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Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 547

We find a country that is as beautiful as it is broken, and we are somehow now part of it, so we are also broken with it, and feel ashamed, confused, and sometimes hopeless, and are trying to figure out how to do something about all that.
This passage captures...

(The entire section contains 547 words.)

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We find a country that is as beautiful as it is broken, and we are somehow now part of it, so we are also broken with it, and feel ashamed, confused, and sometimes hopeless, and are trying to figure out how to do something about all that.
This passage captures Luiselli's deep-seated affective ambivalence about the United States. She posits a collective first-person subject—a "we"—that contains any and all immigrants to the US. This subject recognizes the beauty of the US while partaking experientially of its "brokenness." This sense of identification with the US hinges upon an empathetic sense of oneness that is co-extensive with shame, confusion, and perplexity. America figures in this passage as a prompt to thought, as much as a source of emotional pride (because of the beauty of the US) and pain (because of its perceived brokenness). The key to this passage is the tone of ambivalence; the conceptual theme is the affective ambivalence and conflictedness that is inherent to any complicated sense of belonging.
Perhaps the only way to grant any justice—were that even possible—is by hearing and recording those stories over and over again so that they come back, always, to haunt and shame us. Because being aware of what is happening in our era and choosing to do nothing about it has become unacceptable. Because we cannot allow ourselves to go on normalizing horror and violence. Because we can all be held accountable if something happens under our noses and we don’t dare even look.
In this passage, Luiselli calls attention to the importance of individual, collective, and public memory as a means of challenging injustice. Her concern is not only with hearing and recording, but, more broadly, with fostering awareness. Awareness figures in this passage not as silent, passive acknowledgment but as a means of action that amounts to a means of resistance against inattention. Paying attention, listening, hearing, and recording are means of fostering moral accountability.
Before coming to the United States, I knew what others know: that the cruelty of its borders was only a thin crust, and that on the other side a possible life was waiting. I understood, some time after, that once you stay here long enough, you begin to remember the place where you originally came from the way a backyard might look from a high window in the deep of winter: a skeleton of the world, a tract of abandonment, objects dead and obsolete. And once you're here, you'r ready to give everything, or almost everything, to stay and play a part in the great theatre of belonging.
This passage is marked by an awareness of the fragile and ambiguous nature of belonging in the US. Luiselli uses the metaphor of the migration experience as a "thin crust" protecting a "possible life" on the other side of the border. She proceeds to imagine what a post-migratory perspective on the place from whence one came might entail. Interestingly, Luiselli uses spatial metaphors, such as "a backyard," as well as abstract images, such as "a skeleton of the world." The passage concludes by conjuring up an image of the US as a "theater of belonging," a space in which varied social actors enact diverse modes of belonging in concert.
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