Faces in the Crowd

A novel by Valeria Luiselli

A Spring 2014 Indies Introduce Pick
Largehearted Boy Favorite Novels of 2014

“Luiselli’s haunting debut novel, about a young mother living in Mexico City who writes a novel looking back on her time spent working as a translator of obscure works at a small independent press in Harlem, 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, boxed and starred review

May 2014
5.25 x 8.5 | 154 pages
Trade Paperback Original

Thanks to a 2013 ADA Access Improvement Grant administered by VSA Minnesota for the Metropolitan Regional Arts Council, this title is also formatted for screen readers which make text accessible to the blind and visually impaired.

To purchase this title for use with a screen reader please call (612) 338-0125 or email us at info@coffeehousepress.org.

ISBN: 978-1-56689-354-1.



A young mother in Mexico City, captive to a past that both overwhelms and liberates her, and a house she cannot abandon nor 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, Louis Zukofsky, and Federico Garcia 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 lovely and eccentric first novel is . . . peppered with arresting imagery.”The New York Times, “Newly Released Books”

“[A] lovely and mysterious first novel. . . the multilayered book she has devised brings freshness and excitement to such complex inquiries.”The Wall Street Journal

“Throughout Faces in the Crowd, Luiselli crafts beautiful sentences, while gleefully thumbing her nose at novelistic conventions. All that makes her an exciting and essential voice on the Latin American literary landscape, as further evidenced by the nonfiction collection her U.S. publisher, Coffee House Press, is simultaneously releasing with her novel. . . Together with Faces in the Crowd, her essays in Sidewalks are a wonderful contribution to the long tradition by which authors re-imagine their cities as dream-like spaces created for them to wander around, daydream and discover.”Los Angeles Times

Faces in the Crowd is the simulacrum of a novel that is not being written; it is not a novel of ghosts, it is the ghost of a novel. Wonderful.” —PEN Atlas blog

Faces in the Crowd presents itself as a remarkably confident novel from two first- timers. Confident in its handling, by a debut novelist of the ambitious ideas that crackle through its voices, in its complex structure and the daring intimacy of its field of vi- sion. And confident in its debut translator Christina McSweeney’s mastery of lan- guage: sometimes sharp-edged, sometimes playful and consistently effective.”Independent

“[Luiselli's] writing blurs the line between life and death across three narratives that overlap in content and time. . . you’ll fall into the pages and believe the connections between people—ghosts or not—to be true.”Hazel & Wren

“Today, she’s one of the hottest authors around. Her first work, Faces in the Crowd, and its companion essay collection, Sidewalks, are both hits with critics.”Ozy

“Well-crafted, playful even as it touches on the very serious….[Faces in the Crowd is] an impressively substantial work, in every sense.”Complete Review

“A mother in Mexico City starts writing a novel, and then the novel sort of becomes her life. (Pair with strong coffee.)”Bustle

“Luiselli delivers a telling image of modern time.”—Literature and Arts of the Americas

“[Faces in the Crowd] paints a truly believable and empathetic and insightful portrait of life. It grabs hold of and dissects and analyzes life in all of its multifaceted glory and misery and whatever falls in between.”Three Percent

“Audacious, conceptually cutting edge.”Three Percent

“Valeria Luiselli’s swirling, layered novel, Faces in the Crowd, shares this ‘tell what it was like’ quality.”Missouri Review

“There’s an urgency to this book that I found both challenging and engaging—as the reality of the narrative crumbled, and as the characters became their own ghosts, the feeling of loss that Luiselli is trying to explore began to resemble my own.”American Microreviews and Interviews

“This Mexican-born writer’s first novel grapples with something that permeates so much of the imaginative landscape: the battle between fantasy and reality. This theme is mapped out in a story that binds our narrator, an unhappily married mother of two living in Mexico City, and the Mexican poet Gilberto Owen, to a point where their two worlds crumble into each other like shifting sands … Luiselli’s writing is full of verve, yet it has a mournful quality that anchors an otherwise almost supernatural world.”Irish Times

“The Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli has been getting a lot of publicity, not least for her youth and looks but Faces in the Crowd will in time be remembered for its own beauty, and not just of its author . . . As this wistful novel progresses, the stories of the two characters blend and merge into one. It is a poetically realised and fragile portrait of the fracturing nature of urban life, of overheated New York apartments and the strangeness of ordinary human interactions, or cats curling up and trees dying and the jolts and accelerations of the subway.” —Spectator

“If every word, for her, has the shadow of two others behind it, and if every city in which she lives carries the ghostly afterimage of all the other cities she has known — as well as the voices of the writers she has researched upon her arrival — then her books become all the more enthralling for the multiplicity they champion. . . the great beauty of her art is seeing all her contrasting stories collapse or blend or combine into an unexpected whole.” Los Angeles Review of Books

“Valeria Luiselli’s debut— translated from the Spanish by Christina MacSweeney—is a book whose ingenious formal structure preserves this strenuous negotiation between the contrary impulses to expose and hide away.”Make Literary Magazine

“‘Valeria Luiselli’s extraordinary debut novel Faces in the Crowd signals the arrival of major talent,’ said Jeremy Ellis of Houston’s Brazos Bookstore. ‘Written in Spanish and exquisitely translated by Christina MacSweeney, Faces in the Crowd is a fresh and essential voice for the new Latin-American canon.’”American Booksellers Association

“[Faces in the Crowd] was beautifully crafted.” —Cougars Byte

“Luiselli delivered a speech she wrote while detained by ICE at LAX on her way to the Festival, bringing a little of the political to her personal triumph.”Lit Hub

“Masterful. Excellent translation.”The Wandering Bibliophile

“A multi-angled portrait of the artist as a young woman, as a con artist, as a young mother and wife, this book immerses the reader in the most enchanting and persuasive intimacy. The fearless, half-mad imagination of youth has rarely been so freshly, charmingly and unforgettably portrayed. Valeria Luiselli is a precociously masterful and entirely original new writer.” —Francisco Goldman

“A masterwork of fractured identities and shifting realities, Faces in the Crowd is a lyric meditation on love, mortality, ghosts, and the desire to transform our human wreckage into art, to be saved by creation. Valeria Luiselli is a stunning and singular voice. Her work burns with an urgency that demands our attention. Read her. Right now.” —Laura van den Berg, The Isle of Youth

“This is one of those books that I fell for after the first six pages. . . Luiselli handles this stream-of-consciousness style with charm and mastery, making the story of love, identity, art, and ghosts unforgettable.”–Book Riot, “Riot Round-Up: Best Books we Read in July”

“‘Prose is for those with a builder’s spirit.’ What a nice line. And what good fortune that we now have Valeria Luiselli’s prose in the States.” Propeller Magazine

“[P]erhaps Luiselli’s true gift is that these essays still manage to be filled with a sense of hope. . . [and] an ability to find the beauty in destruction, acceptance in the face of crumbling cities and inadequate words.”—Publik/Private

“Debut novel Faces has gotten a ton of praise in all the right places, and the reviews have piqued my curiosity.” Barnes and Noble Book Blog

“Valeria Luiselli’s extraordinary debut novel Faces in the Crowd signals the arrival of major talent. The novel’s fragmented, poetic narrative immediately engages and slowly reveals its secrets. Is this a story about a woman discovering a forgotten Latin poet of the Harlem Renaissance? Is the woman imagined by the poet? Are they both ghosts in search of some way back to the real? Written in Spanish, and exquisitely translated by Christina MacSweeney, Faces in the Crowd is a fresh and essential voice for the new Latin-American canon.” —Jeremy Ellis, Brazos Bookstore, Houston, TX

Faces in the Crowd is a subtle, sophisticated examination of identity, authenticity, and poetry. The narrator, a young married writer and mother of two, shares her struggles to write a novel about an obscure Mexican poet and the novel in progress, while remembering the time her life when she became obsessed with him. Luiselli braids the three narrative currents into a bril- liant meditation on the nature of creation. Translation hoax. Ghosts on the subway. The demonstrative vocabulary of a clever toddler. The mix of fact and fiction on the page and in the mind. With her first novel, Luiselli has established herself as a brilliant explorer of voice, self, and art.” —Josh Cook, Porter Square Books, Cambridge, MA

“Someone look out for: The best of all possible debuts…I’m completely captivated by the beauty of the paragraphs, the elegance the prose, the joy in the written word and the literary sense of this author.” —Enrique Vila-Matas

“As spare, strange and beautiful as the Ezra Pound lines from which it takes its name, Faces in the Crowd is a first novel born out of the idea of disappearing. Its author, however, the 28-year-old Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli, is going to have to get used to her own visibility: the book confirms her as an extraordinary new literary talent.”Daily Telegraph

“Luiselli sketches a rich and enthralling world …”Public Books

“Luiselli’s novel stands apart from most Latin American fiction . . . Faces in the Crowd signals the appearance of an exciting female voice to join a new wave of Latino writers.” Observer

“A young Mexican author with seemingly boundless intellect . . . There are echoes of García Márquez’s Strange Pilgrims; Bolaño, Hemingway and Emily Dickinson are all freely cited. The prose has luminous touch- es.” Guardian

“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.”Electric Literature

“This is just one of three stories that weaves its way through Valeria Luiselli’s masterful Faces in the Crowd, a novel in which people die many times just to wake up right where they left off. . .”Paris Review

“I’d loved every page of Valeria Luiselli’s novel . . . Faces in the Crowd highlights the question [of identity] more vividly, more urgently, than any novel I’ve read in recent years.”Full Stop

Faces in the Crowd is a scaffolding that bounds the empty spaces into which the writer and the reader of the novel can insert their imagination . . . It is empty space that allows this novel to breathe with possibility, and that sustains the attention, if not the amazement, of the reader and the writer.” Electric Literature

“[I]n its supremely casual and confident treatment of Self and Other, of Fact and Fiction—the way it makes non-issues out of both—Faces in the Crowd is something new, something revolutionary.”—Fiction Advocate

“Translated from Spanish, Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli has a lyrical cadence to it. It moves in hazy, dreamlike moments rather than scenes. . . in Luiselli’s narrative experimentation, we find gravitas in her character’s confusion.” Grantland

“In publishing [Faces in the Crowd, a] novel about a translator living in Mexico City, and Luiselli’s superb collection of essays, Sidewalks, Coffee House has helped push into the world a great writer who everybody should know about.” Flavorwire, “The Best Indie Literature of 2014 So Far”

“Everybody should read Faces in the Crowd. Read it for Luiselli’s language. Read it for the masterly translation by MacSweeney.”—Three Percent

“[In Faces in the Crowd] three timelines snuggle up alongside one another in a neat, poetic fashion . . . This feels like a book which has been woven as much as written.”Doe-Eyed Critic

“[Faces in the Crowd delivers] a torrent of warmth, humour and life. . . .The lead character, a hardworking young mother, is obsessed with an obscure Mexican poet. As a narrator she is so distinctive and power- fully drawn you can’t help but be pulled in. Within a few pages I was desperate to walk the streets of Manhattan in search of obscure Mexican poets myself.” Big Issue

“Luiselli’s fascinating novel is quite occupied with the hidden pauses between paragraphs. . . Faces in the Crowd is very much a cousin to Jenny Offill’s excellent novel, Dept. of Speculation, in the way that it coaxes the reader to fixate on the asterisks between the short sections.”—Reluctant Habits

“From Borges to Bolaño, there’s a strong tradition in Latin American fiction of writing about writers, and this sexy, surreal debut follows suit. . .[in Faces in the Crowd] you get a multi-level satire on literary fame as well as the joy of a livewire imagination uninhibited by the demands of plot.’” Metro

“Luiselli’s debut novel is a brilliantly conceived and executed examination of the ways the past infiltrates the present and how art bleeds into life.” Racked, “Green Apple Books Recommends Beach Reads for 2014”

“Valeria Luiselli’s Faces in the Crowd is one of the year’s most striking and cleverly written novels, a debut that heralds the arrival of a promising literary voice.” —Largehearted Boy, “Book Notes”

“Certainly . . . this beautiful book is not something you’ll forget.” The Girl Who Ate Books

“Valeria Luiselli’s Faces in the Crowd is one of the most mesmerizing debut novels in recent memory.” Diesel Bookstore Blog

“Faces in the Crowd by Valeria Luiselli is a masterfully structured meta-fictional story . . . This is a novel about writing at its core, that’s intriguing and entertaining through all its structural complexities.” The Review Lab

“In just 148 pages Faces in the Crowd works through a complex and self-aware explora- tion of form and ideas.” The Literateur

“[Faces in the Crowd was] so surprising and so exhilarating that I read it twice during the past week.” Seeing the World Through Books

“Page by page, Faces in the Crowd is more entertaining. . . more people need to read Faces in the Crowd and Sidewalks.” Three Percent, “World Cup of Literature Semifinals”

“As sinuous and singular a novel as Valeria Luiselli’s Faces in the Crowd . . . it is all the more remarkable on account of it being a debut – and a most assured one at that.” Three Percent

Faces in the Crowd is a wonderful piece of writing, elegant, poignant and light when it needs to be.”Tony’s Reading List

“An outstanding, cerebral read that bridges the gap between poetry and prose and clearly positions the author as one of the freshest, most exciting new voices emerging from Latin American literature.”Entropy

“Luiselli weaves together her own philosophy…with the novel’s predilection for subterranean encounters in a way that feels deft, not contrived.”Quarterly Conversation

“Luiselli’s debut grabs three strands of narration and twists them into a single, psychogeographical thread. Imagine Teju Cole’s Open City or Ben Lerner’s Leaving the Atocha Station; as a debut novel, it’s that good.”Flavorwire

“Valeria Luiselli, a young writer from Mexico City, who shows here an incredibly nuanced control over details and time.”—Green Apple on the Park

“A shining star of 2014. . . brilliant and beautiful.”—Brazos Bookstore

[Faces in the Crowd] contemplates existential angst like a 21st Century version of “Nausea.”KCET

“Fragmentary and fantastical . . emotional density, laser-cut prose, self-conscience autobiography mixed with invention, and jigsaw-puzzle storylines that gradually assemble themselves to reveal an unpredictable whole.”Wall Street Journal Bookshelf

“I found myself dog-earing pages throughout to go back and make notes on…until I realized I was marking pretty much every single page.”—Brazos Bookstore

“One of the most original new voices in translation.”Words Without Borders

“I was delighted and surprised, and I’m recommending [Faces in the Crowd] to everyone.”KCRW

“[Judges cited] the exceptional promise it demonstrates as a debut novel.”Three Percent

Faces in the Crowd, beyond its gorgeous writing and superb composition, is modest yet striking, measured yet salient.”—Powells.com