The author discusses Queen of America.
In 2005, after 20 years of toiling, Luis Alberto Urrea published The Hummingbird’s Daughter. The book was a huge success, making 2005 a pretty good year, considering his nonfiction book about the dangers of crossing the Mexican/American border, The Devil’s Highway, had just been named a Pulitzer finalist.
With Queen of America (Little Brown, $25.99), Urrea tells the story of Hummingbird heroine Teresita’s life after leaving Mexico for the U.S. Fans of the mythology of Hummingbird’s Daughter will find themselves again in the rich, mystical world of Urrea’s saint.
How has the early reaction to the book been?
It’s really odd. This week, three different people at UIC had early copies waiting for me to sign. That’s never happened before.
Did you know when you were writing Hummingbird’s Daughter that there would be a sequel?
Well, it was so wearying. It took 20 years to write that book, and they were not fun. I didn’t think I had the strength to go on. But then, she had two lives, her Mexican life and her American life, and I wanted to tell that story.
Did you feel like you had to double-check your own continuity?
No, I have that embedded. What’s been interesting is that a lot of her descendants have gotten in touch with more material—photos, stories. And they’ve been very supportive and forgiving of my eccentricities, because I am writing fiction, not her biography. But we’re going to have an amazing website, with my full bibliography, and her close family membes are writing their memoirs.
Since Devil’s Highway, you’ve mostly written fiction.
I know, I was hired by UIC to be their nonfiction guy, and have only published novels since.
Hopefully you haven’t been watching the Republican debates—
Are you kidding? I always watch the pundits because they’re so full of shit. I tell people all the time, illegal immigration was a 20th-century problem. They’ve stopped coming in. The real problem is the insurgent narco-terrorist war that’s starting. They’re a big, big deal. They’re annihilating journalists, they have computer squads hunting down ISPs.
I read about them going after [hacktivist group] Anonymous.
That chilled me. The narcos showed up with their hit squads. They said for every name Anonymous outed, they would kill ten. And everyone knows they mean it.
So maybe you shouldn’t follow up Devil’s Highway.
My wife doesn’t want me to. There is a lot to say about it, and it’s inevitable that I will write about it. It’s the same story as in The Devil’s Highway; they’re using the same area [for trafficking], but the people have been supplanted by dope.