Reading Together 2012 Blog

Urrea’s Newest Book

I just finished reading Queen of America, Urrea’s new book and the sequel to The Hummingbird’s Daughter which Eleanore wrote about last week.

I didn’t read them in order. Actually I’m still on the waiting list for Hummingbird’s Daughter, but I certainly understood and appreciated Queen of America. It didn’t feel as if I was starting in the middle of a story.

Queen of America continues the story of Teresita Urrea, the “Saint of Cabora” when she is forced to flee with her father from Mexico to Arizona. Even there she is claimed as the spiritual leader of the Mexican Revolution and pilgrims and assassins follow her to America. She then leaves the southwest for a journey across the country: New York, San Francisco, St Louis, among other cities. Along the way, she must decide if a saint can fall in love.

I knew these two books were based on Urrea’s family history, his great aunt, I believe, but I didn’t know the details. After reading it, I went to his website to understand the family history that is the basis for the story. In retrospect, I wish I had understood just how much of this account was true before reading the book.

I’ve now read several of Urrea’s books. They are different from each other in many ways, but all are well-written and compelling. I’m looking forward to his visit in March.


Queen of America

Your next reading journey

Once you've journeyed Into the Beautiful North with Nayeli and her friends, you may want to return to the warmth and culture of Mexico with another story featuring a strong female hero.  You will find all you search for in The Hummingbird's Daughter, Luis Alberto Urrea's 2005 novelization of his great-aunt Teresita's coming of age.  Teresita, who was renowned for her healing powers, was considered a saint by many.

The novel has elements of fairy tale, travelogue, western, magical realism, folklore, and explores issues of gender, class, faith, race, nationality, marriage, education, patriotism, and power  This book will make you laugh and cry, and savor Urrea's lyrical, imaginative prose.  When finished with this book, continue the adventure with Urrea's latest novel, a sequel titled Queen of America.

At the writing of this blog post, we only have one copy of The Hummingbird's Daughter in our catalog, but more are on the way!  Place a hold to be on the list for when these additional copies arrive.


The Hummingbird's Daughter

Reading [and participating] Together

“Suddenly there was no work. All the shrimp were shipped north, tortillas became too expensive to eat, and people started to go hungry. We told you change was bad, the old-timers croaked.

Nobody had heard of the term immigration. Migration, to them, was when the tuna and the whales cruised up the coast, or when Guacamaya parrots flew up from the south.  Traditionalists voted to revoke electricity, but it was far too late for that. No woman in town would give up her refrigerator, her electric fan, or her electric iron. So the men started to go to el norte. Nobody knew what to say. Nobody knew what to do. The modern era had somehow passed Tres Camarones by, but this new storm had found a way to siphon its men away. out of their beds and into the next century, into a land far away.” —Into the Beautiful North

This passage from the opening pages of Luis Urrea's Into the Beautiful North paints a picture of a Mexican village not unlike one we might read about in today's news. And for the fictitious Tres Camarones, there is the added presence of drug bandits who are threatening to take over the village with corruption, violence and greed; also sadly true to life. This is the setting from which Nayeli, a 19-year old girl, born and raised in Tres Camarones, sets out in search of her father and other men who will come back home to repopulate and defend their village.

And for the next three months, this will become our story as well.

A dedicated group of volunteers has helped Kalamazoo Public Library plan an exciting and meaningful lineup of Reading Together events that center on three far-reaching themes: The Book as Literature, The Culture of Mexico, and Immigration. After reading the book, we believe participating in these programs will provide several ways to process and reflect.

Today we bring you the enhanced Reading Together website, complete with a full calendar of events, additional resources, and more information about those who have contributed to this planning process. We welcome your reactions and your feedback, and we invite you to come back often.


Reading Together

Updated website coming...

As the events for Reading Together 2012 are being finalized, so too is the Reading Together website. Be watching, after the first of the year, for a comprehensive new site filled with up-to-the-minute information, including a complete calendar of events and book discussions, suggested booklists, and additional resources. See you in 2012!


Into the Beautiful North

Are you in a book club?

If so, we want to know if you plan to read and discuss Into the Beautiful North. Not only are we interested in knowing for statistical purposes, but we are also keeping an up-to-the-minute calendar for those who are in search of a discussion to join.

So regardless if your group is open to anyone or is a closed group, we’d like to hear from you. Please leave a comment here or send an email to so your group can be counted.


Contact Reading Together

Planning in progress...

The community steering committee for Reading Together 2012 has been hard at work planning a variety of programs and events that focus on three central themes of this year's selected title, Into the Beautiful North. Those themes are:

  • The Culture of Mexico
  • Immigration
  • The Book as Literature

We are confident that the programs being planned will educate, enlighten, and enhance our understanding of issues that are relevant to the Kalamazoo community at large. We look forward to meaningful conversations made possible by our common experience of reading Urrea's touching story, told with both humor and compassion.

While the reading period unofficially begins in December, the rush on available copies of the book has already begun. More copies will soon go into circulation and you can always place a hold if a copy is not readily available. We also have audiobook and Spanish versions. And if you prefer a digital version (ebook or digital audio), available copies can be found when you log in with your library card number to the Digital Catalog and Download Center from the Library's website then enter the title into the Digital Media Search box on the right side of the screen.

Happy reading and see you at the Reading Together events in March!


Rumbo al Hermoso norte



Luis Alberto Urrea

While we are excited about featuring one of Luis Alberto Urreas works of fiction as the 2012 Reading Together title, you might be interested to know he has also written poetry and nonfiction.  Here is a list of all of his published works, including the upcoming release, Queen of America (Nov. 2011).








Its clear from even a quick glance at these titles that Urreas work is strongly influenced by his own life experiences living and working near the U. S./Mexico border. Ive recently enjoyed reading some of these earlier works. I urge you to explore as much of Urreas body of work as you can. Youll find yourself with an even greater appreciation for the roots which inspired the writing of our Reading Together selection.


Luis Alberto Urrea

Into the Beautiful North

We are thrilled to announce the 2012 Reading Together title, Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea. Originally published in 2009 and now available in paperback, audiobook, ebook, and Spanish language editions, we expect this work of fiction--about the quest of a young Mexican girl to bring a sense of security back to her small village threatened by the increasing presence of drug bandits—will appeal to Reading Together “regulars” as well as new readers who will be inspired by the story, the characters, the humor and the journey. It is beautifully written. 

We are also excited to tell you that Urrea will be coming to Kalamazoo on March 6, 2012. We have found him to be wonderfully engaging and personable, and we believe his appearance will kick off Reading Together 2012 in a most memorable way. But don't take it from me. Let Luis speak for himself.


Into the Beautiful North

And the 2012 title...

...will be revealed very soon! We are excited to share with you the title that has been selected for Reading Together 2012. But you’ll have to wait just a little longer. The announcement will be made on Thursday, September 22, so be sure to check back if you want to be one of the first to know!

We can tell you this: This year’s book is a work of fiction and the author will be coming to Kalamazoo in March, 2012.


Reading Together