A family in the “broken angel’s house” faces life and death.
The home of the broken angel is the latest work of luis alberto uria. NPR’s Scott Simon and best-selling author talk about the life, death and death themes of the novel.
Scott Simon, host:
Luis alberto wu rhea’s novel “house of broken angel” put us at the core of a family, the family every breath and unique places are facing life and death, San Diego and the vast mexican-american community and lively, the author so lyrical description.
LUIS ALBERTO URREA: all the houses have bars on the Windows, roof have beige walls, some brick molding, asphalt and gravel, four bedrooms and a living room, two bathrooms and a beautiful kitchen/dining area, a quarter acre of the backyard. As unemployed children return to their mother’s home (Spanish), countless garage realms have developed.
Simon: I like that part. “The Hummingbird’s Daughter” and other best-selling author, Luis Alberto Urrea, who teaches at The university of Illinois in Chicago, won an academy award for American arts and literature and joined us from Chicago. Thank you very much for being with us.
URREA: thank you, Scott.
Simon: the premise of this story is from your own family, isn’t it?
URREA: yes, it is. Three years ago, my brother Juan died. It’s a strange thing, because he’s been dying of cancer for a while, and his 74th birthday is coming. I believe he knows the result. And, seeing him as his last birthday on earth, he thought it was a family plan for his birthday party.
Therefore, as a self-improvement person, I feel that it is a very good thing for him to participate in his own awakening and to coordinate all the compliments to you. He did it.
Simon: now, in your book, the angel la cruz is dying, but he — he finds out he’s not the next one, right?
URREA: yes. I wish I had invented this, but actually it comes from real life. He is my half-brother, Juan Urrea. His mother was 100 years old and she died a week before his party. It confused everything, because no one in the family and our family was rolling the dough. They can’t take two weeks off. They can’t come to this country twice. So he planned a funeral and his party the next day. So it’s an incredible opportunity to think about mortality, you know.
URREA: oh, yes, my brother calls himself patriarch – father. So he liked it very much. The party was really about to start, when the big angel was sitting in a wheelchair and the body was greatly weakened, and people came, paid homage, and kissed his hands and knees. The scene in the book takes place between us. I looked at him, and I said, you’re like don corleone. He said, “I’m don corleone.
Simon :(laughter) what’s that book you read? -when you were a kid on a bus in Mexico?
URREA :(laughter) I’m still a kid. B: yes. I went on a trip to Mexico with my father for the first time because he was really worried when he saw the us win. My mother, of course, was from New York, a socialite from Manhattan, and my father, a Mexican, who wanted to make me more Mexican, not American. I think in his eyes, I became a g hi hippy.
I was 14 years old and took a 27-hour trip to sinaloa on this bus. He handed me the “godfather,” and he thought – I think he taught a profound wisdom about being American. I think to him, the godfather is to some extent the key to immigration, and the way these Italian families maintain their culture is obviously super American. So he tried to find that.
Simon: some of the most vivid parts of the book – I have to say that sometimes it’s so vivid that it’s not worth mentioning – these are the things that you have to do to describe what the big angels have to do to solve the problem.
URREA: oh, yes. So, I really want to measure this, but I think it’s important to respect this person’s journey, you know, you should respect it. Yes, some of them are really painful to write.
For me, the most painful scenario is that his daughter and his wife are trying to give him a bath. He was just crazy. He started screaming his brother to save him. His brother ran in, the women closed the door – don’t come in, they kicked. And then there is this horrible scene of his utter fragility.
He was naked, embarrassed, trying to hide himself, his body was destroyed, and all he could do was close his eyes and see what was happening. That scene makes me feel very painful, but I think if it will be a real novel, a novel really lively, we must to bring the readers to all these areas, this victory and beyond, and for me because it really is a book about grace, there will be more meaning.
Simon: once, the angel’s wife asked, what was your favorite part of your life? He said, everything.
Simon: it strikes me as a novelist’s province. When I say everything, I don’t mean big events, but the details of our lives. That’s what we remember.
URREA: oh, yes. I am often confused by the old man, I know who will say, I have no regrets. I think, boy, of course I can. But, as you get older, you know, I think these are all parts of Frederick buchner’s sacred journey in his theology, right?
These are lessons we learn or fail to learn. But when he said everything, it meant a lot to me because his life wasn’t funny. But in order to be able to finally get peace and say, yes, I live happily, which means a lot to me. I want to quit like him, you know?
SIMON: Luis Alberto Urrea of Chicago. His novel “the broken angel house”. Thank you very much for being with us.
URREA: thank you, Scott.