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Author Valeria Luiselli to speak on immigration, undocumented children



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Author Valeria Luiselli will speak on Thursday in Bloomington about her experiences writing about undocumented children and immigration.

The event will take place 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater. It is free and open to the public, but tickets are required to enter.

Luiselli’s visit is part of IU Arts and Humanities Council’s "Mexico Remixed" programming. The annual festival previously explored Chinese and Indian culture and now celebrates Mexico in its third year.

It aims to celebrate the culture and history of a certain country each year through a series of events, activities and speakers, said Ed Comentale, director of the Arts and Humanities Council.

Joe Hiland, associate director of the council, said the group tries to bring a contemporary literary figure each year whose work encompasses cultural, social and political issues facing the U.S. and the world.

He said the council wanted to bring Luiselli because of the relevance of her work writing about immigration and the experiences of undocumented minors seeking refugee status.

“It’s something that concerns people on our campus, people in the wider Bloomington community and people in the United States in general,” he said. “We thought she was an important voice to bring in and speak to some of those issues.”

During the free event, Luiselli will read from her newest novel, “Lost Children Archive.” The novel is based off of her previous nonfiction essay “Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions.”

The essay is structured around questions Luiselli asked undocumented Latin American children facing deportation while working as a translator, including “Why did you come to the United States?” and “Did anything happen on your trip to the U.S. that scared you or hurt you?”

Hiland said Luiselli’s work is important because it brings human connection to the political issues and polarization surrounding immigration.

“She gives a really good portrayal of what their lives are like, what their struggles are and how they are affected on a human level,” he said.

IU Libraries and the Monroe County Public Library held public book discussions of “Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions” in preparation for Luiselli’s visit.

“Not only do we want to provide books and services to the community,” he said. “We also want to participate in civil discussion on contemporary affairs. And this book lends itself to that kind of conversation.”

Following the reading, IU professor Deborah Cohn will moderate a Q&A session. The Arts and Humanities Council is comprising a list of questions and is still accepting submissions from the public on its social media accounts, Hiland said.

Copies of Luiselli’s books will be available for purchase, and Luiselli will sign books following the reading, Hiland said.

Tickets are available at the Buskirk-Chumley Theater box office or in the Friends of Art Bookshop in IU’s Fine Arts Building.

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