I sat down Tuesday morning to read Valeria Luiselli’s Tell Me How it Ends, the final book in our 2020 line up, and I finished by early afternoon. I sat for a few hours taking in Luiselli’s words and questions one at a time. As she addresses America’s current child refugee crisis rooted at the Mexico border, Luiselli asks herself and the reader many questions …
Why? How? For how long? Where does it begin? Where does it end?
She highlights a cruel cycle that our country and our neighbors hold blame for, proving that it’s not until they (we) take responsibility that we can rectify and steer away from this crisis.
“It would surely be a step forward for our governments to officially acknowledge the hemispheric dimensions of the problem, acknowledge the connection between such phenomena as the drug wars, gangs in Central America and the United States, the consumption of drugs, and the massive migration of children from the Northern Triangle to the United States through Mexico. No one, or almost no one, from producers to consumers, is willing to accept their role in the great theater of devastation of these children’s lives.”
It was like sitting in a prolonged 106 page meditation on the topic. Or like reading the transcript of an award-winning lecture from everyone’s favorite teacher. And it was something I needed.
U.S. immigration policy and the immigrant experience is definitely an area for growth in my education. This was one of the first nonfiction books I’ve read focused solely on issues of U.S. immigration. And it was the perfect place to start. It’s stated outright that this book doesn’t have the answers. It only accumulates more questions. And I would have to agree. I left this “essay in forty questions” with more questions swimming in my head than when I started. But in the best way.
Luiselli gives just enough context, history, and policy explanation to form a base knowledge of immigration at our Southern borders, specifically as it relates to children. And her characters, poetic questioning, and pursuit of what’s next is inspiring and motivating. It draws you in, leaving you with more questions but also more eager to seek out other voices and hopefully a few answers.
“There are things that can only be understood retrospectively, when many years have passed and the story has ended. In the meantime, while the story continues, the only thing to do is tell it over and over again as it develops, bifurcates, knots around itself. And it must be told, because before anything can be understood, it has to be narrated many times, in many different words and from many different angles, by many different minds.”
I would recommend this book to every American. It’s a beautiful essay that emboldens the reader to find empathy, seek truth, and ask critically how will this all end? I read the paperback version, but I also imagine the audio book would be like listening to a great four-part podcast. No matter what form it takes, I encourage you to pick this one up. Sooner rather than later.
Also, make sure to check out these other more representative reviews …