In the highly lauded novel Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli, a woman, her husband, his son, and her daughter set out from New York City to Arizona on a journey to create sound archives. She is recording the voices of immigrant children facing deportation and he is making recordings of the places where Apache Native Americans lived and were buried. Their marriage is falling apart, and the young children can sense that something is wrong both within their family and in the larger world. Valeria Luiselli’s characters pass the time, break the tension, and fill the silences of the long drive by listening to audio books and songs. They debate the meanings of lyrics and even orchestral pieces without words, and their thoughts and discussions about the music reflect their own feelings about their journey, work, and relationships with one another.
In a book that focuses on the importance of sound, especially ambient sound, we couldn’t help but be fascinated by the music that Luiselli chose to include in her characters’ world. We’ve compiled a playlist of some of the songs mentioned in the book for your enjoyment and discussion. Put them on and imagine you are in the car on your way into the unknown.
“Then, to soften the conversation, distract her from all this, I look for a playlist and press Shuffle. Immediately, like a current sweeping over us, everything is shuffled back into a more lighthearted reality, or at least a more manageable unreality.”
—Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli (p. 48)
If you can’t see the Spotify playlist below, click here.