Luís Urrea kicks off SMU’s 2012 “Migration Matters” series Jan. 26

Luis Alberto Urrea, author of 'The Hummingbird's Daughter,' 'Queen of America' and 'The Devil's Highway'Luís Alberto Urrea – author of The Hummingbird’s Daughter, Queen of America and the Pulitzer Prize finalist The Devil’s Highway – returns to the Hilltop Jan. 26, 2012, to speak in a new SMU discussion series.

“Migration Matters: An Interdisciplinary Program on Immigration at the U.S.-Mexico Border” will feature artists, educators, faith leaders and law enforcement insiders to share the latest information on border-related migration trends, crime, politics, humanitarian efforts, art and literature. The seven-part series runs Jan. 26-April 26, and all events will be free and open to the community.

Urrea leads off the series with a discussion of his border-related writing and reportage. He came to campus in 2008 to discuss The Devil’s Highway – the true story of the Yuma 14 tragedy, and that year’s Common Reading for new SMU students – and spoke to a standing-room-only crowd in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Theater. Most of the University students who read The Devil’s Highway for Common Reading are seniors this year.

> SMU Forum: Author Luís Urrea talks about life and death on the border

“We want this to be a sustained discussion for our students, not just for these next four months, but one that will continue to influence their intellectual identities beyond their SMU years,” says “Migration Matters” coordinator Jayson Gonzales Sae-Saue, an English professor specializing in Chicano/a literature in SMU’s Dedman College of Humanities and Sciences. Literature can be a powerful conduit to discussing current events, Sae-Saue says.

“This subject isn’t about so-called ‘foreigners’ and making distinctions between ‘us’ and ‘them,’” he says. “It’s about understanding how we imagine complex social relationships that implicate everyone. It’s a community issue, one that will allow our students to learn to understand the broad scope of migration-related topics in this election year, and as they move into leadership positions after graduation.”

Urrea’s work in particular, Sae-Saue notes, “helps us make sense of the complicated social, cultural and economic dynamics at the U.S.-Mexico border, including the chaos and confusion regarding the dangerous journey people face when crossing it — and the hostility faced once they arrive here, if they arrive here.”

Written by Denise Gee

> Find more information and a complete “Migration Matters” schedule at SMU News
> More about Luís Alberto Urrea’s The Devil’s Highway as the 2008 SMU Common Reading
> Luís Alberto Urrea on KERA Public Radio’s “Think” Jan. 23, 2012

Author Luís Urrea talks about life and death on the border

Luís Alberto Urrea told a standing-room crowd of SMU community members, “Americans have to remember that we are a family first, and we if talk to each other instead of yell at each other, we come to solutions.”

The author of The Devil’s Highway, the University’s 2008 Common Reading, discussed immigration policy and his own writing inspirations at the Gartner Honors Lecture Sept. 8. His latest book, The Hummingbird’s Daughter, is soon to be a major motion picture starring Antonio Banderas.

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Tune In: Discussing border issues on KERA

'Bordertown' coverLuis Alberto Urrea – author of SMU’s 2008 Common Reading experience, The Devil’s Highway – will be a guest on KERA Radio’s “Think” Sept. 8. Joining him will be SMU History Professor Ben Johnson, author of the new book Bordertown: The Odyssey of an American Place. The broadcast begins at noon. Listen live from the KERA website.

Calendar Highlights: Aug. 29, 2008

Cover of 'The Devil's Highway'A day without labor: SMU celebrates Labor Day Sept. 1. University offices will be closed, and no classes will be held.

Take it outside: The Faculty Club will host a Welcome Back BBQ 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Sept. 3 at the SMU Faculty Club. The cost is $5; members may use their free membership lunch pass. RSVP by Sept. 1 to Dee Powell, 8-3012.

Common Reading author to speak: Author Luis Alberto Urrea (The Devil’s Highway) will give SMU’s first 2008-09 Gartner Honors Lecture at 4 p.m. Sept. 8 in the Hughes-Trigg Student Center Theater. The entire SMU community and the general public are welcome.

Common Reading 2008: Life and death on the border

Book cover of 'The Devil's Highway'In May 2001, 26 Mexican men searching for work in America risked an illegal border crossing in Arizona’s brutal Sonoran Desert. Only 12 survived. Their stories – and those of the people who aided, pursued or betrayed them – are at the center of Luís Alberto Urrea’s The Devil’s Highway, SMU’s 2008 Common Reading Experience.

The book deals with controversial political questions such as immigration and border policy even as it forces readers to think about those issues in deeply human ways, says Benjamin Johnson, associate professor of history and author of Revolution in Texas: How a Forgotten Rebellion and Its Bloody Suppression Turned Mexicans Into Americans.

“Urrea’s searing writing makes it hard not to identify with the characters, ranging from the migrants and the families they left behind to Mexican consular officials and U.S. border patrol officers,” adds Johnson, who proposed the book for Common Reading. “It blends masterful writing, moral sensitivity and deep empirical research – and thus demonstrates some of the capabilities higher education can help to instill.”

>> Students “may find more in common than they realize” with book’s subjects

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