Dublin Literary Award Winner 2021

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

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

Tell Me How It Ends Valeria LuiselliIn 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?

Further Reading

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

15 thoughts on “Dublin Literary Award Winner 2021

    • Yes, I remember when that came out, I’d read and enjoyed her essays, but passed on that novel however this one, I’m definitely going to read and have been anticipating for some time, so pleased to see it get this recognition.

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  1. I’m glad that I had borrowed this book from the library before the news of her win was announced; though now I’m sure that I won’t be able to renew so I will have to get on with it in short order. What brought her onto my reading radar was a CBC interview with Eleanor Wachtel and, later, one with David Naimon (could be that both interviews were done at the same time, but I didn’t discover David Naimon’s interviews until he’d been doing them for awhile. (Both are great for detailed discussion of author and work, but the former would suit many readers as well as writers, whereas I think Naimon’s likely suit a few readers as well as writers. If you’re curious and would like the URLs, LMK and I can share.)

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  2. This is an amazing but difficult book to read … because of the dark inner thoughts of the narrator and because of the story’s telling, which is fully original and brilliant. This is the kind of book that teaches you how to read it. I was moved, impressed, and overwhelmed by this book. I will read it again to learn more about how the author found her way through the story.

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  3. I loved Luiselli’s Sidewalks, a collection of essays about cities, spaces and locations, mostly due to the author’s poetic prose style. She’s a beautiful writer, very thoughtful and erudite, qualities that give her essays a meditative feel. I’m very tempted to pick up Lost Children Archive too, partly because of this award and partly because I’ve just read American Dirt — a friend picked it for our book group — which looks at this subject from a different angle. Have you read it by any chance? I found it somewhat disappointing and overwritten despite all the hype…

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    • I haven’t read American Dirt, though I’m aware of both the hype and the controversy around it, both of which were enough for me not to have to add it my TBR. I did read Infinite Country by Patricia Engel (the daughter of Colombian immigrants) this year and found that extremely thought provoking and sensitively treated. A writer that’s able to immerse in dual perspectives and demonstrate both the struggle and yearning.

      I enjoyed Sidewalks too and find Luiselli an interesting and passionate author, and somewhat experimental, pushing the boundaries of form and language and coming from a place of having had multiple experiences within different cultures, which adds something unique. I’m looking forward to what she does next and will definitely be reading Lost Children Archive now.

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  4. ‘Lost Children Archive” is extraordinary and as timely as a novel can be. I’m glad to see it getting the attention it deserves. ‘The Story of My Teeth,’ which I found to be so inventive, put Vaieria Luiselli in my radar–a gifted writer indeed.

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