Into the Beautiful North

by Luis Alberto Urrea

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Into the Beautiful North is framed within the classic trope of an epic voyage, in which a protagonist leaves home to find (or recover) an object or insight that will save, or render complete, that same home. In this particular novel, the epic voyage combines with more contemporary concepts of national identity and cultural erasure, exploring how Nayeli reformulates her conception of self and her history as she crosses the border from Mexico to the United States. As foils to the active and malleable imagination of Nayeli, figures such as Urrea lament the loss of Mexico's rich rural life, which has been foreclosed by new national ideals of urbanization, sophistication, and cosmopolitanism.

Though Nayeli attempts to restore her home by fighting the scourge of bandidos that takes it over, she finds that other, subtler, forces will still erode it slowly and surely. She ultimately realizes that all identities suffer in the flow of time, and that all one can do is hold on as tightly as possible, waiting to transcend suffering and reclaim, even if momentarily, a foreclosed experience.

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