Author visits campus, spoke to student body

Luis Alberto Urrea reflects on immigration and what led him to become an author


Elias Feldman

Luis Alberto Urrea presenting on immigration and his life in the Syufy Theater. Last week, author Jennifer De Leon spoke as another part of the school’s annual Cor Unum week.

Sofia Kozlova, Social Media Editor

Students gathered in the Syufy Theater this morning to listen to author Luis Alberto Urrea share his stories ranging from his childhood through adulthood. The presentation happened during the school’s 5th annual Cor Unum week.

“I am glad I was able to interact with Urrea’s poems and books in my classes because I think it allowed me to enter into the space with a background on what he would talk about,” sophomore Maria Doronicheva said. “I think it’s special that our school can invite these authors and give us these opportunities,”

Urrea has been given distinctions such as the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Prize for his novel ‘The Hummingbird’s Daughter.’ He was also a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2005 for his nonfiction book, ‘The Devil’s Highway,’ according to LuisUrrea.

“I had my class read ‘The Devil’s Highway’ because I thought Urrea’s writing was very beautiful and poetic,” religion and ethics teacher Kathryn Miller said. “I also wanted my students to engage with his literature because I felt that it is extremely important for them to explore ideas of immigration and borders, especially because of the prevalence of immigration in California,”

All of the high schoolers gathered in the theater to hear Urrea talk in person, except for the seniors who attended on zoom. Along with the morning session, parents and faculty were invited to an evening event with the author, according to Miller.

“When Mr. Urrea was describing the process of researching, The Devil’s Highway, it made me see the book in a new light,” sophomore Sophia Levy said. “The lengths he took to understand all points of view through including all perspectives in the book made me respect him more because instead of only writing his opinion, he gave a well-rounded view,”

Urrea also included personal stories about growing up in Tijuana, Mexico, and later moving to America, where he faced discrimination from people his age. While he discussed light-hearted stories, he also talked about emotional topics like his father’s passing, according to Levy.

“Urrea’s talk was both captivating and illuminating and I hope it encourages students who maybe haven’t read his books or engaged with border issues to do more research on immigration,” Miller said. “I thought being able to experience it in person was amazing because he had a wonderful presence and he brought up such thought-provoking ideas,”

During his conversation with students, Urrea answered questions asked by the student body which made the experience more engaging and thoughtful – and many students also got to participate in an afternoon session where he spoke in Spanish and mainly discussed his life more in-depth and the duality of speaking 2 languages, according to Doronicheva. 

“I loved how eloquent Luis Urrea was and I thought that his bright energy made me more excited to hear what he had to say,” Doronicheva said. “I also liked how relatable he was and how he made it more of a conversation than a lecture.”