Available as a soft-cover graphic novel
Be careful growing up in the green, wet, mango-sweet Mexican village of Rosario, where dead corpses rise up out of the cathedral walls during July when it always floods; where vast silver mines beneath the town occasionally collapse causing a whole section of the village to drop out of sight; where a man with a paintbrush, to wit Mr. Mendoza, is the town’s self-appointed conscience.
Magic realism, you say to yourself. Luis Urrea affirms to the contrary, “Not magical realism. It’s how kids grow up in Mexico. Especially if you’re a boy.” And the part about Mr. Mendoza is really really true: he brandishes his magical paintbrush everywhere, providing commentary to singe the hearts and souls of boys who are looking to get into trouble. If he catches you peeping at the girls bathing in the river, he’ll steal your pants and paint PERVERT on your naked buttocks. And one day, he performs a painterly act which no one in Rosario ever forgets!
Luis Alberto Urrea is the author of the widely acclaimed novel The Hummingbird’s Daughter and a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for nonfiction for The Devil’s Highway. Inducted into the Latino Literature Hall of Fame, Luis was born in Tijuana, Mexico to a Mexican father and an American mother. This is his first graphic novel and a riveting book, like Vatos, which young adults will love. Check out Luis' commentary on the upcoming Mr. Mendoza's Paintbrush graphic novel.
Christopher Cardinale is a muralist and artist with a social message. His large-scale murals against globalization and war can be seen in New York, Italy, Greece and Mexico. He lives in Brooklyn. He is a regular contributor to the zine World War Three. Check out our blog for an article about Christopher's trip down to the city of Rosario, Sinaloa in Mexico. This is the town where Mr. Mendoza's Paintbrush takes place.
This is probably my oldest story in print. It started life in the late 70s, then was refined in the early 80s; thus, it is older than many of my writing students. I thought I was finally going to make it as a writer when I did a reading of it at Harvard in 1982—I didn’t know I was infected with hubris. Imagine reading this story to the assembled Greats of the Expos faculty. I was shocked when they gave it generous applause.
The story itself appears in the collection Six Kinds of Sky. This, in graphic novel format, makes me deliriously happy. Many of my readers know I started out wanting to either be Salvador Dali or maybe MAD’s Don Martin. It was all surreal art to me. I was an avid cartoonist, and I was also a very enthusiastic volunteer tattooist of the various arms, shoulders, chests and bellies of my high school gal pals. Never had a Rapidograph pen been happier. Little sheep standing at the edges of bellybuttons. Um. It was innocent—honest!
The fine artist, Christopher Cardinale—Bed-Stuy in the house!—went to Rosario, Sinaloa and faced the heat, the madness and my family, to get the lay of the land. What beautiful work he did. He later went on to do the cover to the millionth reissue of In Search of Snow (University of Arizona Press).
Rosario, by the way, is the real-life “Tres Camarones,” the fanciful Mexican town in my novel, Into the Beautiful North . So I tell fans of that book to support Christopher by seeing what the town really looks like. Also, although Mr. Mendoza himself is the product of my own feverish imagination, he rises fully-formed from the endless boasting, lying, myth-making and Homeric babble of my cousins, los Hubbard Urrea. Rosario was my own Macondo.
Book club members have been some of my most enthusiastic and careful readers. I’m thrilled to share my work with you, answer your questions and tell you some of the stories behind the stories. This is our spot, just for us. Here, we can chat: If I’m nearby, I’ll come and visit your club. Otherwise, we can Skype, talk over the phone or email. Sometimes, I’ll send surprises or hold contests.
Reading and talk at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Details here.
Proud to be part of the prestigious series in a reading with Laila Lalami and Shobha Rao. Tickets and details here.
Celebrating the NEA Big Read and Into the Beautiful North in Holyoke, MA. Sponsored by the Mary Lyon Foundation, Holyoke has done some great events all year. Now we get to meet each other! Details here.
Details to come