UIC professor, author awarded Guggenheim Fellowship
The latest major honor for University of Illinois at Chicago professor and best-selling author Luis Alberto Urrea is a prestigious fellowship from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation.
Urrea, professor of English and distinguished professor in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences at UIC, is among 168 North American scholars, artists and scientists chosen from almost 3,000 applicants. He is one of seven Guggenheim fellows named in the fiction category this year.
Selected on the “basis of prior achievement and exceptional promise,” the Guggenheim fellowship during the 2019-2020 academic year will allow Urrea to focus on research for a novel project based on his mother’s experiences in World War II.
“This is a project that I hope will shed light on the heroism of a cadre of American women who have been largely ignored,” Urrea said. “I believe, at this time, our country could benefit from their example. I am so grateful to the Guggenheim Foundation for its support and validation of this project.”
Urrea, a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for nonfiction and member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame, is the author of 18 books and recipient of numerous awards for his poetry, nonfiction, fiction and essays.
Born in Tijuana, Mexico, to a Mexican father and an American mother, much of Urrea’s work reflects his unique personal knowledge and experience of the U.S.-Mexico border culture.
His latest novel, “The House of Broken Angels,” was a 2018 finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year and featured on several best of the year lists.
In 2017, he received the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature, which honors exceptional accomplishment in any literary genre.
“The Water Museum,” a 2015 collection of U.S. West- and Southwest-based short stories, earned Urrea the American Academy of Arts and Letters Fiction Award in 2016 and was a finalist for the 2016 PEN-Faulkner Award. It was named a best book of the year by The Washington Post, National Public Radio and Kirkus Reviews.
“The Devil’s Highway,” Urrea’s 2004 nonfiction account of a group of Mexican immigrants lost in the Arizona desert, won the Lannan Literary Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Pacific Rim Kiriyama Prize.
His novels, “The Hummingbird’s Daughter” and “Queen of America,” tell the story of Teresa Urrea, the unofficial Saint of Cabora and Mexico’s Joan of Arc. The former book won the Kiriyama Prize in fiction and, along with “The Devil’s Highway,” was named a best book of the year by many publications.
His first book, “Across the Wire,” was named a New York Times Notable Book and won the Christopher Award. Urrea also won a 1999 American Book Award for his memoir, “Nobody’s Son: Notes from an American Life.”
More than 100 cities and colleges have chosen a book by Urrea for community read programs.
Since arriving at UIC in 1999, he has taught creative nonfiction, fiction and poetry workshops for graduate and undergraduate students.
Urrea, a resident of Naperville, Illinois, earned a master’s degree in creative writing from the University of Colorado at Boulder and a bachelor’s degree in writing from the University of California at San Diego.
Since its establishment in 1925, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation has granted more than $360 million in fellowships to over 18,000 scholars, artists and writers. Previous winners include Nobel laureates and poets laureate, as well as winners of the Pulitzer Prize, Fields Medal, and other significant, internationally recognized honors.