Hello again, Adair Heitmann here writing to you today about juxtaposition. As an artist I know the term to juxtapose is to put something side by side. The best artworks show seemingly contradictory colors or images side by side, and when artfully constructed they make the whole picture sing.
I want to sing the praises of Pulitzer Prize nominee, Luis Alberto Urrea. His book, Into the Beautiful North is our One Book One Town selection. He came to Fairfield, CT on March 24, 2010 for his Author Talk. He is a walking contradiction, a Harvard professor who has worked as a janitor. Urrea is an amazing story-teller, he had us eating out of the palm of his hand with his honesty, wit and generosity. He fully embodies who he is, part Mexican/part American, and where he comes from, a poor border town in Tijuana. Into the Beautiful North is a young woman’s coming-of-age adventure set along the dump on the Mexican/Texas border. Beauty and ugliness side by side. I read his book and have had animated discussions about it with many, many people. Some like it, others won’t give it the time of day, but there is something about the book that sparks intelligent and impassioned opinions. For that reason alone I love it.
In his Author Talk Urrea shared a tragic story about his father’s death, telling it in such a way that all of us understood how that singular event led to serendipitous subsequent events that landed him on the map as a published author. Urrea didn’t dwell on the bad stuff but he sure knew how to frame it into the larger story of his life.
He said that writing books is his way to pay back relationships he has had. “If you are a writer and someone gives you a gem from their heart, you have to honor it.” When asked about his writing process he said, “The research process is difficult, and the writing itself is fun.” He doesn’t have a writing schedule he is a “seasonal writer.” He told us a story about how his wife knows he is getting ready to start a new book when he starts buying books on haiku. Haiku he revealed, “feeds the furnace, it distills everything down.”
Before he ended his talk and started autographing copies of his books, Urrea left us with this quote, “Writing is part of a sacred process, even when I am being naughty.” Wow, the perfect juxtaposition.