2019 Jack D. Rittenhouse Award

PubWest Announces 2019 Award to Honor Luis Alberto Urrea

Luis Alberto Urrea (photo by Joe Mazza)

PubWest, the leading trade association of small- and medium-sized book publishers, has awarded its 2019 Jack D. Rittenhouse Award to Luis Alberto Urrea.

The Rittenhouse Award was established in 1990 as a way to thank and honor those who have made an important contribution to the Western community of the book. The award is given annually in memory of Jack D. Rittenhouse, the West’s legendary bookman.

“The Jack D. Rittenhouse Award recipients have all made extraordinary contributions to how books are made and sold,” said Bill Fessler, PubWest board president and publisher at American Traveler Press. “For more than twenty-five years, Luis Urrea has spoken about the contemporary West. He has brought us closer to the families and the lives of people who live here. He is a legend, a modern-day Mark Twain. It is a true honor to add Luis Alberto Urrea to the roster of Rittenhouse award winners.”

Luis Alberto Urrea will accept the Rittenhouse Award during the PubWest 2019 conference, scheduled for February 7–9 at the La Fonda on the Plaza, in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Hailed by NPR as a “literary badass” and a “master storyteller with a rock and roll heart,” Luis Alberto Urrea is a prolific and acclaimed writer who uses his dual-culture life experiences to explore greater themes of love, loss, and triumph.

A 2005 Pulitzer Prize finalist for his 2004 nonfiction work, The Devil’s Highway, and member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame, Urrea is the critically acclaimed and best-selling author of seventeen books, winning numerous awards for his poetry, fiction, and essays. Born in Tijuana to a Mexican father and American mother, Urrea is most recognized as a border writer, though he says, “I am more interested in bridges, not borders.”

Last year, Urrea won an American Academy of Arts and Letters Fiction award, and his collection of short stories, The Water Museum, was a finalist for the 2016 PEN-Faulkner Award. His novels include The Hummingbird’s Daughter (2005) and Into the Beautiful North (2009) and in all, more than 100 cities and colleges have chosen one of his books for a community read. Into the Beautiful North is also a Big Read selection by the National Endowment of the Arts. His newest book, The House of Broken Angels, is an unforgettable portrait of the De La Cruz family as they celebrate the lives of two of their most beloved members over the course of one raucous and bittersweet weekend. He has also been published by Western regional houses including Johnson Books, West End Press/University of New Mexico, and Cinco Puntos Press. His three books published with University of Arizona Press, In Search of Snow, Wandering Time: Western Notebooks, and Nobody’s Son: Notes from An American Life, all remain in print.

Urrea attended the University of California at San Diego, earning an undergraduate degree in writing, and did his graduate studies at the University of Colorado–Boulder.

After serving as a relief worker in Tijuana and a film extra and columnist-editor-cartoonist for several publications, Urrea moved to Boston where he taught expository writing and fiction workshops at Harvard. He also taught at the University of Louisiana–Lafayette.

Urrea lives with his family in Naperville, IL, where he is a distinguished professor of creative writing at the University of Illinois–Chicago.


About PubWest: PubWest is a non-profit trade association for North American book publishers, from small independent presses to publishing companies with worldwide operations, and related professionals, such as printers, designers, binderies, and publishing freelancers. For more information, please visit www.pubwest.org.

The PubWest Board of Directors selects a Rittenhouse Award recipient each year, and the award presentation takes place during the annual PubWest Conference.

See a list of past recipients of the Rittenhouse Award.