Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 355
In Tell Me How It Ends, Valeria Luiselli deals with the three important themes of national belonging, human dignity, and human rights.
With respect to the theme of national belonging, Luiselli shows how the claims of memory and familial aspiration to achieve a better life transcend boundaries. In this book, belonging is not an "either-or" sense of belonging to one country over and against another one but a complicated tapestry of conflicting emotions about where one is, and where one hopes to be, relative to where one has been. Belonging is the site of tension and of internal difference related to the sense of self rather than an uncomplicated, clear-cut matter of official, legal categories.
With respect to the theme of human dignity, Lusielli stresses that human dignity is tethered to the commonality of human dreams. In this book, dignity is closely related to the means by which people tell and act out their life stories. The very title of the book—Tell Me How It Ends—suggests that there is dignity in the very act of imagining a future beyond the narrow categories of the "boxes" on forms that denote official status. In this book, dignity is inherent to the human person rather than a property of conferred or ascribed status. In one episode in the book, a grandmother embroiders a ten-digit telephone number on the clothing of her granddaughters out of fear that they will forget it. She wants them to have a token of identity that is also a reminder of dignity: they are still connected to a family who will protect them on their journey.
With respect to the theme of human rights, Luiselli defends the inalienable human rights of all immigrants to be listened to and to have their stories faithfully told. Here, human rights include narrative rights—that is, the right to one's own story. By basing human rights on human dignity, and human dignity upon human commonality that includes a transnational sense of belonging, Luiselli argues for moral universalism, albeit of a variety that is respectful of diverse origins, identities, and traditions.
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