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Winner of the 2015 Los Angeles Times Book Prize Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction
A young mother in Mexico City, captive to a past that both overwhelms and liberates her, and a house she cannot abandon or fully occupy, writes a novel of her days as a translator living in New York. A young translator, adrift in Harlem, is desperate to translate and publish the works of Gilberto Owen, an obscure Mexican poet who lived in Harlem during the 1920s and whose ghostly presence haunts her in the city’s subways. And Gilberto Owen, dying in Philadelphia in the 1950s, convinced he is slowly disappearing, recalls his heyday decades before; his friendships with Nella Larsen and Federico García Lorca; and the young woman in a red coat he saw in the windows of passing trains. As the voices of the narrators overlap and merge, they drift into one single stream, an elegiac evocation of love and loss.
Valeria Luiselli’s debut signals the arrival of a major international writer and an unexpected and necessary voice in contemporary fiction.
“Lovely and mysterious.”
Wall Street Journal
“An extraordinary new literary talent.”
Daily Telegraph (London)
“Luiselli’s novel stands apart from most Latin American fiction. She avoids worn-out narratives about drug wars and violence, and her downbeat supernaturalism feels quite different from the magical realism of Gabriel García Márquez. Concerned, above all, with literature’s ability to transcend time and space, Faces in the Crowd signals the appearance of an exciting female voice to join a new wave of Latino writers.”
“Valeria Luiselli’s Faces in the Crowd is like nothing I’ve read in a while…Its musings on obsession and ambition are haunting, and its sense of place is fantastic.”
“Luiselli’s haunting debut novel…erodes the concrete borders of everyday life with a beautiful, melancholy contemplation of disappearance…Luiselli plays with the idea of time and identity with grace and intuition.”
Publishers Weekly (starred review)
“Reminiscent of Roberto Bolaño and André Gide, Luiselli navigates a dynamic, ghostly world between worlds, crisscrossing fact and fiction. Few books are as sure to baffle, surprise, and reward readers as the strange, shifty experiment that is Luiselli’s fiction debut.”
“In part a portrait of the artist as a young woman, this deceptively modest-seeming, astonishingly inventive novel creates an extraordinary intimacy, a sensibility so alive it quietly takes over all your senses, quivering through your nerve endings, opening your eyes and heart. Youth, from unruly student years to early motherhood and a loving marriage—and then, in the book’s second half, wilder and something else altogether, the fearless, half-mad imagination of youth, I might as well call it—has rarely been so freshly, charmingly, and unforgettably portrayed. Valeria Luiselli is a masterful, entirely original writer.”
Francisco Goldman, award-winning author of Say Her Name