Characters

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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 424

Valeria Luiselli’s book Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions is nonfiction, meaning the characters in it are all real people, though some are not given names.

Valeria Luiselli

Valeria Luiselli is an immigrant from Mexico living and working in the United States. She is an award-winning...

(The entire section contains 424 words.)

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Valeria Luiselli’s book Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions is nonfiction, meaning the characters in it are all real people, though some are not given names.

Valeria Luiselli

Valeria Luiselli is an immigrant from Mexico living and working in the United States. She is an award-winning writer, mostly of essays and journalism. She is in her mid-thirties, with a husband, daughter, and stepson. Her parents were Mexican diplomats. She was educated in both Mexico and the US and teaches literature in New York. She is ambivalent about both Mexico and the US. Luiselli describes herself as not knowing how to be a Mexican, yet she is also deeply aware of the hostility often aimed at immigrants, and Mexicans in particular, in the US.

Luiselli's family

Luiselli's family plays a role in the story. She, her husband, and her daughter are all waiting for their green cards as the story begins. Later in the essay, her husband and daughter's cards arrive, while hers does not. Her stepson lives in Mexico and visits during the book's events. Partially because of these circumstances, Luiselli volunteers as a court translator for undocumented refugee children during the 2014 crisis, when tens of thousands of children fleeing violence in Central America arrived at the US–Mexico border.

Luiselli's niece also briefly shows up in the story as a volunteer at aid organization The Door. The organization's other staff members are also in the essay. All are young women, but we don't learn much else about them.

Refugee children

Almost all the remaining characters in the essay are child refugees. Children describe in harrowing detail crossing the border on train boxcars intended for freight; they call the trains La Bestia ("The Beast"). They must ride underneath, between, or on top of the trains, and some die on the way. Some also die crossing the desert on foot. Coyotes (people-smugglers) take them and then direct them to turn themselves in to Border Patrol and apply for asylum.

Manu

The essay describes one particular refugee named Manu in detail. Two gangs in Honduras, MS-13 and Barrio 18, tried to force him and his friend to join. When they refused, his friend was murdered at school. The next day, Manu's family had him leave for the US. Once in New York, though, the same two gangs were at his school. They tried to force him to join and knocked out two of his teeth. It's worth noting that both gangs began in Los Angeles, and most of their members are Americans.

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