Tell Me How It Ends

“How do you explain that it is never inspiration that drives you to tell a story, but rather a combination of rage and clarity?” asks Valeria Luiselli in this slim but deeply researched work about what she learned as a volunteer translator for undocumented children in the federal court system.

Cover image of Tell Me How It Ends

Tell Me How It Ends is loosely structured along the lines of the intake interview that Ms. Luiselli conducted with children from Central America. In many cases, the children’s lives literally depended on their answers.

A young mother herself, Ms. Luiselli is alternately heartsick and furious—at the way the children are treated, at the gap between American ideals and the reality playing out on the Mexican border. Even so, writes NPR, “this is no hectoring screed. It's measured, fair-minded and expansive.”

For all the reasons Ms. Luiselli lists: “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.”

Also, it's a transcendently beautiful work of literary nonfiction that will engage your brain at the same time it breaks your heart.

Photograph of author Valeria Luiselli

Born in Mexico City, Valeria Luiselli is the author of Tell Me How It Ends and Lost Children Archive, among other works of fiction and nonfiction. Lost Children Archive was a finalist for the Booker Prize and winner of the Dublin Literary Award. The recipient of a MacArthur “genius” fellowship, Ms. Luiselli has also won the Carnegie Medal, an American Book Award, and a place on the National Book Foundation’s “Five Under 35” list. She is currently writer-in-residence at Bard College.


Order the book now from the Colgate Bookstore.

Meet Valeria Luiselli at Colgate on Sept. 9

We're sorry that you missed Valeria Luiselli's visit. If you'd like to see an archived copy of her presentation, please join the Living Writers mailing list.

Listen to a 3-question podcast

"I wanted to write a very straightforward, testimonial essay that would offer a kind of radiography or X-ray of what immigration law expects of undocumented minors," says Valeria Luiselli. For more on the origins of Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions, listen to this short podcast she did for Living Writers.

Go beyond the book

  • James Wood’s article for the New Yorker discusses the challenges of writing about the border crisis and the ways in which Luiselli gets it right in two books, Tell Me How It Ends and Lost Children Archive.
  • In this NPR review, John Powers reflects on how Luiselli humanizes the children who are the subjects of Tell Me How It Ends.
  • Dinaw Mengestu praises Luiselli for telling a story that challenges common misconceptions about the lives of immigrants in his New York Times review.
  • Jonathan Dee discusses the future of the social novel and praises Luiselli’s nonfictional yet passionate storytelling in his essay for Harper's Magazine.
  • In a recent article for CNN, Priscilla Alvarez sheds light on the inhumane conditions that have arisen in the struggle to house migrant children. 

Tell us what you think 

We're sorry you missed our Aug. 30 faculty roundtable and discussion of Tell Me How It Ends. You can listen to a recording of the first 15 minutes below. Guests included professors Laura Moure CecchiniEllen KralyFerdinand von Muench, and Marta Perez-Carbonell.

Follow the discussion on Twitter @ColgateLW using the hashtags #ColgateLivingWriters and #TellMeHowItEnds

Children chase after life, even if that chase might end up killing them.

Tell Me How It Ends
Join the conversation on Twitter @ColgateLW

Living Writers is put on by the Department of English at Colgate University with generous support from the Olive B. O'Connor Fund as well as the President and Provost/Dean of the Faculty. Support from the Africana & Latin American Studies and the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures helped make this event possible.