In 2015, internationally acclaimed author Valeria Luiselli volunteered as an interpreter in federal immigration court — hearing first-hand the stories of children who had traveled alone from Mexico into the United States seeking refuge.
The 40 questions she was tasked with interpreting for undocumented Latin American children facing deportation, and the children's answers, structured Luiselli's latest book, "Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions." What resulted was a harrowing portrait of migration and a deeper look at the young faces affected by current immigration practices.
Since then, Luiselli said her research and writing has been focused on the experiences of female immigrants seeking asylum. And that will be a major focus of her talk at the Radisson Quad-City Plaza in Davenport on Oct. 23, as part of the Stanley Foundation's 12th annual International Women Authors Series.
"I've been writing more about the immigration detention spaces and asylum law, from a gender perspective," Luiselli said in a phone interview. "I've been researching how asylum law applies to, or doesn't apply to, women who come here seeking asylum, because of the brutal domestic and other violence. I'm exploring structural violence against women in society and what happens to them when they migrate to another country seeking legal protection."
In "Tell Me How It Ends," for example, Luiselli wrote 80 percent of migrant girls and women who cross from Mexico to the U.S. are raped during the trip.
It's a dark topic, she said, but close to her heart. Luiselli was born in Mexico City and spent the rest of her life as "constant foreigner," she said, living in Costa Rica, South Korea, South Africa, India, Spain and elsewhere.
With little control over where she would move next, Luiselli said writing became her one constant.
"I've always dedicated my life to observing how others around me are and behave," she said. "When you're a foreigner — and even in my own country I felt foreign — you have to learn how to observe. How people move and talk in a particular society. How they relate to each other."
Luiselli has written a variety of books, from collections of political and personal essays, to fiction about "every day-ness," she calls it, or, "the little things." Her collection of essays, "Sidewalks," for example, explores Luiselli's disconnect from her native language and the feeling of displacement.
The author's multicultural experiences and perspective made her a clear choice to be this year's speaker at the International Women Authors event, according to Jill Goldesberry, program officer at the Stanley Foundation.
"Global problems are too big for one country to solve. (And this event) is a matter of getting people to think globally," Goldesberry said. "I think these events have led women's book clubs to read books they wouldn't have chosen before. The authors are bringing in their perspective and the characters will be different than someone who only has a U.S. perspective."
The International Women Authors Series on Oct. 23 will be held at the Radisson, 111 E. 2nd St., Davenport. It will begin with networking at 5:30 p.m., dinner at 6, followed by the presentation at 6:30 p.m., then a Q&A and book signing. The cost is $40 for individuals or $280 for tables of eight people.
The deadline to register for the event is Oct. 17. For more information, visit authors-series.com.