An essay in 40 questions: Why did you come to the US? Where are your parents? Any problems with the government in your home country?
In Tell Me How it Ends, Valeria Luiselli shares her experience as an interpreter for refugee children from Central America arriving in the US. As she fills out the intake questionnaire with each child, she attempts the impossible task of reducing the traumas of their life into a few blank lines.
The maddeningly concise questions minimize the underlying tragedy—the fact that thousands of children with the right to political asylum, the right to a dignified life free of violence and persecution, are quickly filtered through the US legal system. Often, they are deported as “illegals” before receiving legal support or due process to obtain refugee status.
Luiselli’s work is a testament to her commitment to making these stories known and heard. Many of the questions she asks the children are unanswerable, beyond comprehension, or too sad to muster a coherent response, but the call to action for the rest of us is much clearer:
“And perhaps the only way to grant any justice—were that even possible—is by hearing and recording those stories over and over again so that they come back, always, to haunt and shame us. Because being aware of what is happening in our era and choosing to do nothing about it has become unacceptable. Because we cannot allow ourselves to go on normalizing horror and violence. Because we can all be held accountable if something happens under our noses and we don’t dare even look.”
This book gives readers the opportunity to bear witness to the suffering of others, understand why families and children will continue to flee oppressive conditions, and hopefully inspire readers to take action against dehumanizing policies.
“And once you’re here, you’re ready to give everything, or almost everything, to stay and play a part in the greater theater of belonging.”