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Valeria Luiselli

Valeria Luiselli Valeria Luiselli[1†]

Valeria Luiselli, born on August 16, 1983, in Mexico City, Mexico, is a highly acclaimed Mexican-American author. She has lived in various parts of the world, including South Korea, South Africa, and India. Luiselli’s work spans both fiction and nonfiction, and her writings have been translated into more than 20 languages. She has received numerous awards and recognitions for her work, including the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction, the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Best Fiction, and the National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35” award. In 2019, she was awarded a MacArthur Fellowship, also known as a MacArthur "Genius Grant". Her notable works include “Sidewalks”, “Faces in the Crowd”, “The Story of My Teeth”, and "Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions"[1†][2†][3†][4†].

Early Years and Education

Valeria Luiselli was born on August 16, 1983, in Mexico City, Mexico[1†]. Her early years were marked by a global upbringing, as her family moved to Madison, Wisconsin, when she was just two years old[1†]. Her father’s work in NGOs and later as a diplomat led the family to live in various parts of the world, including Costa Rica, South Korea, and South Africa[1†][5†].

Luiselli’s education was primarily in English at international schools[1†][6†]. This global exposure and diverse cultural experiences during her formative years likely played a significant role in shaping her worldview and literary voice. Despite studying mainly in English, Luiselli wrote in Spanish to reclaim the language[1†][6†].

At the age of 16, after her parents separated, she moved back to Mexico City with her mother[1†]. She pursued her higher education at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, where she majored in philosophy[1†][6†]. It was during her time in college that Luiselli began to write more seriously[1†][6†].

This period of her life, marked by intellectual growth and the development of her unique literary voice, laid the foundation for her future career as a celebrated author. Her diverse cultural experiences, combined with her academic background in philosophy, have significantly influenced her writing style and thematic focus.

Career Development and Achievements

After earning a bachelor’s degree in Philosophy from the National Autonomous University of Mexico, Luiselli moved to New York City[1†]. Initially, she had aspirations to dance, but she eventually studied comparative literature at Columbia University, where she completed a Ph.D[1†][6†]. She teaches literature and creative writing at Bard College, collaborates as a writer with a number of art galleries, and has worked as a librettist for the New York City Ballet[1†]. She served as a juror for the Neustadt International Prize for Literature in 2016[1†].

Luiselli’s literary career is marked by a diverse range of works, including essays, novels, and non-fiction. Her debut, “Papeles falsos”, translated in English as “Sidewalks”, was an essay collection that spanned Venice, Mexico City, and New York[1†][6†]. Her second work was a novel, “Los ingrávidos”, or “Faces in the Crowd”, which also straddled international lines, taking place in Mexico City and New York[1†][6†]. Her 2015 novel “The Story of My Teeth” was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Best Translated Book Award, and won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize for Best Fiction[1†]. Her nonfiction work “Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions” was based on her experiences volunteering as an interpreter for young Central American migrants seeking legal status in the United States[1†]. The book was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism in 2017[1†].

Her work with asylum-seeking children from Latin America also informs the central theme in her 2019 novel “Lost Children Archive”, which won the Carnegie Medal for Excellence in Fiction[1†]. In 2014, Luiselli was the recipient of the National Book Foundation’s “5 under 35” award[1†]. In 2019, she won a MacArthur Fellowship, also known as a MacArthur "Genius Grant"[1†]. In 2020, the Vilcek Foundation awarded her a Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Literature[1†] and the Folio Prize[1†].

Luiselli’s career is not only marked by her literary achievements but also by her commitment to activism. She and her niece teach creative writing to detained youth at a migrant center in upstate New York[1†][6†].

First Publication of Her Main Works

Valeria Luiselli’s literary career is marked by a series of critically acclaimed works that have been translated into more than 20 languages[1†]. Here are some of her main works:

Luiselli’s writings are characterized by their innovative structure, profound themes, and eloquent prose. Her works have not only earned her numerous awards but also established her as a significant voice in contemporary literature[1†][7†][2†][4†][8†].

Analysis and Evaluation

Valeria Luiselli’s work, particularly her non-fiction book “Tell Me How It Ends”, has been critically acclaimed for its insightful exploration of the immigrant experience[9†][10†][11†]. Her unique narrative voice, characterized by moral anger and an implicit claim to justice on behalf of immigrant children, sets her apart[9†][12†].

In “Tell Me How It Ends”, Luiselli uses her experiences as a volunteer translator to shed light on the complexities of the immigrant narrative[9†][10†]. The stories she hears from child migrants are often complex and nuanced, lacking a clear beginning, middle, and end[9†][10†]. This reflects the fluid nature of their experiences and challenges the reader to approach these narratives with an open mind[9†][10†].

Luiselli’s work is not just a recounting of these children’s experiences, but also a critique of the American bureaucracy that these children encounter[11†]. She argues that the inhumane treatment of these children at the hands of the American bureaucracy is an unjust denial of due process and the core principles of the American Dream[9†][11†].

Her writing style, which combines colloquial language with a distinctive narrative voice, effectively conveys the urgency and importance of the issues she discusses[9†][12†]. Through her work, Luiselli has become a powerful advocate for immigrant children, using her platform to highlight their stories and push for change[9†][10†][11†][12†].

Personal Life

Valeria Luiselli was born in Mexico City and moved to Madison, Wisconsin, with her family at the age of two[1†]. Her father’s work in NGOs and later as a diplomat moved the family to Costa Rica, South Korea, and South Africa[1†]. After her parents separated, she moved to Mexico City with her mother at the age of 16[1†].

Luiselli’s personal life has been shaped by her experiences living in different parts of the world. Her father was the first Mexican ambassador to South Africa, and Luiselli had the opportunity to meet Nelson Mandela during this time[1†][13†]. These experiences have undoubtedly influenced her worldview and her writing.

In addition to her writing, Luiselli has been involved in various creative projects. Some of her recent projects include a ballet libretto for the choreographer Christopher Wheeldon, performed by the New York City Ballet in Lincoln Center in 2010; a pedestrian sound installation for the Serpentine Gallery in London; and a novella in installments for workers in a juice factory in Mexico[1†][14†].

Currently, Luiselli resides in New York City[1†][4†][14†]. Her experiences and the diverse cultures she has been exposed to are reflected in her work, which often explores themes of identity, migration, and the human condition.

Conclusion and Legacy

Valeria Luiselli’s work has left a significant impact on contemporary literature. Her unique approach to storytelling, which often straddles fiction and nonfiction, has been recognized and celebrated globally[8†]. Her writings, which focus on a multiplicity of problems and questions related to migration and displacement, have brought attention to the constant injustice faced by many in her community[8†].

Luiselli’s commitment to social issues extends beyond her writing. She and her niece teach creative writing to detained youth at a migrant center in upstate New York[8†][6†]. This activism, coupled with her powerful prose, led to her being awarded a MacArthur Fellowship in 2019[8†][6†].

Her work has been recognized with several awards, including the Vilcek Prize for Creative Promise in Literature in 2020[8†]. This award was given for her stunning and thoughtful prose that illuminates the experiences of immigrants[8†].

Luiselli’s legacy is not just in her published works but also in her influence on the literary world and her contributions to social justice. Her writings have opened up conversations about migration, identity, and displacement, making her one of the most important voices in contemporary literature[8†].

Key Information

References and Citations:

  1. Wikipedia (English) - Valeria Luiselli [website] - link
  2. Valeria Luiselli - Author [website] - link
  3. BookBrowse.com - Valeria Luiselli author biography [website] - link
  4. Penguin Random House - Valeria Luiselli [website] - link
  5. Bard College - Valeria Luiselli [website] - link
  6. Vilcek Foundation - Valeria Luiselli [website] - link
  7. Book Series In Order - Valeria Luiselli [website] - link
  8. Vilcek Foundation - Valeria Luiselli: “I Am Always Moving Between Genres, Identities, and Linguistic Communities” [website] - link
  9. LitCharts - Valeria Luiselli Character Analysis in Tell Me How It Ends [website] - link
  10. LitCharts - Tell Me How It Ends Chapter 1: Border Summary & Analysis [website] - link
  11. SuperSummary - Tell Me How It Ends Summary and Study Guide [website] - link
  12. eNotes - Tell Me How It Ends Analysis [website] - link
  13. The Modern Novel - Valeria Luiselli [website] - link
  14. Literary Hub - Valeria Luiselli: My Problem With Magic Realism ‹ Literary Hub [website] - link
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