It’s impossible not to be deeply conscious of national boundaries when you cross them so many times a year. It’s also impossible, at least for me, not to remember once in a while that my legal status in the US is that of “alien non-resident.” It’s certainly not a pretty category if you feel an emotional attachment to a place you’ve been living in for the last five years or so. But none of this means that boundaries cross your work with the same dogmatic, bureaucratic nonchalance with which migration officers scan you before they stamp your passport. There’s a tremendous gap between governmental policies between countries and actual exchanges between people, which perhaps becomes wider and wider as the psychological and cultural distance between citizens of different nations becomes more narrow over time.
I don’t write from the perspective of a citizen of a particular nation, partly because I have lived in eight different countries and four different continents throughout my life, partly because I don’t find it an interesting category from which to explore human heart and mind. My characters don’t represent anyone or anything except themselves. I don’t believe in any form of essentialism. I do, however, write from and about the experience of someone who is constantly asking herself how on earth to make sense of the many–often contradictory–bits and pieces that seem to compose my identity: “My soul frets under the shadow of this question,” to quote Joyce rather freely.
—Valeria Luiselli was born in Mexico City in 1983, and grew up between South Korea, South Africa, and India. She is the author of the acclaimed book of personal essays Papeles Falsos (False Papers). In 2011 she published the novel “Los ingrávidos” (Faces in the Crowd), which was translated into multiple languages. Her essays and short stories have appeared in publications such as The New York Times, McSweeney’s and Granta. She has worked as a librettist for the New York City Ballet and collaborates with numerous art galleries.
2paragraphs gives special thanks to Anderson Tepper for curating our International Writers Interviews. Mr. Tepper is on the staff of Vanity Fair and is a Contributing Editor at Words Without Borders.