This past weekend I lost myself for a few hours in reading Valeria Luiselli’s gorgeous, tragic book Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions. Beginning in 2014, Luiselli has volunteered as a Spanish-English translator for children who’ve migrated north from Central America and are attempting to make a legal case to stay in the U.S. rather than be deported. The book is structured around the forty questions she must pose to each child to understand their stories and complete their immigration paperwork.
As a followup to my critique of Sean Hannity’s language, here’s an excerpt from page fifteen of her 2017 paperback:
In varying degrees, some papers and webpages announce the arrival of undocumented children like a biblical plague. Beware the locusts! They will cover the face of the ground so that it cannot be seen—these menacing, coffee-colored boys and girls, with their obsidian hair and slant eyes. They will fall from the skies, on our cars, on our green lawns, on our heads, on our school, on our Sundays. They will make a racket, they will bring their chaos, their sickness, their dirt, their brownness. They will cloud the pretty views, they will fill the future with bad omens, they will fill our tongues with barbarisms. And if they are allowed to stay here they will—eventually—reproduce!
We [the author and her husband] wonder if the reactions would be different were all these children of a lighter color: of better, purer breeds and nationalities. Would they be treated more like people? More like children? We read the papers, listen to the radio, see photographs, and wonder.