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Valeria Luiselli: Lost Children Archive

Lose yourself in a powerful new novel that lays bare the realities of migration, by the award-winning author of The Story of My Teeth.

Lost Children Archive powerfully reflects upon what it is to be human in an inhuman world.

The novel tells the story of a family in New York who pack their car and set out on a road trip. A mother, a father, a boy and a girl head south west, to the Apacheria, the regions of the US which used to be Mexico.

They drive for hours through desert and mountains. They stop at diners when they’re hungry and sleep in motels when it gets dark.

The little girl tells surreal knock knock jokes and makes them all laugh. The little boy educates them all and corrects them when they’re wrong. The mother and the father are barely speaking to each other.

Meanwhile, thousands of children are journeying north, travelling to the US border from Central America and Mexico. A grandmother or aunt has packed a backpack for them, putting in a bible, one toy, some clean underwear.

They have been met by a coyote: a man who speaks to them roughly and frightens them. They cross a river on rubber tubing and walk for days, saving whatever food and water they can. Then they climb to the top of a train and travel precariously in the open container on top. Not all of them will make it to the border.

Valeria Luiselli was born in Mexico City in 1983. She was named as one of the 20 best Mexican writers under 40, and is the author of the novels Faces in the Crowd and The Story of My Teeth which won the 2016 LA Times Book Prize for Fiction.

She also wrote the essay collection Sidewalks; and the American Book Award-winning Tell Me How It Ends, an essay about the situation faced by children arriving at the US-Mexico border without papers.

Luiselli appears here in conversation with writer, filmmaker and broadcaster Bidisha, who works with BBC television and radio, Channel 4 News and Sky News, and is a trustee of the Booker Prize Foundation. Her fifth book, Asylum and Exile: The Hidden Voices of London, is based on this work. Bidisha was the chair of judges for the 2018 Forward Prizes for Poetry and has directed her first short film, An Impossible Poison.

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Purcell Room


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Age recommendation
For ages 14+