By Laura Wolford

Headshot of Valeria Luiselli

While the Institute originally hoped to bring Valeria Luiselli, the 2021 Zale-Kimmerling Writer-in Residence, to campus, she wowed the Tulane community during a series of virtual events from March 2-9, 2021. Luiselli was born in Mexico City and grew up in South Korea, South Africa and India. She is an acclaimed writer of both fiction and nonfiction, and her books include Sidewalks (Coffee House Press, 2014); Faces in the Crowd (Coffee House Press, 2014); The Story of My Teeth (Coffee House Press, 2015);

Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions (Coffee House Press, 2017); and Lost Children Archive (Vintage, 2020). Because her work is so wide-ranging, Luiselli was able to engage in conversation with students and faculty during several class visits. Among her engagements were a visit to Professor Antonio Gómez’s

Spanish literature course, “Forms of the Real in Recent Latin American Culture” and Professor Zachary Lazar’s creative writing course, “Advanced Fiction Writing Workshop.” She detailed her past collaborative art projects in Professor Adrian Anagnost’s course on performance art, and she discussed immigration with students in Professor Casey Love’s political science course, “Politics of Immigration.” Finally, in a truly collaborative conversation, Luiselli met with archivists from the Tulane Archives and Special Collections and the Newcomb Archives about the role of the archives in her writing.

The highlight of Luiselli’s visit was a public reading and conversation with Tulane professor Yuri Herrera-Gutierrez from the Department of Spanish and Portuguese. In an atmosphere akin to a conversation between friends, the two discussed topics ranging from Luiselli’s work to her home and writing spaces. The Newcomb Alumnae Association hosted eight book club meetings across the country to discuss Luiselli’s book, Lost Children Archive, and because this year’s reading and interview were virtual, book club attendees from across the country were able to participate. Luiselli also participated in a book club discussion with Newcomb Institute staff.

While these virtual visits were not entirely the same as having a writer visit in person, they were more accessible to the Newcomb community at large, and Luiselli was the perfect writer to rise to the occasion. She is the recipient of a 2019 MacArthur Fellowship and the winner of two Los Angeles Times Book Prizes, The Carnegie Medal, an American Book Award. She has also been nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award, the Kirkus Prize, and the Booker Prize. She has been a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” honoree and the recipient of a Bearing Witness Fellowship from the Art for Justice Fund. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Granta, and McSweeney’s, and has been translated into more than twenty languages.

Every student and faculty who interacted with Valeria Luiselli had positive feedback about the depth of their conversations and the joy and excitement of having meaningful literary conversations at a time of social disconnect and isolation.