Urrea, a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for nonfiction, a member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame, and the author of 13 books, has won numerous awards for his poetry, fiction, and essays, some of which reflect his personal knowledge and experience of the U.S.-Mexico border culture. He won an Edgar Award from the Mystery Writers of America in 2009 for his short story “Amapola.” The Devil’s Highway, Urrea’s 2004 nonfiction account of a group of Mexican immigrants lost in the Arizona desert, won the Lannan Literary Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Pacific Rim Kiriyama Prize.
His historical novel, The Hummingbird’s Daughter, tells the story of Teresa Urrea, the unofficial Saint of Cabora, known as Mexico’s Joan of Arc, and a distant relative.
The book, which involved 20 years of research and writing, won the Kiriyama Prize in fiction. A sequel titled Queen of America was published in November 2011. The Devil’s Highway, The Hummingbird’s Daughter, and Into the Beautiful North—about a girl who leaves her remote Mexican village to find her long-absent father in Kankakee—have been chosen by more than 30 different cities and colleges for one-book community reading programs. Urrea, who was born in Tijuana, Mexico, to a Mexican father and an American mother, has taught creative writing at UIC since 1999.