Luis Alberto Urrea
The Devil's Highway is a harrowing account of 26 Mexican men who attempted to enter the U.S. but were abandoned in the desert by human traffickers. It earned Luis Alberto Urrea a 2005 nomination for a Pulitzer Prize. He appears at noon on Sunday, Oct. 14, in the Overture Center's Promenade Hall.
Isthmus: The theme of this year's Wisconsin Book Festival is "Domestic Tranquility." How does that relate to The Devil's Highway?
Urrea: These men died trying to ensure for their children what you would want for your own. They were seeking shelter, food and security. They were seeking a chance at future survival for their loved ones. They had the misfortune, however, of sheer desperation. My idea of domestic tranquility is to not feel that desperation.
In 2000, Logan Ward and his wife, Heather, sold their belongings, abandoned the pressures of New York City, moved to rural Virginia with their two-year-old son and - forsaking all conveniences introduced after 1900 - devoted a full year to subsistence farming. See You in a Hundred Years is his account of this experiment. Ward appears at 6 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 14, at the Overture Center's Wisconsin Studio.
Isthmus: How did your stay in 1900 shape your definition of "Domestic Tranquility"?
Ward: One definition might be home life without distractions. During our 1900 year, we never traveled more than six miles from our kitchen stove. If someone was beyond shouting distance, we wrote them a letter. We mostly focused on ourselves, our animals and our immediate neighbors. Without a major life change and deep commitment to see it through, I'm not sure that sort of domestic tranquility is attainable, and I'm not even sure it's what Heather and I want. But for a year, it was pure magic.
Faith Adiele is the author of the 2004 memoir Meeting Faith: The Forest Journals of a Black Buddhist Nun in Thailand and co-editor of the new anthology Coming of Age Around the World. She appears at noon on Saturday, Oct. 13, at A Room of One's Own Feminist Bookstore.
Isthmus: How do geography, gender and ethnicity affect the authors' views on coming of age in your anthology?
Adiele: You see that these social determinants really do determine most of the world's options. Unlike the American mythology of "you can become whatever you want to be," most people have very limited options of what they will become, which is determined by their group membership. In a sense, that challenges the whole notion of coming of age, which is very western/northern hemisphere and based on ideals of the individual.