I have a new favorite author, and I am absolutely grateful for The New York Times, Viet Thanh Nguyen’s recent book review of The House of Broken Angels, and of course one of my five free “ARTICLES REMAINING” left. As I read Nguyen’s book review, I found myself thinking I’ve never read this type of book which has character names like Big Angel, Mama America, and Minnie. The review spoke to my Mexican-American identity, so I bought the book that same day, and I’m reading it at a slow place—not because I don’t like it, but because I love to savor my books, especially the good ones (and I also probably have a short attention span).
After I read Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, I thought it’d be hard to find an author that could ever be as cool or funny as him, and I was wrong. I have found an author which I think is just as cool as Diaz, and his name is Luis Alberto Urrea.
Since this week hasn’t been the best to me, I’ve been watching interviews with Urrea because I found that his talks have this feel-good effect. All of his interviews and talks have made me laugh, and I even shed a few tears. He knows how to speak of pain, loss, and sin in a nonjudgemental way that sheds light on the wisdom we can learn from each.
If there’s anything I admire in writers it’s their ability to write well, but even more so their ability to create friendly atmospheres. Urrea creates a family out of strangers. I have not even met the guy or been to one of his events, but he makes me feel like I’m part of a family. (As I revise this post, Mary Oliver’s line “the family of things” comes to mind.) I could call him Tio Beto, and I bet he wouldn’t mind.
From his interviews and talks I have learned the importance of being able to see our shared humanity in others despite our differences, that writing and reading can be forms of prayer, and the importance of being knowledgeable of our ancestors’ history such as his anecdote about the tortilla.
Even though The House of Broken Angels is not word-for-word my Mexican-American story, I feel like telling my abuelita, who has lived in Mexico her whole life, to read this book along with me. I feel like telling her, Abuelita, this is my story. I want to share it with you. Let’s read this book juntas.