British Association for American Studies


Storify of our #bookhour chat on THE WATER MUSEUM by Luis Alberto Urrea

water museum

#Bookhour is an open forum twitter discussion between scholars and the public that takes place the last Tuesday of the month. Find out more here.

During September’s #bookhour discussion, Dr Gwen Boyle, Dr Laura Smith, Dr Mila Lopez-Paleaz Casellas and #boohour organiser Dr Donna Maria Alexander conversed about The Water Museum by Luis Alberto Urrea. The stories in Alberto’s collection gave way to a discussion about the range of genres and styles evident across the collection, from cli-fi to magical realism, and how these genres and styles reflect on the themes of environmental destruction, borders, loss and disappearance. The topic of disappearance led to a discussion of the representation of male and female characters in the stories, speculating on the relationship between the portrayals and absences of women with the recent femicides in Ciudad Juarez. The #bookhour closed with a consideration of the role of intertextuality in the collection with a particular emphasis on the role of the many film and music references that appear in the stories.


 The discussion leaders

Gwen Boyle (@gwen_boyle) is a freelance writer for publications, organisations and businesses who lives in Cork, Ireland. She graduated with a PhD from University College Cork in 2014, with her thesis entitled “Thomas Wolfe and the Genre Question: Beyond the ‘charge of autobiography’ “. She’s a lifelong book addict and omnivorous reader, with a penchant for quality crime and horror fiction.

Mila Lopez-Pelaez Casellas (@MILA_lpc) is senior lecturer in English and Hispanic Studies at Coventry University. She has previously taught at Arizona State University where she earned her MA and PhD in Chicano Literature and also at Mesa Community College (USA) and Leeds University. She has a monograph on Early Chicana Literature, What about the girls? (Oxford: Peter Lang), and has also published chapters and articles in a variety of peer-reviewed journals. She is on the editorial board of journals in Spain and the United States.

Laura Smith (@hayduke75) is Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Exeter. She is currently researching how literature (especially nature and natural history writing) can contribute to ecological restoration debates, examining the link between literature and ecological reform, and how literary expression influences ecological and political action.

Questions that led the discussion

Q1. In what ways might “Welcome to the Water Museum” be read as a (speculative) cli-fi short story? What does Higgins’ cry of “Stop it, miss! Oh, stop the rain!” reveal about the promise, imaginary, and value of rain in the story? (Laura Smith)

Q2. Across this collection, how do the landscapes of the Desert Southwest play to and echo the narratives of wanderlust, adventure, and discovery? (Laura Smith)

Q3. How does Urrea explore experiences of loss, disappearance, and grief? (Gwen Boyle)

Q4. Does the magical realism of “Mr Mendoza’s Paintbrush” and “Chametla” fit with the other stories in this collection? (Gwen Boyle)

Q5. Comment on the symbolic types of borders found in the stories and on the effect that they have on those who live there. (Mila Lopez-Pelaez Casellas)

Q6. Comment on the use of intertextuality and its narrative quality. (Mila Lopez-Pelaez Casellas)