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Lost Children Archive

by Valeria Luiselli, Valeria Luiselli

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,1866216,598 (3.82)199
"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"-- "A novel about a family of four, on the cusp of fracture, who take a trip across America--a story told through varying points of view, and including archival documents and photographs"--… (more)
  1. 10
    The New Wilderness by Diane Cook (hairball)
    hairball: Children in the desert and other good writing.
  2. 10
    Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera (stretch)
  3. 11
    Swamplandia! by Karen Russell (booklove2)
  4. 01
    Census by Jesse Ball (booklove2)
    booklove2: sad yet humorous road trips with children
  5. 01
    Goodbye, Vitamin by Rachel Khong (booklove2)
    booklove2: told through short chapters, sad yet humorous, focusing on family
  6. 02
    American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins (novelcommentary)
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» See also 199 mentions

English (57)  Dutch (3)  Finnish (1)  Spanish (1)  All languages (62)
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
A Lost Family

I really wanted to like this book. It deals with important social issues...

1. The immigration crisis & its effects on families
2. Family dissolution and its effects on children
3. The ecfects of parents self absorption on children
The parents in this book were so focused on helping others and documenting the wrongs of society that they were blind to the pain they inflicted on the people closest to them, their own "lost children".
It was a very dense text in which the author inserted related stories and quotes. This took away from the flow of the story.

( )
  Chrissylou62 | Apr 11, 2024 |
Modernist fiction and political activism have been brought together to produce Lost Children Archive. Luiselli is the daughter of a Mexican ambassador. She grew up in countries around the world as her father was posted to them to represent his nation, she is the holder of a Ph.D. in comparative literature from Columbia University, she is a professor at Hofstra, and, like myself and probably most people who will read this novel, has political values commonly found in people from such a cosmopolitan, intellectual, relatively elite background. When the southern border crisis grew around 2014 or so, Luiselli admirably volunteered her time and efforts to help the desperate refugees trying to reach the United States navigate the US legal system. One isn't surprised to read that this novel began as a self-admitted screed against American racism and American imperialism before being put on hold and later re-worked as a modernist intertextual manuscript, in dialogue with Pound, Eliot, Woolf, and others.

Does it work, judging it as fiction (as we have to take it for granted that it won't change a thing politically)? In the first half of this novel of two parts, the story is told from the point of view of a mother traveling by car from NYC to the border area with her soon-to-be ex-husband and their two children. She is working on a story about the children who travel to the border alone and disappear in their attempt, wiped from the map, except sometimes as a red X marking where bodies are found in the desert. She questions her project, mirroring Luiselli herself no doubt:
Political concern: How can a radio documentary be useful in helping more undocumented children find asylum? Aesthetic problem: On the other hand, why should a sound piece, or any other form of storytelling, for that matter, be a means to a specific end? I should know, by now, that instrumentalism, applied to any art form, is a way of guaranteeing really shitty results: light pedagogic material, moralistic young adult novels, boring art in general. Professional hesitance: But then again, isn't art for art's sake so often an absolutely ridiculous display of intellectual arrogance? Ethical concern: And why would I even think that I can or should make art with someone else's suffering?

Along the way she and her family come into contact with some unfortunately stereotypically drawn caricatures of bigoted residents of "middle America". There is a funny scene though when she and her husband meet a man who is an enthusiast of Westerns, and in trying to fake a sympathetic fondness for them herself, she can only come up with Bela Tarr's Satantango, which the clueless gentleman admits to being unfamiliar with and suggests they watch it together. Our family flees before discovery. As a scene demonstrating the vast cultural gulf and disconnectedness between stereotypical "coastal elites" and stereotypical "middle America", it's pretty good.

In part two of the story, the narration shifts to her ten year old son, who takes along his five year old sister as they run away from their parents to find some "lost children" and make their way to a location of importance to the Apache tribe, whose genocidal destruction by the white imperialists is the focus of the husband. His voice is sometimes completely unbelievable as a child, and sometimes boringly simplistic enough to be so. It culminates in a fever dream of a 20 page long sentence in which his viewpoint alternates with that of a small group of lost refugee children who seem to physically emerge from a book he and the mother have been reading in a whirlwind of, what, neo-magical realism? Definitely odd, sometimes engrossing, sometimes not.

Overall for me it is a novel that is highly intellectual, produces lots to discuss, and is moderately enjoyable as a work of fiction. ( )
  lelandleslie | Feb 24, 2024 |
WINNER OF THE DUBLIN LITERARY AWARD 2021 Explores what holds a family and society together and what pulls them apart. It juxtaposes rich, poetic prose with direct storytelling.
  MBPortlandLibrary | Sep 14, 2023 |
(7.5)I have been anticipating reading this book for a few years, especially after reading [American Dirt]. If I remember correctly, Luiselli was critical of [[Jeanine Cummins]], for sensationalizing a very serious situation in her book. I personally found [American Dirt] a page-turner and thought it drew my attention to the crisis.
Not so, in this novel. I found it slow moving and struggled to engage with the individual members in this family. I found both parents portrayed were self-absorbed and very focused on pursuing their career paths. The road trip sounded tedious for the children. I, also wondered if there was an autobiographical element to the story. The story finally gains momentum when the son picks up the narrative and this section saved the book from a lower rating by me. However, this section was also written in solid text of one single long sentence! I recommend you make time to read it in one sitting, possibly the purpose of this devise. ( )
  HelenBaker | Jul 31, 2023 |
First, let me say that if I were just reviewing the writing of this book alone, it would definitely be in five star territory. I loved the narrative voices, especially of the mother, and the use of language. I also found it interesting how the author used literary references and wove in language and metaphors of other authors. I wouldn't hesitate to pick up another book by this author.

All that being said, thematically, I think this book tried way too hard. Ostensibly, the story is about a blended family where a father with a son married a mother with a daughter. The father and mother met on a work project where they connected, but when that project ended, their divergent career goals started to tear them apart. And there in lies my first critique, their career goals really were not all that different, and it's pretty hard for me to imagine their marriage falling apart because of them, and yet, the reader wasn't really shown much else about the marriage, so there's no other conclusion that can be reached.

The novel goes on to attempt to tie the history of the Apache Indians to our current immigration situation with the imminent loss of this family. The Apache references seemed completely superfluous to me. I didn't think they added to the theme nor really enhanced the story. Ostensibly, the father was obsessed with researching them, but beyond that, it just seemed extraneous and distracting.

The parallels between some of the challenges with our immigration/refugee issues here in the U.S. and the loss of family due to divorce worked better for me. The son narrates the second half of the book, and I felt there were specific scenes that related to his step sister that were so well done. I felt his pain at both the thought of losing her and the real loss of her. The issues regarding immigration were mostly put forward in the form of chapters of a book that the son and mother were reading called the Elegies of Lost Children, and the sorrows and struggles evoked there were moving.

All in all, I would have liked to see this book edited differently. I felt that the author's true strengths were muddied by trying to do too much. Sometimes less is more, and the prose was evocative and beautiful making the "cleverness" just feel like overreaching.

( )
  Anita_Pomerantz | Mar 23, 2023 |
Showing 1-5 of 57 (next | show all)
In ihrem Roman "Archiv der verlorenen Kinder" rückt Valeria Luiselli das Schicksal der Flüchtlingskinder an der Grenze zu den USA wieder in den Fokus.
 

» Add other authors (6 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Luiselli, Valeriaprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Luiselli, Valeriamain authorall editionsconfirmed
De Montebello, KivlighanNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
DeMeritt, WilliamNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Luiselli, Maia EnrigueNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Dedication
To Maia and Dylan, who showed me childhood all over again.
First words
Mouths open to the sun, they sleep.
Quotations
I stand in front of the trunk of our boxes, five of them, with our archive - Though it's optimistic to call our collected mess an archive - plus the two empty boxes for the children's future archive. p42
What's a midwife? the girl asks. Someone who delivers babies, says my husband. Like the postwoman? Yes, he says, like a postwoman. p54
We order four hamburgers and four pink lemonades, and spread our map out on the tale while we wait for the food. We follow yellow and red highway lines with the tips of our index fingers, like a troupe of gypsies reading an enormous open palm. p125
Then, in a gasstation outside a town called
Loco, I get asked about my accent and place of birth, and I say no, I was not born in this country, and when I say where I was born, I don't even get a nod in return.
Just cold, dead silence, as if I had confessed a sin. p129
I take my recorder from the glove compartment and start and start recording my husband,.. . His stories are not directly linked to the piece I'm working om, but the more I listen to the stories he tells about the country's past, the more it seems like he's talking about the present. p133
Last words
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"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"-- "A novel about a family of four, on the cusp of fracture, who take a trip across America--a story told through varying points of view, and including archival documents and photographs"--

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Book description
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.
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