About the Common Read Author, Valeria Luiselli

Valeria Luiselli was born in Mexico City and lived in Costa Rica, South Korea, South Africa, and India. Valeria Luiselli earned a BA (2008) in philosophy from the National Autonomous University of Mexico and a PhD (2015) in comparative literature from Columbia University. She was an assistant professor in the Romance Languages and Literatures Department at Hofstra University (2015–2018) and taught in City College of New York’s Beyond Identity Program (2017) prior to joining Bard College’s Program in Written Arts as a writer in residence in the fall of 2019. 

Valeria Luiselli, a writer of fiction and essays, draws from a range of Latin American, American, and European literary traditions. She writes in both Spanish and English.  Her books have been translated into more than twenty languages, and her work has appeared in the New York Times, Letras Libres, The New Yorker, El País, and Harper’s Magazine and elsewhere.

Luiselli’s most recent books focus on child refugees and themes of language and dislocation. They build upon her work as a court interpreter for unaccompanied child refugees caught in the labyrinth of U.S. immigration policy. In Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions (2017), she exposes the tension between the bureaucratic language of immigration courts and the limited ability of language to capture children’s feelings and experiences. Children’s stories and the problems of narrating them also inform her novel Lost Children Archive (2019). The novel is a fictionalized account of her own family’s road trip from New York to the U.S.-Mexico borderlands, combined with stories of the unfolding Central American migration crisis. 

Luiselli is the author of the essay collection Papeles Falsos (2010), translated into English as Sidewalks (2014), and the novel Los ingrávidos (2011), translated into English as Faces in the Crowd (2014). Luiselli’s novel La historia de mis dientes (2014), translated into English as The Story of My Teeth (2015), chronicles the adventures of an auctioneer and teller of tall tales named Gustavo “Highway” Sánchez. The project originated as a commission from the art gallery of the Mexican juice corporation Grupo Jumex. Luiselli engaged the workers in the Jumex factory as collaborators in the writing process, sharing installments of the work in progress with them and incorporating their reactions into the novel’s chapters. 

Together with her students, Luiselli founded the Teenage Immigrant Integration Association at Hofstra University in 2015, a program that supports immigrant and refugee teens through English teaching, soccer games, and civil rights education. She has researched and written about mass incarceration in the U.S., with an emphasis on detention centers, connecting immigration detention and mass incarceration. She started a literary program to teach creative writing to girls in detention in upstate New York.