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Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 512

Lost Children Archive is a novel by American writer Valeria Luiselli. The story centers on a family road trip from New York to the Apache Nation's ancestral land in Arizona. The novel not only features sociopolitical commentary—particularly the highly divisive United States immigration policy—but also examines the dynamics of the...

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Lost Children Archive is a novel by American writer Valeria Luiselli. The story centers on a family road trip from New York to the Apache Nation's ancestral land in Arizona. The novel not only features sociopolitical commentary—particularly the highly divisive United States immigration policy—but also examines the dynamics of the family members, particularly the mother and father, who both work with audio recordings in their respective fields.

Quote 1

Stories are a way of subtracting the future from the past, the only way of finding clarity in hindsight.

Analysis

The mother is a radio journalist, and the father is an ethnographic historian who specializes in audio field recordings. In other words, the mother is a storyteller who reports on current events through radio journalism. She documents present affairs so that people in the future can use her work as resources when studying our era. The father is someone who deals with the past in his work. In fact, the family is going to Arizona so that the father can record ambient sounds in ancestral Apache lands, believing that the past will figuratively, and perhaps literally, talk to him. The quote suggests that the story of the immigrant families stuck at the US–Mexico border is just as important as the story of Geronimo and the Apache people.

Quote 2

Conversations, in a family, become linguistic archaeology.

Analysis

Within the family circle itself, stories are necessary for them to stay together. The lack of communication between the parents at the beginning of the story shows the importance of sharing one's story or expressing one's thoughts. The road trip itself is a story that the son and daughter will one day tell their children and will become a part of the family history.

Quote 3

It’s never clear what turns a space into a home, and a life-project into a life.

Analysis

The quote is interesting in the context of the story's setting, or various settings, because the narrative takes place during a road trip. They are not physically home, and yet the issues of home life follow them during the trip. In fact, the compactness of the car forces these suppressed family issues to be more palpable in such a tight space. One of the issues is the obsessiveness of the father regarding his career as an ethnographer and audio engineer. Likewise, the mother is dedicated to her work as a radio journalist, and even the sound of the car radio reminds her and her son that her work is inescapable.

They resemble a rootless, nomadic family traveling across the United States as they begin to redefine America itself as their home country and what it means to be American. Who is allowed to call America home? The indigenous peoples who arrived on the continent first, like the Apaches? The immigrants who want to move to the United States and create a new home in a new country? These are questions that surface in the novel as the son and the mother try to figure out their own definition of their family's home.

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Analysis