By the Lake of Sleeping Children

Available in paperback

His poignant, widely acclaimed account of the struggle of these people to survive amid the abject poverty, unsanitary living conditions, and legal and political chaos that reign in the Mexican borderlands vividly illustrated why so many are forced to make the treacherous and illegal journey "across the wire" into the United States. Written with the same unflagging curiosity, compassion, mordant wit, and novelistic sense of detail that made Across the Wire "a work of investigative reporting that is also a bittersweet song of human anguish" (Los Angeles Times), By the Lake of Sleeping Children explores the post-NAFTA and Proposition 187 border purgatory of garbage pickers and dump dwellers, gawking tourists and relief workers, fearsome coyotes and their desperate clientele. In sixteen indelible portraits, Urrea illuminates the horrors and the simple joys of people trapped between the two worlds of Mexico and the United States - and ignored by both. The result is a startling and memorable work of first-person reportage.

 

From Luis

About By the Lake of Sleeping Children

The cover shot, of a flooded graveyard, is by Tony DelCavo, of Bella Luna Books in Colorado.  Tony and Pam sell my signed stuff, if you’re collectors.  Once I kick the bucket, that stuff will be worth six or seven bucks on eBay, so you should get some.

                It was a few years later.  Post-Across the Wire. I had been schmoozed by movie producers, done a play based on the last book, chatted with Carlos Santana (HOLY CRAP) on the phone about Tijuana, done national tours, seen my first ,marriage implode, published other books.  AND I WAS BROKE.

                I was in Tucson, in a frickin’ haunted adobe full of devils and wraiths, trying to research version 148 of what would come to be called The Hummingbird’s Daughter .  I had been writing for the San Diego Reader and the Tucson Weekly.  Though I thought the border was toast—thought I’d put the period at the end of the sentence witn A. T. W., I found out the border is the gift that keeps on giving.  New nightmares.  New love songs.  New poems.  New hope.  New horror.

                I got a weird call from some women who had escaped a sex-slave ring.  How weird is that?  Pretty weird, the new suburban dad version of me says.  Luis.2.  But back then, this kind of thing went on all day long.  Lowry Pei, of Harvard, told me: “You are a weirdness generator.”  So the women called me because they had known an Urrea once and found my name in a pay-phone’s directory as they hid from the rampaging sex-master freak bus driver out hunting them in South Tucson.  My cousin Esperanza and I smuggled them back into Mexico, not knowing that the Border Patrol could have arrested us.  Hey, we thought—we’re goin’ SOUTH.  No harm, no foul.

                One day, I realized I needed money.  Like, yesterday.  I was lucky enough to be working with the awesome Martha Levin at Anchor.  The Boss.  I called her and said, “Got a sequel to Across the Wire.”  She said, How soon can you write it?  I said, Six weeks.”  She said, How much do you want  I told her.  Deal,” she said.

                I didn’t realize how magical, in a 1940s kind of way, that bit of publishing negotiation was.

                I also didn’t realize how anguished and fiery that book would turn out to be.

                I was writing in blood.

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.

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upcoming events

Border Cantos
Border Cantos Mar 31st 7 p.m. Bentonville, AR

Reading and talk at the Crystal Bridges Museum of American Art. Details here.

Bentonville, AR
Mar 31st
2017
7 p.m.
PEN/Faulkner Reading Series
PEN/Faulkner Reading Series Apr 7th 7:30 p.m. Folger Library, Washington DC

Proud to be part of the prestigious series in a reading with Laila Lalami and Shobha Rao. Tickets and details here

Folger Library, Washington DC
Apr 7th
2017
7:30 p.m.
Holyoke Big Read
Holyoke Big Read Apr 11th to Apr 12th Holyoke, MA

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.

Holyoke, MA
Apr 11th to Apr 12th
2017
The Believer Lit Fest
The Believer Lit Fest Apr 21st to Apr 22nd Las Vegas, NV

Details to come

Las Vegas, NV
Apr 21st to Apr 22nd
2017
UCSB Reads Into the Beautiful North
UCSB Reads Into the Beautiful North Apr 24th 7:30 p.m. UC-Santa Barbara

Excited to meet the UCSanta Barbara students who are all reading Into the Beautiful North -- the first time UCSB has chosen a novel! Details here.

UC-Santa Barbara
Apr 24th
2017
7:30 p.m.