The Open Canon Book Club

We live in a time when appealing to and listening to the diversity of America's voices are more important than ever. The goal of the Open Canon Book Club is to introduce readers to voices and portrayals of the American experience they may not have otherwise encountered in their day-to-day lives, their education, or their book club meetings. Literary diversity plays a vital role in making us understood to one another, and this hope of understanding is the hinge upon which our democracy swings.

As to the name of the Open Canon Book Club, below are a few definitions from Merriam-Webster that are particularly apt:

Open: not restricted to a particular group or category of participants; exposed to general view or knowledge; having no enclosing or confining barrier.

Canon: a sanctioned or accepted group or body of related works; a criterion or standard of judgment; a body of principles, rules, standards, or norms.

For each month's selection of the Open Canon Book Club I will post discussion questions here and across my social media accounts, and I will also host live book club discussions online and in independent bookstores. The authors of each month's selection will be invited to participate in any and every way that interests them. I will also post and share relevant documentaries, essays, websites, and blogs that will enrich the experience of reading and discussing the month's selection.  

I'm thrilled to announce that bookstores across the country are willing to extend their book club discounts, between 10-20%, to members of the Open Canon Book Club. Please see below for a list of bookstores, and make sure to join the Open Canon Book Club to get the tagline that will unlock these bookseller discounts. 

Bookstores Participating in the Open Canon Book Club Discount:

Alabama: Page & Palette (Fairhope).

Connecticut: Bank Square Books (Mystic).

Georgia: A Cappella Books (Atlanta); The Book Tavern (Augusta).

Kentucky: Wild Figs Books & Coffee (Lexington); Joseph-Beth Booksellers (Lexington); Joseph-Beth Booksellers (Crestview Hills); Carmichael's Bookstore (Lexington).

Louisiana: Octavia Books (New Orleans).

Mississippi: Square Books (Oxford).

Missouri: Left Bank Books (St. Louis).

New York: Books Are Magic (Brooklyn).

North Carolina:  Malaprop's Bookstore and Cafe (Asheville); Foggy Pine Books (Boone); Page 158 Books (Wake Forest); Scuppernong Books (Greensboro); Park Road Books (Charlotte); Bookmarks (Winston-Salem); Flyleaf Books (Chapel Hill); Regulator Bookshop (Durham); Two Sisters Bookery; Athenian House; Pomegranate Books (Wilmington); Quail Ridge Books (Raleigh); Country Bookshop (Southern Pines); Quarter Moon Books (Topsail Island); Main Street Books (Davidson); McIntyre's Books (Pittsboro); City Lights Bookstore (Sylva); Blue Ridge Books (Waynesville); Highland Books (Brevard).

Ohio: Mac's Backs Books on Coventry (Cleveland); Joseph-Beth Booksellers (Cincinnati).

Oregon: Another Read Through (Portland).

Pennsylvania: Penguin Bookshop (Sewickly).

Rhode Island: Savoy Bookshop and Cafe (Westerly).

South Carolina: Hub City Bookshop (Spartanburg, SC); Fiction Addiction (Greenville); Bookends (North Myrtle Beach).

Texas: Book People (Austin); Blue Willow Bookshop (Houston).

Utah: The King's English Bookshop (Salt Lake City).

Virginia: One More Page (Arlington).

West Virginia: Four Seasons Books (Shepherdstown).

National: Books-A-Million (email business@booksamillion.com for discount info.) Members of the Millionaires Club are eligible for free shipping)..

The October selection of the Open Canon Book Club is Into the Beautiful North by Luis Alberto Urrea.

into the beautiful north.jpg

Nineteen-year-old Nayeli works at a taco shop in her Mexican village and dreams about her father, who journeyed to the US when she was young. Recently, it has dawned on her that he isn't the only man who has left town. In fact, there are almost no men in the village--they've all gone north. While watching The Magnificent Seven, Nayeli decides to go north herself and recruit seven men--her own "Siete Magníficos"--to repopulate her hometown and protect it from the bandidos who plan on taking it over. 

Filled with unforgettable characters and prose as radiant as the Sinaloan sun, Into the Beautiful North is the story of an irresistible young woman's quest to find herself on both sides of the fence.

 photo by Joe Maz

photo by Joe Maz

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 nonfiction and member of the Latino Literature Hall of Fame, Urrea is the critically acclaimed and best-selling author of 17 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.”  

His newest book, The House of Broken Angels, is a novel of an American family, which happens to be from Mexico. Angel de la Cruz knows this is his last birthday and he wants to gather his progeny for a final fiesta. The novel will be released in March 2018.

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 and was named a best book of the year by The Washington Post and Kirkus Reviews, among others. Into the Beautiful North, his 2009 a novel, is a Big Read selection by the National Endowment of the Arts and has been chosen by more than 50 different cities and colleges as a community read. The Devil’s Highway, Urrea’s 2004 non-fiction account of a group of Mexican immigrants lost in the Arizona desert, won the Lannan Literary Award and was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and the Pacific Rim Kiriyama Prize. The Hummingbird’s Daughter, his 2005 historical novel, tells the story of Urrea’s great-aunt Teresa Urrea, sometimes known as the Saint of Cabora and the Mexican Joan of Arc. The book, which involved 20 years of research and writing, won the Kiriyama Prize in fiction and, along with The Devil’s Highway, was named a best book of the year by many publications.

In all, more than 100 cities and colleges have chosen Into the Beautiful North, The Devil’s Highway or The Hummingbird’s Daughter (or another Urrea book) for a community read.

Urrea has also won an Edgar award from the Mystery Writers of America for best short story (2009, “Amapola” in Phoenix Noir and featured in The Water Museum). Into the Beautiful North earned a citation of excellent from the American Library Association Rainbow’s Project. Urrea’s first book, Across the Wire, was named a New York Times Notable Book and won the Christopher Award. Urrea also won a 1999 American Book Award for his memoir, Nobody’s Son: Notes from an American Lifeand in 2000, he was voted into the Latino Literature Hall of Fame following the publication of Vatos. His book of short stories, Six Kinds of Sky, was named the 2002 small-press Book of the Year in fiction by the editors of ForeWord magazine. He has also won a Western States Book Award in poetry for The Fever of Being and was in the 1996 Best American Poetry collection. Urrea’s other titles include By the Lake of Sleeping ChildrenIn Search of Snow, Ghost Sickness and Wandering Time.

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.