Tell Me How it Ends
OPEN LETTER TO VALERIA LUISELLI
Dear Ms. Luiselli,
I'm writing this letter to you not only because I've grown incredibly fond of your book Tell Me How It Ends, but also because of the way your book has greatly moved my peers and me--so much that it has pushed us forward into a call for action. We are a group of high school and University senior students in New York City with different backgrounds and schools who wish to provide guidance and direct aid to immigrants who have trouble accessing it. We are a part of Columbia University’s Freedom and Citizenship program, and we have been deeply inspired by your writing as we continue to work on a year-long civic engagement project centered around the topic of immigration. (You can learn more about our work at freedomandcitizenship.columbia.edu.)
When we read the stories of people like Manu and others who have gone through unimaginable journeys for a chance to live peacefully, we were driven to make some much needed change. Your ability to bring people together and help them fight for the right cause is remarkable. Growing up in New York City, diversity is all around and it allows us to explore the differences in culture of the people surrounding us. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, but my mother has taken me and my siblings on multiple adventures all throughout the city. Every school that I’ve gone to was completely different and diverse compared to the people in my neighborhood. Through the diversity of my schools I was able to become friends with many different people and learn about their cultures as we became close. I believe that this is something that should be deeply appreciated or at least recognized. No matter how much diversity surrounds us, the education system often ignores the effect that some immigration policies might have on some students, leading to these students to feel as though they have no one to talk to concerning their situation. The trauma that these children face when leaving their mother country due to gang violence, poverty, disasters, or abandonment is heart wrenching. However, it seems as though it’s still not enough because things seem to only get worse. From the “ice box” and “La Biesta” the stories that these children shared with you during the interviews help us understand the lingering pain that they constantly feel. In return, all they ask for is safety and a home. Once again, it’s seems as though that is too much to ask for from a nation that was created from the desire for freedom and independence. Freedom and independence, two words that every patriot worships religiously, and yet when some children are looking for a helping hand, those words mean nothing. American citizens holding flags that say “illegal is a crime” and “return to sender” often makes me wonder if anyone has ever thought of putting themselves in the shoes of these children or looking at the situation as if it were their own children. Would they want them to be treated that way? Treat others the way you want to be treated, a great saying, however I don’t think the advice is often followed.
We were deeply inspired by your writing about your students’ TIIA organization. For our civic activism project, we are instituting Student Immigration Ambassador (SIA) clubs into two of our schools (Liberty High School for Newcomers and Manhattan Center for Science and Math) before we graduate . We have already attained the enthusiastic support of both administrators and younger students who will continue to keep the clubs going after we graduate. The purpose of SIA is to offer aid and and friendly face for those who need help or wish to help no matter what their status is. We are hoping that we will be able to connect with non profit organizations that would be willing to meet with the board members of our program and help it grow so that it becomes accessible for many more!
Currently we are initiating our plans for conserving our project with Liberty High School where one of our members is in the process of forming the SIA foundation. We are hoping to have an orientation where we would invite parents and students who also are interested in being part of the club. We feel as though you would play a huge part in bringing inspiration to the incoming students and families if you were able to participate as a guest speaker! Reading your book alone was such an inspiration for me and I’ve also recommended it to my English teachers for their lesson plans. We would also love to get in contact with you and maybe have a meeting and be able to discuss the guest speaking, your book, and the TIIA association at Columbia University.
Freedom and Citizenship Immigration Group
"It's not even the American dream that they pursue but rather the modest aspiration to wake up from the nightmare into which they were born."