The winner of this prestigious award nominated by public library’s from around the world, has now been announced.
From an initial longlist of 49 books from 30 countries across 10 languages, they were narrowed down to a shortlist of six by a panel of expert judges and the winner, coming from Mexico, but nominated by the Bibliotecha Vila de Gràcia library of Barcelona is:
Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli.
A road-trip novel of a family driving one summer from New York to Arizona, perspective and voices move from the parents to the children, witnesses, speaking and listening, seeing and observing, the subtle, yet dramatic shift. A story of what happens to the human spirit on a long road journey.
As their journey progresses, countless migrant children are making their way up from Central America to the US border, often alone, separated from their parents. A growing awareness of familial rupture enters the confined vehicle space, as they move closer towards an immigration crisis at the border, as their roads converge.
“Lost Children Archive is a novel about the depths of childhood solitude, about children’s boundless imagination, the fragile intensity of familial ties, about tensions between history and fiction and the complex intersections of political circumstances and personal lives.
But more than anything Lost Children Archive is a novel about the process of making stories, of threading voices and ideas together in an attempt to better understand the world around us.” Valeria Luiselli
Born in Mexico, but raised and schooled in Costa Rica, South Korea, South Africa and India, she learned early on to inhabit a solitary, liminal and observant space, a childhood she attributes her decision to become a writer to, situated between cultures, spaces and their linguistic bridges or barriers.
Tell Me How It Ends, An Essay in 40 Questions
In preparation to read Lost Children Archive, I decided to read Valeria Luiselli’s nonfiction narrative essay Tell Me How It Ends which documents her experience as a volunteer translator, assisting child migrants who travelled alone from Latin America to the US, now facing deportation, to fill in the 40 question questionnaire they must respond to within 21 days of arrival.
It’s a sombre read as she and her niece become more and more despondent, discovering they are virtually helpless in terms of changing the outcome for these children, fleeing one bad situation and arriving into another.
I became involved with this kind of work while I was writing the novel, and what happened is I started using the novel as a space in which to pour all my angst and fury and political frustration and emotional sense of stalemate. But I slowly started to realize I wasn’t doing justice to the novel by trying to turn it into that kind of vehicle for my politics, and I wasn’t doing justice to the subject matter itself, either, because I was trying to thread it into this fictional narrative. So I stopped writing the novel. Then, John Freeman, whom I’d worked with as an editor in different projects, suggested I write a non-fiction piece on what I was witnessing in court.
Once I had done that, I was able to go back to the novel and not feel the responsibility of directly covering the crisis. I could focus on other issues and allow the novel to breathe with fictional lungs, so to speak.
Have you read Lost Children Archive or any of Valeria Luiselli’s essays or novels?
Interview : The Social Fabric – An Interview With Valeria Luiselli by Allan Vorda
Dublin Literary Award 2021 Longlist and the Six Shortlisted titles.
Sidewalks, Essays by Valeria Luiselli translated by Christina MacSweeney