Cerro Authors Urrea, Timmerman Bring the World to BC

Woke up this Saturday morning to a 50-question quiz from the Bakersfield Californian on page 1 titled: How well do you know Bakersfield? 

Of course I took it.  Was depressed to get only 13 of the 50 questions right. But then rejoiced that BC was referred to seven times.  Yes!

Spent Thursday with my daughter and her husband’s family in Woodland Hills.  I was not responsible for making the turkey but felt like some holiday cooking, so went to Vons at 6:00 a.m. and got a 4-lb beef roast.  I learned to make a roast from my brother Roy when I started grad school at USC.  It turned out well and my daughter claimed that it was the best dish on the Thanksgiving table.

Friday afternoon Todd Coston and I received a text message from Manny De Los Santos with the picture titled “extreme selfie.”  Todd Coston responded….”the drone must have showed up.”  It is official.  We are boldly going where no man has gone before!

Manny extreme selfie using drone Nov 26 2015

Manny De Los Santos taking BC where no man has gone before

As I sat down to do my usual weekend blog, I noticed that I had not published the blog I had started last year on the Cerro author visit.  So enjoy this double dose of two wonderful authors brought to BC.  Thank you library faculty for making this happen.  Anna Agenjo, you are the best!

There’s probably nothing more time-honored in academia than inviting an author to campus and letting that talent regale students with stories of insight, amusement and enlightenment.  Al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt, is generally considered to be the oldest university in the world, founded around 969 AD — and it’s a safe bet that even during those first years, Al-Azhar instructors brought in scribes and other scholars and artisans to bring more of the world to their knowledge-hungry students.

Luis_UrreaFar be it for BC to buck 1,000 years of tradition, so we’re proud hosts of the Cerro Author program. Beginning with our first visiting writer Luis Rodriguez back in 2007, the series offers an opportunity to hear a celebrated author speak about their creations, the themes of their work and, generally speaking, their worldview on everything happening in Bakersfield and the whole wide world around us.

Of course, the series is only possible thanks to the generous gift of Delores Cerro, who bequeathed more than $21 million to BC and a host of other Bakersfield institutions when she passed in 2004.  As a lover of the arts and a believer in the power of libraries to shape eager young minds, there can’t be a more fitting tribute to her vision and philanthropy than the Cerro Author program.

In the last calendar year, we’re seen two incredible writers come to campus and give us all a glimpse of their amazing talents.

Back in October, the Cerro Author program welcomed Pulitzer Prize-nominated novelist Luis Urrea. Urrea, probably best known for this non-fiction book The Devil’s Highway: A True Story, detailing the tragic journey of 26 illegal immigrants from Mexico to the United States in the aftermath of 9/11. Urrea was born in Tijuana to an American mother and a Mexican father, and the family moved to San Diego when Luis was 3.

During his funny and moving talk with students in BC’s Fireside Room, Luis recounted growing up in two worlds, as a product of two cultures, an upbringing that wasn’t always easy for a poor, sensitive kid of Hispanic descent in a mostly white neighborhood.

But not impossible, by any stretch…because not only did his Logan Heights neighborhood spawn a Pulitzer Prize nominee, it was also home to Juan Felipe Herrera, the first Latino Poet Laureate in the U.S.

“I always think, “Two Logan boys get to go do this…,” a bemused Luis said of the strange literary ties between the two men.

Urrea’s humorous, self-deprecating talk often had the enthusiastic crowd of students and faculty laughing, whether he was talking about his mother sewing together his first book of writings, or stories of painfully earnest poems written to attract any female attention he could get.

“Who knew it was a dating plan for being a writer?” Luis joked.

Despite the humor, the room was on the edge of its collective seat as he told the story of the incident that jump-started his writing career — the tragic murder of his father, who died at the hands of Mexican police in 1977.  It was the story Luis had to tell – and the short story “Father’s Day” became the centerpiece of his first book, 1993’s Across the Wire.

The struggles on both sides of the border has been a recurring theme throughout Urrea’s work, including his latest novel Into the Beautiful North, which examines how technology is not only changing young lives in his old neighborhood, but changing how discussions on immigration, race and essentially everything are changing in front of our eyes.

“It’s a new world and we’re thinking old,” Luis said. “The whole world is watching and the whole world is taking part.”

While Urrea is focused on the intriguing lives of both Americans and Mexicans in the border region, 2014’s Cerro Author centers his work on a different aspect of place in American life — producing  goods that keeps our country moving.

Kelsey TimmermanAuthor of “Where Am I Wearing?” and “Where Am I Eating?”, Kelsey Timmerman has traveled all over the world to find out what lives are like for those millions of workers everywhere who make the clothing and harvest the food that end up in American closets and on American dinner tables every day.

During his three discussion sessions in the Fireside Room, the globe-trotting writer recounted his first-hand experiences from such far-reaching places as a T-shirt factory in Honduras, a cocoa farm on the Ivory Coast and beyond.

Filled with laughter, intrigue and more than a hint of sadness, Kelsey’s talk was inspiring, eye-opening, and, most of all, informative. His resounding message: don’t discount the importance of making a difference in your community, be it globally or locally.

Bellow is video with excerpts from Kelsey’s talk:


It’s amazing to think of the difference that Cerro’s gift to the college has made, allowing BC to attract such incredibly gifted authors like Luis and Kelsey to come to campus and tell their stories. We thank Delores Cerro for her gift, our 2014 and 2015 authors for bringing the gift of their stories, and our library faculty for bringing these authors here, and I can’t wait to see who’s on tap for 2016.

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4 thoughts on “Cerro Authors Urrea, Timmerman Bring the World to BC

  1. Velda November 28, 2015 at 1:11 pm Reply

    Kelsey Timmerman is a terrific, engaging presenter. I had the pleasure of meeting him several years ago at Mt. Hood Community College. Happy Holidays!

  2. bcpresident November 28, 2015 at 1:25 pm Reply

    Thanks for posting Velda. The Cerro author program is just wonderful and Timmerman was a big hit. Happy Holidays to you too.

  3. Nick Strobel November 28, 2015 at 10:40 pm Reply

    Hopefully you got #15 right on the Californian’s quiz!

  4. bcpresident November 29, 2015 at 6:55 am Reply

    Yes, of course. Dr. Nick Strobel, Director of the William M. Thomas Planetarium.

    Also, Dr. Strobel writes a regular column, Bakersfield Night Sky, for the Californian.

    #15. Q: Where in Kern County can you find a planetarium?
    #15. A: At the William M. Thomas Planetarium at Bakersfield College.

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