OSWEGO — The annual Oswego Reading Initiative will welcome award-winning novelist and essayist Valeria Luiselli to SUNY Oswego on Sept. 27, to discuss her 2017 extended essay “Tell Me How It Ends,” an exploration of the journey of undocumented Central American children as they are vetted through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
Luiselli will speak at 7 p.m. in Hewitt ballroom.
She will sign copies of her book — a finalist for the 2017 Kirkus Prize in Nonfiction and the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism — at 8 p.m.
Born in Mexico City in 1983, Luiselli grew up in South Africa, has lived in many other places around the world, and went through the process of obtaining a green card to live and work in the United States.
She served as a volunteer translator for children as young as 6 and as old as teenagers who come into this country by themselves, face deportation and must answer 40 intake questions that will determine whether they stay or leave.
The book’s introduction sets the scene for the stories woven through the children’s responses to those official questions:
“These children are the most vulnerable members of an ongoing exodus of Central Americans fleeing poverty and violence in their shattered nations in the expectation of finding a better life in the United States. Many of the children are raped, robbed, or even killed along the way,” she said.
As reviewer Dinaw Mengestu wrote in The New York Times, “Luiselli does not write with the journalist’s attempt at objectivity. This is an intimate narrative, but it’s not a memoir. The portrait of migration she offers is intended to complicate, rather than resolve or clarify.”
Luiselli, currently Ida Cordelia Beam Distinguished Visiting Professor at University of Iowa, wrote the acclaimed debut novel “Faces in the Crowd,” an essay collection titled “Sidewalks” and 2015 National Book Critics Circle Award in Fiction finalist “The Story of My Teeth.” She has written short fiction and non-fiction pieces for publications such as The New York Times, Granta and McSweeney’s.
Her upcoming new novel, “Lost Children Archives,” intertwines the lives of Central American children fleeing violence with those of a Mexican-American family.
It is planned for 2019 from 4th Estate publishers.
The Oswego Reading Initiative asks the campus — and community members wishing to join in — to read one book over the summer.
To accompany the selection, ORI’s committee and participating faculty and staff members plan a series of programs, including cultural events and talks to facilitate discussion and involvement around the title.