Lost Children Archive

by Valeria Luiselli

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Student Question

Which 40-line excerpt from Lost Children Archive illustrates the impact of family separation on children?

Quick answer:

While many parts of Lost Children Archive show how children are affected by being separated from their family, a particularly compelling example appears on page 264, beginning "We called for Ma and Pa..." to the page break on the next page.

Expert Answers

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The Lost Children Archive explores the motif of the child refugee and the impact on a family when the family is separated. While the novel interrogates the crisis at the southern border of the United States, it also studies a close family whose two children become separated from the parents. On page 264, the boy reflects that, despite calling for his mom and dad, "our voices got drowned in the air....that's when we really realized...that we'd got lost."

The intense feeling of isolation and loneliness that descends shows in the three-time repetition of the word "alone" in the sentence that opens the following paragraph: "alone, alone completely, much more alone." The boy also worries that wild animals "would notice we were lost and attack us." The vulnerability and weakness that the boy feels highlight the safety and protection that the family unit provides; in the absence of that safety and protection, "wild beasts" preoccupy the children's thoughts.

Additionally, that the boy thinks back to a time "when we were still all in the car together" magnifies the significance of the family, for the boy takes comfort in this memory even though, alone in the desert, he and his sister are "scared." In the memory, he promised his mother that he would know how to find her again if he ever got lost from her.

The idea of growing apart and back together is what keeps the boy trudging through the desert. Thus, this section elucidates how the children experience their separation from the family: as an intense loneliness and alone-ness, as a time of vulnerability and exposure to scary threats, and as a time to reflect back on when the entire family was together.

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