Come March, Valeria Luiselli may become the first Mexican winner of a National Book Critics Circle Award. Luiselli’s “The Story of My Teeth” – a six-part novel that tells the story of Gustavo “Highway” Sánchez Sánchez’s mission to sell and upgrade every single one of his teeth – is one of 30 finalists for the award.
The 32 year-old’s work of fiction will go up against “The Sellout” by Paul Beatty, “Fates and Furies” by Lauren Groff, “The Tsar of Love and Techno” by Anthony Marra, and “Eileen” by Ottessa Moshfegh, according to The Washington Post.
If she doesn’t win, Luiselli will still be the second Mexican to ever be named a finalist in the 40 years the National Book Critics Circle has been awarding its series of literary awards. She was commissioned to write the novel by the Galería Jumex catalog. Her book was originally published in Mexico, but was translated by Christina MacSweeney in 2015.
La Jornada reports that the only non-native English-speaking authors to have won are Roberto Bolaño, W. G. Sebald, Bharati Mukherjee, Kiran Desai and Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.
Since the award is decided by critics, we included snippets of five reviews below:
Editor’s Note: An original version of this post stated Ms. Luiselli was the first Mexican novelist to ever be a finalist for the NBCC award – an honor which actually goes to Reyna Grande. The post has been corrected.
The New York Times
“Luiselli is an exciting writer to watch, not only for this book, but also for the fresh approach she brings to fiction, one that invites participation and reaction, even skepticism — a living, breathing map.” – Jim Krusoe
Read the full New York Times review here.
“The young Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli’s slim, unnervingly confident new novel is also about the life of objects, and of teeth in particular. Like Roussel, whom she name-checks, Luiselli has clearly produced The Story of My Teeth, her third book translated into English, under peculiar stars.” – Amanda Katz
Read the full Slate review here.
“Quirky doesn’t begin to capture the wacky inventiveness of Valeria Luiselli’s second novel. The Story of My Teeth is a playful, philosophical funhouse of a read that demonstrates that not only isn’t experimental fiction dead, it needn’t be deadly, either.” –Heller McAlpin
Read the full NPR review here.
Los Angeles Times
“At every turn, the book has this careful architecture, even if it feels like a strange, blind alley. Luiselli writes with a confidence that demonstrates she’s going somewhere.” – Carolyn Kellogg
Read the full Los Angeles Times review here.
“In a delicately layered, wryly funny fashion, Luiselli is exploring the actual value of telling made-up stories — what it can do, what it can’t, what can’t be quantified.” – Claire Fallon
Read the full Huffington Post review here.