NEA Big Read

The Lancaster Public Library and the League of Women Voters of Lancaster County welcomed Luis Alberto Urrea, author of the NEA Big Read’s “Into the Beautiful North” to Lancaster, and we enjoyed each and every minute of his visit.

He introduced us to the people behind his characters and the stories beyond his writing. We could not have asked for a better ending to our NEA Big Read journey.

About the author: Luis Alberto Urrea is a prolific and award-winning writer, a master storyteller who uses his dual-culture life experiences to explore greater themes of love, loss and triumph.

Born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and an American mother, Luis grew up in San Diego. Like so many great writers, Luis got his start in literature writing poems to impress girls in junior high. His early heroes were all rock stars, but not being especially musically gifted Luis chose to follow in the steps of his literary role models. “What I really wanted to be was Jim Morrison,” he has said “however, if I weren’t a writer, I’d be dead.”

As a young man Luis served as a missionary in the Tijuana dumps prior to receiving a teaching Fellowship to Harvard University. The author of sixteen books, he has published extensively in many genres and has received many prestigious awards. The Devil’s Highway, his non-fiction 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. His highly acclaimed historical novels; The Hummingbird’s Daughter and Queen of America together tell the epic story of Teresita Urrea, a great aunt who was a healer and Mexican folk hero. Collectively The Devil’s HighwayThe Humming Bird’s Daughter and his novel Into the Beautiful North have been chosen by nearly one hundred different cities and colleges across the country for community-wide reading programs. In 2017, Into the Beautiful North was adapted into a production and was shown at theaters across the country.


Lancaster Public Library, in partnership with the League of Women Voters of Lancaster County, is the recipient of a $14,000 grant to host the NEA Big Read in Lancaster, PA.


An initiative of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest, the NEA Big Read broadens our understanding of our world, our communities, and ourselves through the joy of sharing a good book. The Lancaster Public Library is one of 75 nonprofit organizations nationwide, and the only organization in Pennsylvania, to receive an NEA Big Read grant to host a community-reading program between September 2017 and June 2018.

Our book selection is “Into the Beautiful North” by Luis Alberto Urrea, a 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for nonfiction and member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame. The novel tells the story of Nayeli, a nineteen-year-old who works at a taco shop in her Mexican village and dreams about her father, who journeyed to the US when she was young.






NEA Big Read is a program of the National Endowment for the Arts in partnership with Arts Midwest.
El proyecto NEA Big Read es una iniciativa del National Endowment for the Arts (el Fondo Nacional para las Artes de Estados Unidos) en cooperación con Arts Midwest.