I was in my car when I heard it. Her voice, expressing both humor and heartbreak, explaining the questions and why she asks them. Noting the irony: bad news is good news. Terrible stories mean the children might be saved. I thought, I'll tell people at work about this.
Later the same day, my coworker pulls up a book on his phone. "If you have an hour or two, you should read this." It's by the same woman, Valeria Luiselli. It's the full print version of what I'd heard on the podcast that morning. Things like this happen at the library.
I put the book on hold, and started reading. It took me more than an hour or two. For one thing, my own children are small, and it's hard to sit down with a book, during the day at least. But for another thing... it's tough reading. Thinking about the children. Thinking about mine. I kept putting the book down. I still haven't finished it, to be honest. I never finished "Enrique's Journey," either, or "En Las Sombras de Estados Unidos," though I recommend them to you here. They are all beautiful, important books. They are all hard to read.
"Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions" is Luiselli's meditation on the strange and awful plight of the children who flee poverty, gang violence, and abuse in their home countries, coming north to plead for asylum in the United States. These "undocumented minors" are handed a nearly impossible task, should they be lucky enough to actually arrive in the U.S. They must make their own case for salvation, even when they speak no English, or even Spanish; even when they are incredibly young and vulnerable. They have a right to an attorney. But an attorney will not be provided for them.
Luiselli's experience as a translator for the immigration courts in New York is described with wry wit, countered by something like fury. An immigrant herself, and a mother, she sees both tragedy and absurdity in what she finds there. She sees the U.S. immigration system (and the culture that created it) with a novelist's gaze, sensitive to shades of moral ambiguity, keen to the sharp truths that cut through them. She doesn't pull any punches. It's a joy to read, both lyrical and pointed, funny and painful.
I'm going to finish it. I am.
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