English Spring 2019


Undocumented, illegals and aliens, inclusive of other nouns used to immigrants are often perceived as a liability to America.  Even though the contemporary immigration system is founded on family reunification, the inherent immigration laws adversely affect the structure of a family by where children are accorded full citizenship in the U.S while the parents are deported. Many contemporary American literature scholars and authors have attempted to elucidate the aspect of deportation, immigration and ongoing crisis to undocumented children. Immigration has been a topic of controversy especially to the American capitalistic society where issues related to racism and discrimination based on color, race, and ethnicity are rampant in modern America. The aim of this essay is therefore to connect Luiselli’s contemporary, ‘Tell Me How It Ends’ to Sitkala-Sa “Land Of The Red Apples.” To achieve this objective, the essay will argue around common themes, similarities or differences in style, or shared historical or political contexts.

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Common Themes

In her work entitled The School Days Of An Indian Girl, Zitkala-Sa provides an in-depth discussion of her experience as the Americans tried hard to assimilate her into their world and culture. Through particular technique and chronological structure, Zitkala-Sa subdivided her work into three sections namely; The Land of Red Apples, The Cutting of My Long Hair and The Snow Episode. The story of The Land of Red Apples provides a glimpse of the features of Native American traditions and a necessity to transfer the same from one generation to another. Passing of such traditions can be done through spoken word or art and crafts. The narrative tries to explain how the Native Americans were deliberately abused as the invasion of missionaries tried to wipe off their culture and traditions. The aspect of cruelty and abuses are depicted in a situation where the memories of the missionary-run school haunt Zitkala-Sa. Such memories were unpleasant and traumatic. It is therefore evident that, just like any other American Indian child, Sitkala-Sa underwent the post-colonial (de) enculturation, acculturation, and displacement. 

On the other hand, Luiselli’s contemporary, ‘Tell Me How It Ends’ is multifarious interviews involving children and guardians. The essay, therefore, examines family and the process of assimilation as a theme. The author, Valeria Luiselli, closely examines the in-crop of issues surrounding new families for migrants where national borders separate the members. Luiselli explains how children, after separating with their family members, often run to or run from a particular aspect. During the process of reuniting some children become a part of a family setup established based on the law. Luiselli utilizes questions in a scheduled questionnaire to effectively develop and discuss the theme of family and its dynamism in contemporary America. 

The common theme between these two literary works is family and dynamics involved after a family is separated or reunited due to forces of migration, inclusive of the impact and process of assimilation into the American culture. Due to the dynamics in the urban environment, some members of the family become too violent and abuse, children are adopted by new guardians while others travel in search of their family members. 

Differences and Similarities in Style

In her work, Zitkala-Sa applies the stream of conscious to explain events as they unfold. In literature, a stream of consciousness refers to a narration approach where the author provides a flow of events as they based on thoughts, feelings, and emotions. In this work, the author uses the first person pronoun to narrate the way of life and how different genders were treated in America. The technique helps the reader to understand inherent challenges, feelings, excitement and emotional detachment experienced by Americans of Indian origin. In literature, the term was first used by William James in his work entitled, The Principles of Psychology.

Contrary, Luiselli’s contemporary, ‘Tell Me How It Ends’ utilized 40 questions related to child immigrants. There are a number of narratives. For instance, one of the narratives describes a family road trip (New York to Arizona), a recall of multifarious interviews involving undocumented children, and another one provides mainstream media reports. At the end of the, each chapter the author attempts to reconnect the reader to the motif or theme. Luiselli gathered numerous interviews answer that helped to unravel the problems immigrants face in America. The questions, therefore, were structured in a way they can reveal the experience of children as they were subjected to the American immigration law and its system. 

Political and Historical Context

The Luiselli’s work, ‘Tell Me How It Ends’ utilized 40 questions, is contextualized during the Trumps political tenure. The trumps’ administration implemented the zero-tolerance policy that adversely affected the children population. Most of the burden as directed by this policy was shouldered on children by the state’s immigration system.  This book is essential towards understanding the moral implications of the immigration policy in the U.S. according to the zero-tolerance policy; federal authorities are supposed to separate children from their guardians or parents. The objective is to prevent illegal immigration while ensuring there is tougher legislation. From the historical point of view, the ‘Tell Me How It Ends’ attempts to lay into limelight the causes and impacts racism, ethnicity and fear.  

From a political point of view, Sitkala-Sa tries to describe the problem of oppression and discrimination based on color and ethnicity. From a historical perspective, the author establishes the unfolding of Indian childhood. The terrain between assimilation, intermittent conservatism, separation, and radicalism are well articulated by Sitkala-Sa in here work, ‘Land Of The Red Apples.’


The nexus between Tell Me How It Ends’ by Luiselli and land of the red apples by Sitkala-Sa readings have been framed around common themes, similarities or differences in style, or shared historical or political contexts. Both works involve Native American culture and aspects concerning contemporary culture. Concepts such as apple allude to certain symbolic meanings. For instance, apple alludes to wisdom. Characters used in both narratives are of Indian origin. Tell Me How It Ends’ by Luiselli and land of the red apples by Sitkala-Sa, therefore, explains to explain themes such as assimilation, immigration system, de (acculturation) and acculturation.  


The essay sought to establish a connection between Luiselli’s contemporary, ‘Tell Me How It Ends’ to Sitkala-Sa “Land Of The Red Apples.” Based on the explanation provided above, it is evident that both readings were set during different periods of type. However, they are related because they help to explain the historical and political context of America focusing on the immigration system and children. The readings help the reader to understand social, political, and economic problems as characters in these readings experienced them. 

Works Cited

Henderson, Melessa Renee, and Lauren Curtright. “Gertrude Bonnin–Zitkala-Ša.” (1997).Luiselli, Valeria. Tell Me how it Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions. Coffee House Press, 2017.

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