Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “By the Lake of Sleeping Children” as Want to Read:
By the Lake of Sleeping Children
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

By the Lake of Sleeping Children

4.14  ·  Rating Details ·  420 Ratings  ·  50 Reviews
By the Lake of Sleeping Children explores the post-NAFTA and Proposition 187 border purgatory of garbage pickers and dump dwellers, gawking tourists,and relief workers, fearsome coyotes and their desperate clientele. In sixteen indelible portraits, Urrea illuminates the horrors and the simple joys of people trapped between the two worlds of Mexico and the United States - a ...more
ebook, 208 pages
Published November 17th 2010 by Anchor (first published September 1st 1996)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about By the Lake of Sleeping Children, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about By the Lake of Sleeping Children

This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Rachel Blanchard
Apr 11, 2008 Rachel Blanchard rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in illegal immigration
Recommended to Rachel by: I found it on the shelves of Barnes N Noble
Have an opinion about illegal immigrants? Then this book is for you! You'll learn so much through the stories and statistics of Mexico's most oppressed -- the men, women, and children who are born in, live in, and and are eventually buried in the garbage dumps of Tijuana, Mexico. That's right. They live in shacks, right in the garbage. And when they die, they're buried in the dump. Although their graves are marked, their bodies often float to the surface during floods. It's a crazy life of hopel ...more
Jun 07, 2010 Eris rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: border, mexico
This collection of essays centers around the orphans, dump dwellers and trash pickers in Tijuana. As they slag through our trash (courtesy NAFTA) to make a living, or beg, or accept missionary charity because the prayer is worth the trade for food and clothes, you follow along a guilty observer. These are humans, they don't live that far away. A human created border, a wall of poverty... marginalized by their own countrymen (as we do with our homeless and poor), criminalized by our countrymen - ...more
Aug 11, 2008 John rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I hope this one exorcised Luis' devils. It's hard to believe how much "bad stuff" the author encountered in the Tijuana area. Unfortunately, I believe every word of it. Very powerful, however sad.
Oct 09, 2008 Kristin rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Very graphic. Some parts were very obscene. If it wasn't required for my class I wouldn't have finished it. Description of life on the Mexican/American border.
Oct 06, 2007 Michelle rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is short narratives about people living in Tijuana, as well as the author's personal experiences working in Baja California giving aid to orphanages around the state. He takes true stories and adds a poet's touch, taking journalism to a more human level. It's beautiful and heartbreaking, helarious and makes you want to cry. It encapsulates the border and the daily contradictions that makes this place so confusing and amazing, and explains some of the underlying political reasons behind why ...more
May 29, 2013 Kevin rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book while taking a class on environmental injustice. While it is certainly not what I normally read, I found that a combination of reading and discussion helped to bring out the important ideas within the stories. Realistic representation of what these people go through every day to survive in the border town of Tijuana.

Urrea goes to great lengths to describe the details which make this town unique. Scenes are vivid and characters unique. His own understanding of Mexico and United S
Abbie Navarrete
Jan 24, 2010 Abbie Navarrete rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
After reading "Into the beautiful north" by this author I set out to find everything else he has ever written and found this book. It would not appear to be a feel good book after all conditions in the border and especially for the people who live in the "dompes" are terrible. But as much as it is hard to imagine people living in these conditions what I came away with was admiration for these people who don't seem to ever feel sorry for themselves and simply set out to survive. Beautifully writt ...more
Urrea does a good job of illustrating the cycle of dependence between the US and Mexico, or the cycle of oppressor and oppressed, if you will. I personally didn't see the author as blaming Mexico alone; there is plenty of scathing commentary on US involvement from foreign policy, NAFTA, and maquiladoras*, down to the individuals who take a day trip down to hand out food, clothes, and hygienic products.
WM Rine
Nov 01, 2013 WM Rine rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
You have never met people like the people to whom Luis Alberto Urrea introduces us in this book. The people are rendered plainly, honestly, lyrically, as few could. And you will not forget them. Do yourself a favor -- read this book and meet some people you'll be glad to carry with you for the rest of your life.
Aug 01, 2016 grundoon rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
3.5 "San Diego: Ten freeway miles away. One hundred years as the crow flies." Essays both bleak and matter-of-fact, often lyrical, depicting life among the basureros – those who scratch out home, subsistence and society in the trash dumps of Tijuana. Powerful if also disjointed, this is an addendum of sorts to his debut work on the topic (that I'm assuming really should be read first).
Liz Murray
May 23, 2015 Liz Murray rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The work of a generous and giving writer. Urrea tells the stories of people we know about in the shadows and that we most likely feel bad for, and that feeling doesn't really change, but we read about the lives they experience, their friendships, their families as well as their work and so no longer can we pretend not to see them smile and laugh.
Jun 12, 2009 Mary rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If you wonder WHY the Mexican people come into the U.S. by desperately crossing the border illegally, read this book. I gave it four stars not because it isn't a wonderful report and story of the poor, but I can't say "it was amazing" (it's sad) though it IS amazing that the American people don't know what really is going on.
Mar 10, 2009 Rosa rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Another book by the Mexican/American author Luis Urrea. This one although a non-fiction reads like a novel. His portrayal of the garbage pickers and people who live at the dump in the border town of Tijuana is
shocking, sad and at times funny. Now that I've seen Slumdog Millionaire it's perhaps not so different.
Urrea doesn't ask for pity, nor help, just tells it how it is. Quite enlightening.
Jennifer Blowdryer
You just need to read it, living in The Garbage is the story from now onwards, and Urres, who was a missionary and journalist among people living in the dumps of Mexico, sorting through Gringo trash and making Their Way, is a must read. Really glad I picked it up, the information and humanity packs a punch.
An intentionally shocking (because its true) cultural perspective, meant to jar its reader to recognize ALL societal facets. I found this book stirring, assertive, and at times too close for comfort. Please be sure to read the preface, as the author has provided important information as to which essays to skip for those faint of heart.
Lorah LS
Oct 31, 2007 Lorah LS rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Loved this book. Though it was written in 1996 (which means some of the political facts are outdated) it completely applies to the Mexico/US border issues of today. Thoroughly creative writing style and challenging, relevant perspective.
May 28, 2012 MaryBeth rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This memoir reflects Urrea's time working with the garbage pickers at the Tijuana dump. It is heartbreaking, but at the same time celebrates the best of a society that manages to survive in the harshest of conditions.
Sep 17, 2009 Katherine rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read-non-fiction
The first essay, By the Lake of Sleeping Children, is so horrifying I almost didn't go on but I am glad I did. Urrea manages along with the graphic portrayal of poverty and desperation to show people as very human and even loving in situations beyond the comprehension of the average American.
Jan 20, 2008 Fred rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Urrea worked for the famous Minister Von, this book is written from his journal notes helping the most poor in Mexico. Find out what their lives are like and how America is like a light in the dark to them.
Jan 02, 2011 Adele rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
although the author seemed to place the chapter to create a very disjointed book,
the message that it sent and the pictures and thoughts it illustrated were very shocking and embarrassing on the part of the Americans.
sue glenzer thomas

I am always sad when I finish one of Luis's books. His slurs of writing had always made me feel as it I was standing right next to him seeing everything just as he described it.
Kathryn Okonzak-lowry
This book is hard to read but I'm glad I did. I did not read the chapter concerning animals. The chapters are each their own story. I had some pretty terrible dreams the first night after reading this.
Liz Murray
Apr 12, 2015 Liz Murray rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A collection of short essays about the lives of people on the border. Luis Alberto Urrea never fails to capture what makes everyone he writes about tick. He has genuine empathy and compassion and I learn so much from reading his work.
Jul 05, 2013 Marianna rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the first Urrea book I have read and I will be looking for others. He writes honestly - and that makes it very poetic as far as I see it. He depicts a reality many of us would rather not accept is part of our world.
Dec 02, 2008 Jvosler rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I am fascinated by the US/Mexico border. This is another heartbreaking story of what happens in the places where great wealth meets great poverty. The spirit of the Mexican people never fails to amaze me.
Dec 29, 2013 Jed rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
As I was preparing to work as a Border Patrol Agent, I wanted to read about the life of those making the journey and get to know more about who I would be working with. I read several books by this author and really can't stand the border politics but the books are very interesting.
Joe Hewitt
Urrea is a great story teller. This book includes many of his most interesting. This is somewhat preachy, however.
Jane Lowe-webster
Loved this book and all of his others. First heard the author being interviewed by Bill Moyers and knew I wanted to read his work. I was not disappointed.
May 03, 2012 Melissa rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This book was a serious eye-opener to the plight of children in Mexico. It is hard to read, emotionally.
Jessica Lara
Feb 07, 2008 Jessica Lara rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
the author does a good job of at once explaining the perils of the dumps in tijuana and finding humor in tragedy.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • Mexico Biography of Power
  • Woodcuts of Women
  • Loverboys
  • Black Mesa Poems
  • The Manufactured Crisis: Myths, Fraud, And The Attack On America's Public Schools
  • Working in the Shadows: A Year of Doing the Jobs (Most) Americans Won't Do
  • Red Hot Salsa: Bilingual Poems on Being Young and Latino in the United States
  • Rethinking Columbus: The Next 500 Years: Resources for Teaching about the Impact of the Arrival of Columbus in the Americas
  • Crossing Over: A Mexican Family on the Migrant Trail
  • The Death of Josseline: Immigration Stories from the Arizona Borderlands
  • Carry Me Like Water
  • Zapata and the Mexican Revolution
  • Drink Cultura: Chicanismo
  • Decade of Betrayal: Mexican Repatriation in the 1930s
  • Places Left Unfinished at the Time of Creation
  • Critical Race Theory: An Introduction
  • Zoot Suit and Other Plays
  • Occupied America: A History of Chicanos

Share This Book