Common Read

Welcome to the 2020-2021 UM-Flint Common Read

We invite you to read the selected text and join in discussions and programs in the Fall semester. Since 2011, the Common Read Committee has selected a book that we encourage students, staff and faculty to read in order to bring the campus together around a common reading experience and the conversations it generates. We will update the Common Read web page as we add opportunities to discuss the book and its themes.

Book Cover: Tell Me How It Ends, An Essay in Forty Questions by Valeria Luiselli

The 2020-2021 selection is Valeria Luiselli’s, Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions
Luiselli’s short book, about 100 pages, takes as its starting point the intake questionnaire presented to unaccompanied refugee children, mainly from Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras, in the immigration courts of New York City. In 2015 Luiselli worked in these courts as a volunteer interpreter, interviewing children and translating their stories from Spanish to English. Prompted by the intake questions, Luiselli reflects on the border, family and childhood, community, national identity and belonging, and language itself. She notes the hemispheric political and social history that has created child refugees and the U.S. policies that have trapped them in a cruel immigration labyrinth. The book takes its title from Luiselli’s young daughter’s question after hearing pieces of the children’s stories, “Tell me how it ends, Mamma.”  

“I hear words, spoken in the mouths of children, threaded in complex narratives. They are delivered with hesitance, sometimes distrust, always with fear. I have to transform them into written words, succinct sentences, barren term. The children’s stories are always shuffled, stuttered, always shattered beyond the repair of a narrative order. The problem with trying to tell their story is that it has no beginning, no middle, and no end.” pp.7-8, Tell Me How It Ends

Telling stories doesn’t solve anything, doesn’t reassemble broken lives. But perhaps it is a way of understanding the unthinkable. If a story haunts us, we keep telling it to ourselves, replaying it in the silence while we shower, while we walk alone or in moments of insomnia.” pp. 69-70, Tell Me How It Ends