affections, is barely 130 pages long.
When looking at this tiny slip of a book it’s hard to imagine the decades of compressed space in its pages. Exploring the true story of Hans Ertl and his family of German expatriates in Bolivia, Hasbún’s novel not only explores 50 years of Bolivian history but 50 years of family history as well. Jungle explorations are mounted and abandoned, governments are threatened, people are murdered, Che Guevara’s ...
Photo courtesy Fundación Juan Rulfo
Douglas Weatherford, translator of the first English-language version of Juan Rulfo’s second novel The Golden Cockerel, knows that Rulfo isn’t a household name. And Weatherford thinks that’s a tragedy.
“It’s important for English speaking readers, especially in the U.S., to discover Juan Rulfo. For some unfortunate reason he never reached the same acclaim as Jorge Luis Borges, Isabel Allende, Gabriel García Márquez, or Carlos Fuentes. But he’s as important as those figures in the Spanish-speaking world. Rulfo deserves to ...
Joseph Scapellato photographed by Ryan J. LeBreton.
Joseph Scapellato isn’t from the west—he grew up in suburban Chicago—but like so many Americans, the mythic west was always nearby. “My mom was and is an enormous fan of golden age Westerns: Gene Autry, Roy Rogers, all those dudes in white hats,” Scapellato says. “I grew up watching those, and she accumulated all these cowboy tchotchkes. I grew up with all that.”
Later, Scapellato discovered the darker Western films from directors such as Sam Peckinpah and Sergio ...
Mariana Enríquez photographed by Nora Lezano.
When I told Mariana Enríquez that I enjoyed Things We Lost in the Fire, her debut short story collection, she couldn’t help but laugh.
“ ‘Enjoy’ is not something most people tell me,” Enríquez says. “They usually say they suffer through them.”
She has a point. The title story details an “epidemic” of women burning themselves in bonfires. Several of the stories are about teenagers, especially women, entering self-destructive spirals that hint at ruin. “The lack of food ...