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In 2015, when Valeria Luiselli started interpreting for migrant youths in the New York immigration court, the system was in crisis and a target of demagogues and disinformation, but not nearly to the extent that it soon would be as American politics took a dehumanizing turn. When this book was published in 2017, it offered a much-needed corrective — it is a humane account that doesn’t traffic in answers; rather, it is literally centered on questions. And it doesn’t just raise these questions, it interrogates them. In considering the questions she was required to ask traumatized children, readers learn much from what their answers were, but more from the intentions of the bureaucracy that formulated those questions in the first place. As Luiselli demonstrates, when people at their most vulnerable are subjected to an impersonal system, that system must be constantly questioned. Recommended By Keith M., Powells.com
With gifted prose and a compassionate but penetrating gaze, Luiselli personalizes the ongoing plight of Latin American child migrants in the United States. A trenchant firsthand account, Tell Me How It Ends offers a humane yet often horrifying look at the labyrinthine legal processes and bureaucratic indifference faced by undocumented youth. Recommended By Jeremy G., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Structured around the forty questions Luiselli translates and asks undocumented Latin American children facing deportation, Tell Me How It Ends (an expansion of her 2016 Freeman’s essay of the same name) humanizes these young migrants and highlights the contradiction between the idea of America as a fiction for immigrants and the reality of racism and fear — both here and back home.
"Mexico-born author Valeria Luiselli has written a slim and moving book on her time working as an interpreter for child refugees making their cases, in court, to remain in the United States. The book, Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions, both broadens our understanding of these children and narrows in on our contradictory reception of them. Luiselli...interrogates the American conscience as she questions these children. In doing so, she guides us towards, as she puts it, 'understanding the unthinkable.'" The Nation
“This is a vital document for understanding the crisis that immigrants to the US are facing, and a call to action for those who find this situation appalling.” Publisher's Weekly
“Luiselli’s awareness of a story’s ability to restrict informs the book’s judicious use of these children’s lives, as well as its quietly brilliant structure as a series of responses to the questionnaire, which Luiselli describes as a reflection of 'a colder, more cynical and brutal reality'....The account that emerges has no fixed origin, and the crisis, as Luiselli wisely points out, belongs not to any specific country or countries but to all of us living in this corner of the world.” New York Times Sunday Book Review
"As in her hallucinatory and inventive fiction, Luiselli proves her skill as a storyteller while grappling with her own questions of nationalism." The New Yorker
"In the warrens of New York City’s federal immigration court, an adolescent boy from Honduras confronts a thoroughly confused immigration bureaucracy with the help of his translator, who is the author of this book. He is just one of thousands of immigrant children longing for permanence in this country, but we get to see him up close. With Valeria Luiselli as our guide, we navigate the corridors of a system that tries and fails to reconcile America’s long-standing welcome of the poor, the terrorized, and the adventurous with its current fear and mistrust of immigrants. In the frightening year of 2017 this is a most necessary book, and a unique one, from a writer whose clear-eyed intelligence and marvelous literary imagination make every one of her narratives a compelling read." Alma Guillermoprieto
About the Author
Valeria Luiselli was born Mexico City in 1983 and grew up in South Africa. A novelist (The Story of My Teeth and Faces in the Crowd) and essayist (Sidewalks), her work has been translated into many languages and has appeared in publications including the New York Times, the New Yorker, Granta, and McSweeney’s.
Valeria Luiselli on PowellsBooks.Blog
One way I've been describing Valeria Luiselli's Lost Children Archive
is that it reads like a classic — as though, even now, you can tell that this is a novel that will be pored over and taught, and will carry its gravity, grace, and intelligence into the future. It’s also immensely compelling, and the second half is so page-turning I raced through it...