Cover image for Lost children archive
Title:
Lost children archive
ISBN:
9780525520610
Personal Author:
Edition:
First edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Alfred A. Knopf, 2019.

©2019
Physical Description:
383 pages : color illustrations ; 25 cm
General Note:
"This is a Borzoi Book."
Summary:
"From the two-time NBCC Finalist, a fiercely imaginative novel about a family's summer road trip across America--a journey that, with breathtaking imagery, spare lyricism, and profound humanity, probes the nature of justice and equality in America today. A mother and father set out with their kids from New York to Arizona. In their used Volvo--and with their ten-year-old son trying out his new Polaroid camera--the family is heading for the Apacheria: the region the Apaches once called home, and where the ghosts of Geronimo and Cochise might still linger. The father, a sound documentarist, hopes to gather an "inventory of echoes" from this historic, mythic place. The mother, a radio journalist, becomes consumed by the news she hears on the car radio, about the thousands of children trying to reach America but getting stranded at the southern border, held in detention centers, or being sent back to their homelands, to an unknown fate. But as the family drives farther west--through Virginia to Tennessee, across Oklahoma and Texas--we sense they are on the brink of a crisis of their own. A fissure is growing between the parents, one the children can feel beneath their feet. They are led, inexorably, to a grand, unforgettable adventure--both in the harsh desert landscape and within the chambers of their own imaginations. Told through the voices of the mother and her son, as well as through a stunning tapestry of collected texts and images--including prior stories of migration and displacement--Lost Children Archive is a story of how we document our experiences, and how we remember the things that matter to us the most. Blending the personal and the political with astonishing empathy, it is a powerful, wholly original work of fiction: exquisite, provocative, and deeply moving"-- Provided by publisher.
Holds:

Available:*

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On Order

Summary

Summary

"The novel truly becomes novel again in Luiselli's hands--electric, elastic, alluring, new." --Parul Sehgal, The New York Times

"Impossibly smart, full of beauty, heart and insight . . . Everyone should read this book." --Tommy Orange

Longlisted for the Women's Prize for Fiction

From the two-time NBCC Finalist, an emotionally resonant, fiercely imaginative new novel about a family whose road trip across America collides with an immigration crisis at the southwestern border--an indelible journey told with breathtaking imagery, spare lyricism, and profound humanity.

A mother and father set out with their two children, a boy and a girl, driving from New York to Arizona in the heat of summer. Their destination: Apacheria, the place the Apaches once called home.

Why Apaches? asks the ten-year-old son. Because they were the last of something, answers his father.

In their car, they play games and sing along to music. But on the radio, there is news about an "immigration crisis": thousands of kids trying to cross the southwestern border into the United States, but getting detained--or lost in the desert along the way.

As the family drives--through Virginia to Tennessee, across Oklahoma and Texas--we sense they are on the brink of a crisis of their own. A fissure is growing between the parents, one the children can almost feel beneath their feet. They are led, inexorably, to a grand, harrowing adventure--both in the desert landscape and within the chambers of their own imaginations.

Told through several compelling voices, blending texts, sounds, and images, Lost Children Archive is an astonishing feat of literary virtuosity. It is a richly engaging story of how we document our experiences, and how we remember the things that matter to us the most. With urgency and empathy, it takes us deep into the lives of one remarkable family as it probes the nature of justice and equality today.


Author Notes

Valeria Luiselli was born in Mexico City and grew up in South Korea, South Africa and India. An acclaimed writer of both fiction and nonfiction, she is the author of the essay collection Sidewalks; the novels Faces in the Crowd and The Story of My Teeth ; and, most recently, Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions . She is the winner of two Los Angeles Times Book Prizes and an American Book Award, and has twice been nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Kirkus Prize. She has been a National Book Foundation "5 Under 35" honoree and the recipient of a Bearing Witness Fellowship from the Art for Justice Fund. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Granta, and McSweeney's, among other publications, and has been translated into more than twenty languages. She lives in New York City.


Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Luiselli's powerful, eloquent novel begins with a family embarking on a road trip and culminates in an indictment of America's immigration system. An unnamed husband and wife drive, with their children in the backseat, from New York City to Arizona, he seeking to record remnants of Geronimo and the Chiricahua Apache, she hoping to locate two Mexican girls last seen awaiting deportation at a detention center. The husband recounts for the 10-year-old son and five-year-old daughter stories about a legendary band of Apache children. The wife explains how immigrant children become separated from parents, losing their way and sometimes their lives. Husband, wife, son, and daughter nickname themselves Cochise, Lucky Arrow, Swift Feather, and Memphis, respectively. When Swift Feather and Memphis go off alone, they become lost, then separated, then intermingled with the Apache and immigrant children, both imagined and all too real. As their parents frantically search, Memphis trades Swift Feather's map, compass, flashlight, binoculars, and Swiss Army knife for a bow and arrow, leaving them with only their father's stories about the area to guide them. Juxtaposing rich poetic prose with direct storytelling and brutal reality and alternating narratives with photos, documents, poems, maps, and music, Luiselli explores what holds a family and society together and what pulls them apart. Echoing themes from previous works (such as Tell Me How It Ends), Luiselli demonstrates how callousness toward other cultures erodes our own. Her superb novel makes a devastating case for compassion by documenting the tragic shortcomings of the immigration process. 31 photos. 75,000-copy announced first printing. (Feb.) c Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.


Booklist Review

*Starred Review* No stranger to inventive storytelling and the Mexican-American borderlands, Luiselli (The Story of My Teeth, 2015) launches this ultimately harrowing novel with an innocuous enough premise. An unnamed couple and their children embark on a cross-country road trip from New York City to Arizona. Husband and wife both work as audio recording artists, dedicated to capturing the soundscapes of everyday life. Upon their arrival, he plans to investigate the native Apache people who used to populate the Southwest, and she has promised to find a friend's daughters who have been arrested at the border. When the family arrives at their destination, however, the overwhelming scale of the migrant crisis redirects their efforts, and the children eventually lose themselves in the strange, uncertain terrain. As husband and wife rush to recover their own offspring, stories of Latin American asylum seekers and the disappeared Apaches overlap and converge, creating a poignant portrait of current events. Intense and keenly timely, Luiselli's latest work is perhaps her most politically relevant, and themes of translation and migration resonate, making it one of few novels that fully and powerfully convey the urgency of this unsettling situation.--Diego Báez Copyright 2019 Booklist


Library Journal Review

A woman with a daughter and a man with a son meet in New York while recording a sound archive of the city; eventually, they marry and become a family. After the project ends, the entire family drives across the country. The father has vague plans to document sounds in the area where the Apaches surrendered; the woman (of Mexican descent, like the author) wishes to research migrant children's experiences crossing the border. Meanwhile, it's evident that the marriage is falling apart. The first half of the story is told in the mother's voice, but this approach is abruptly abandoned for the ten-year-old son's perspective. Interspersed throughout are gripping excerpts from an imagined novel called Elegies of Lost Children, a grim, mythlike account of migrant children riding a freight train to an unnamed border. The novel also includes lists of books and articles, the contents of the family's archive in the trunk of the car, and photographs that document the family's travels, further blurring the border between fact and fiction. VERDICT The shifting sensibility from observer to child to child migrant gradually pulls readers inside the migrants' nightmare journey to create a story that, if fragmented, feels both timely and intelligent. [See Prepub Alert, 8/27/18.]-Reba Leiding, emerita, James Madison Univ. Lib., Harrisonburg, VA © Copyright 2019. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.


Excerpts

Excerpts

Part I: Family Soundscape   Relocations "An archive presupposes an archivist, a hand that collects and classifies." --Arlette Farge "To leave is to die a little. To arrive is never to arrive." --Migrant prayer   Departure Mouths open to the sun, they sleep. Boy and girl, foreheads pearled with sweat, cheeks red and streaked white with dry spit. They occupy the entire space in the back of the car, spread out, limbs offering, heavy and placid. From the copilot seat, I glance back to check on them every so often, then turn around to study the map again. We advance in the slow lava of traffic toward the city limits, across the GW Bridge, and merge onto the interstate. An airplane passes above us and leaves a straight long scar on the palate of the cloudless sky. Behind the wheel, my husband adjusts his hat, dries his forehead with the back of his hand. Family Lexicon I don't know what my husband and I will say to each of our children one day. I'm not sure which parts of our story we might each choose to pluck and edit out for them, and which ones we'd shuffle around and insert back in to produce a final version--even though plucking, shuffling, and editing sounds is probably the best summary of what my husband and I do for a living. But the children will ask, because ask is what children do. And we'll need to tell them a beginning, a middle, and an end. We'll need to give them an answer, tell them a proper story. The boy turned ten yesterday, just one day before we left New York. We got him good presents. He had specifically said: No toys. The girl is five, and for some weeks has been asking, insistently: When do I turn six? No matter our answer, she'll find it unsatisfactory. So we usually say something ambiguous, like: Soon. In a few months. Before you know it. The girl is my daughter and the boy is my husband's son. I'm a biological mother to one, a stepmother to the other, and a de facto mother in general to both of them. My husband is a father and a stepfather, to each one respectively, but also just a father. The girl and boy are therefore: step-sister, son, stepdaughter, daughter, step-brother, sister, stepson, brother. And because hyphenations and petty nuances complicate the sentences of everyday grammar--the us, the them, the our, the your--as soon as we started living together, when the boy was almost six and the girl still a toddler, we adopted the much simpler possessive adjective our to refer to them two. They became: our children. And sometimes: the boy, the girl. Quickly, the two of them learned the rules of our private grammar, and adopted the generic nouns Mama and Papa, or sometimes simply Ma and Pa. And until now at least, our family lexicon defined the scope and limits of our shared world.   Family Plot My husband and I met four years ago, recording a soundscape of New York City. We were part of a large team of people working for the Center for Oral History at Columbia University. The soundscape was meant to sample and collect all the keynotes and the soundmarks that were emblematic of the city: subway cars screeching to a halt, music in the long underground hallways of Forty-Second Street, ministers preaching in Harlem, bells, rumors and murmurs inside the Wall Street stock exchange. But it also attempted to survey and classify all the other sounds that the city produced and that usually went by, as noise, unnoticed: cash registers opening and closing in delis, a script being rehearsed in an empty Broadway theater, underwater currents in the Hudson, Canada geese flocking and shitting over Van Cortlandt Park, swings swinging in Astoria playgrounds, elderly Korean women filing wealthy fingernails on the Upper West Side, a fire breaking through an old tenement building in the Bronx, a passerby yelling a stream of motherfuckers at another. There were journalists, sound artists, geographers, urbanists, writers, historians, acoustemologists, anthropologists, musicians, and even bathymetrists, with those complicated devices called multibeam echo sounders, which were plunged into the waterspaces surrounding the city, measuring the depth and contours of the riverbeds, and who knows what else. Everyone, in couples or small groups, surveyed and sampled wavelengths around the city, like we were documenting the last sounds of an enormous beast. The two of us were paired up and given the task of recording all the languages spoken in the city, over a period of four calendar years. The description of our duties specified: "surveying the most linguistically diverse metropolis on the planet, and mapping the entirety of languages that its adults and children speak." We were good at it, it turned out; maybe even really good. We made a perfect team of two. Then, after working together for just a few months, we fell in love--completely, irrationally, predictably, and headfirst, like a rock might fall in love with a bird, not knowing who was the rock was and who the bird--and when summer arrived, we decided to move in together. The girl remembers nothing about that period, of course. The boy says he remembers that I was always wearing an old blue cardigan that had lost a couple of buttons and came down to my knees, and that sometimes, when we rode the subway or buses--always with freezing air pouring out--I'd take it off and use it as a blanket to cover him and the girl, and that it smelled of tobacco and was itchy. Moving in together had been a rash decision--messy, confusing, urgent, and as beautiful and real as life feels when you're not thinking about its consequences. We became a tribe. Then came the consequences. We met each other's relatives, got married, started filing joint taxes, became a family.   Inventory In the front seats: he and I. In the glove compartment: proof of insurance, registration, owner's manual, and road maps. In the backseat: the two children, their backpacks, a tissue box, and a blue cooler with water bottles and perishable snacks. And in the trunk: a small duffle bag with my Sony PCM-D50 digital voice recorder, headphones, cables, and extra batteries; a large Porta-Brace organizer for his collapsible boom pole, mic, headphones, cables, zeppelin and dead-cat windshield, and the 702T Sound Device. Also: four small suitcases with our clothes, and seven bankers boxes (15" x 12" x 10"), double-thick bottoms and solid lids. Covalence Despite our efforts to keep it all firmly together, there has always been an anxiety around each one's place in the family. We're like those problematic molecules you learn about in chemistry classes, with covalent instead of ionic bonds--or maybe it's the other way around. The boy lost his biological mother at birth, though that topic is never spoken about. My husband delivered the fact to me, in one sentence, early on in our relationship, and I immediately understood that it was not a matter open to further questions. I don't like to be asked about the girl's biological father, either, so the two of us have always kept a respectful pact of silence about those elements of our and our children's pasts. In response to all that, perhaps, the children have always wanted to listen to stories about themselves within the context of us. They want to know everything about when the two of them became our children, and we all became a family. They're like anthropologists studying cosmogonic narratives, but with a touch more narcissism. The girl asks to hear the same stories over and over again. The boy asks about moments of their childhood together, as if they had happened decades or even centuries ago. So we tell them. We tell them all the stories we're able to remember. Always, if we miss a part, confuse a detail, or if they notice any minimal variation to the version they remember, they interrupt, correct us, and demand that the story be told once more, properly this time. So we rewind the tape in our minds and play it again from the beginning. Excerpted from Lost Children Archive: A Novel by Valeria Luiselli All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.