Seattle Public Library’s Seattle Reads program returns with in-person events for the first time in three years with “The House of Broken Angels” by Pulitzer Prize finalist Luis Alberto Urrea.
This is Seattle Reads’ first Spanish translated pick since 2004 when Isabel Allende’s body of work was selected. The citywide book group, which celebrates its 25th anniversary next year, was begun in 1998 by Nancy Pearl as the inaugural One City One Book program.
Urrea described the book — one of Moira Macdonald’s 2020 Seattle Times Book Club selections — as a “somewhat autobiographical but mostly invented post-immigration story, just about a family that’s been in the U.S. for 60 years or so, taxpaying Americans who happen to speak Spanish,” in a 2020 interview with Macdonald.
The idea behind the novel was “a full-on Mexican ‘Finnegans Wake’” thrown by Urrea’s older half-brother days before his death.
“It was very moving, very soul-shaking and stirring,” Urrea said.
Urrea’s book synthesizes themes of grief, loss and Mexican identity with “a very deft hand and with humor and warmth and the book leaves you feeling sort of hopeful,” said Stesha Brandon, literature and humanities programs manager for The Seattle Public Library.
In partnership with La Sala and Seattle Escribe, the Seattle Reads selection committee worked to find a book available in Spanish, choosing Urrea’s book out of more than 60 considered titles, said Brandon.
“Luis’ book was the one we kept coming back to,” said Brandon. “It felt like it was time and maybe a little overdue to celebrate that and to try to invite community members who haven’t participated in the past.”
More than 1,000 English and 300 Spanish copies of “The House of Broken Angels” will be available for informal borrowing — meaning a library card isn’t required for check out — at most Seattle library locations beginning mid-August.
Urrea, whose wife is from Burien, will be in Seattle for virtual and in-person Seattle Reads book discussions and programing Oct. 19-20. For more information, visit spl.org/SeattleReads.