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Reading Recommendation: "Tell Me How It Ends” by Valeria Luiselli

Tell Me How It Ends” by Valeria Luiselli
Review by Chanel Jimenez


In 2017, I worked as an intern for the International Rescue Committee in their Immigration Department. I would spend my days translating documents and preparing packets to send to the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services on behalf of individuals and families who were petitioning residency or citizenship. Sometimes, I would get a phone call from a family member who had petitioned their niece or nephew asking for an update on their case, telling me that they have been waiting for months. I would hear stories of kids from El  Salvador who couldn’t leave their houses anymore to go to the store or to school because gangs were pressuring them to join. 

That same year, I had started my own petitioning process for my dad and his wife. Up until this point, I had been far removed from the claws of an exhausting immigration process. Every day, I would leave the IRC office and sit in my car thinking about my own life. Existentialism would coarse through my veins as it became more and more obvious of the peace of mind and convenience a piece of paper stating my own citizenship granted me. Sometimes, I would cry and other times I would call my mom and thank her. But everyday I would sit there and process.

In the book: Tell me how it ends, Valeria Luiselli, writes about her own experience working with migrant children. She uses the 40 question survey that the USCIS uses to determine if a child has enough reason to be granted asylum in the US. She details how each question is difficult to ask and even more difficult to answer. For example, question 7 asks "Did anything happen on your trip to the U.S. that scared you or hurt you?". Children sometimes are so numb or used to the violent crimes they faced at home or on their trip that they don’t mention it or think it's an important detail. Other times, the children are so young that they haven’t processed the trauma and don’t mention anything at all.

This book is fueled by Luiselli's bottled up shame and rage. Torn between American ideals and the way we actually treat undocumented children, and undocumented individuals as a whole. The author also points out how cruelly Mexico treats Central American migrants. And she deftly shows how the U.S. and Central America aren't distinct entities but part of the same complicated social ecosystem.

This is a book everyone should read because not everyone has the opportunity to volunteer, intern or otherwise participate in the U.S. immigration system. After reading, you will be left with more questions and feeling indignant that you didn’t know all of this before.