Sixty Minutes with the Wastelander

Author and Orion columnist Luis Alberto Urrea spent many difficult years trying—and failing—to have his voice heard as a writer. Now, after years of being told by professional publishers that stories of poor people, and of Mexican-Americans—Luis’s stories—wouldn’t interest readers, Luis has found a home in writing about what he calls The Wasteland.

“One of the things that unites us all,” he says, “is that we’ve all been to The Wasteland. Those places that are sort of forgotten and distressed and abused by our stupidity—that still in some weird way forgive us.”

On June 19, Orion‘s Editor-in-Chief Chip Blake spoke with Luis on stage at Aspen Summer Words, in Aspen, Colorado, about borders and wastelands of all kinds, in writing and in life. Among the topics explored were the meanings and locations of nature, and the role of writing, which, says Luis, can be a healing art, something capable of “lighting a bonfire in the soul.”

Here’s their lively one-hour exchange, courtesy of the Aspen Writers’ Foundation: