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News Thu Jul 02 2009

Powell's Talks to Luis Alberto Urrea

Powell's has a new interview with Luis Alberto Urrea, author of past Book Club selection The Hummingbird's Daughter and the recently published Into the Beautiful North.

On writing female characters, he says:

It's funny. I had an interviewer ask me, "Are you writing chick books?" I said, "Chick books? What's a chick book?" "You keep writing about women," he said. I said, "What's wrong with writing about women?" I don't know. I guess it's because of Hummingbird, in part. But part of the process of Hummingbird was being accepted by the women's healing community in the indigenous world. I didn't really understand the world of medicine, or curanderas. I had some access to that through men, because I have all these brothers who are Oglalas (adoptive brothers, in the loose term of brother), and I have relatives who are Apache, and so forth.

When I was accepted by a couple of communities of women, I was taken in to learn the women's stuff. One of those women said this very simple thing. It was so simple it was brilliant. She said, "You goddamned men. When you want to know something about women, why don't you just ask?" I had this idiotic Western writer's response; I was writing down notes: "Hmm, ask women!" [Laughter] Her follow-up was, "And when we tell you, why don't you listen?" It became really important to me if I was going to write Hummingbird's Daughter to try to do honor to women.

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