The Story of My Teeth

A novel by Valeria Luiselli

September 15, 2015 • 5.5 x 8.25 • 192 Pages • 978-1-56689-409-8

Bon vivant, world traveler, auctioneer—the story of Highway and his teeth is like Johnny Cash meets Robert Walser in Mexico.

Highway is a late-in-life world traveller, yarn spinner, collector, and legendary auctioneer. His most precious possessions are the teeth of the ‘notorious infamous’ like Plato, Petrarch, and Virginia Woolf. Written in collaboration with the workers at a Jumex juice factory, Teeth is an elegant, witty, exhilarating romp through the industrial suburbs of Mexico City and Luiselli’s own literary influences.

About the Author

Valeria Luiselli was born in Mexico City in 1983 and grew up in South Africa. A novelist (Faces in the Crowd) and essayist (Sidewalks), her work has been translated into many languages and has appeared in publications including the New York Times, the New Yorker, Granta, and McSweeney’s. In 2014, Faces in the Crowd was the recipient of the Los Angeles Times Art Seidenbaum Award for First Fiction and the National Book Foundation’s 5 Under 35 award. 

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.


“Valeria Luiselli’s Story of My Teeth, a comic memoir of an auctioneer—part Gogol and part Steven Millhauser—dares to throw in a lesson or two on formal logic into each lot.” —Los Angeles Review of Books

“One of the most unforgettable images in any book this year is that of Gustavo ‘Highway’ Sánchez Sánchez, the protagonist of Luiselli’s delightfully unclassifiable novel, walking around the streets of Mexico City, smiling at people with the teeth of Marilyn Monroe installed in his mouth. . . . Surprising and charming. . . . It’s difficult not to follow wherever it takes you.” —Publishers Weekly, starred review

“Come for the absurdist comedy, stay for the references to great writers and philosophers and see how in on the joke you really are.” —Vulture

The Story of My Teeth is a novel as playful as it is profound.” —Believer Logger

The Story of My Teeth is more than just a novel . . . as all novels that impact our lives are. It is a testament to not only the work that goes into translation, but also to the value of storytelling in a world that sometimes seems to commodify authenticity through our all-access lifestyle.” —Three Percent

“[The Story of My Teeth is] an austere tale that offers some wry observations about art and the art world in Mexico City. Highly recommend.” —Los Angeles Times

“[Luiselli] has . . . conjured one of the most remarkable novels of 2015, a novel that illuminates the familiar problems of identity and selfhood by re-presenting them in a bracingly defamiliarized light.” —Kenyon Review

[The Story of My Teeth] was a joy to read.” —Kaaterskill Basin Literary

“Forms and genres collide in this often hilarious experimental fiction from one of our most consistent young writers.” —Flavorwire

“Playfully brilliant.” —BuzzFeed

“Valeria Luiselli’s The Story of My Teeth is a brilliant fable from one of the most talented storytellers writing today.” —Largehearted Boy

“This boggling and enchanting collaborative novel about a man who believes he has had Marilyn Monroe’s literal teeth implanted into his mouth began as a bit of art gallery catalog copy sponsored by a large juice company.” —National Post Canada

“It’s not every writer who is brave enough to share stage in her own work with her translator—and a group of employees at a juice factory—but Valeria Luiselli’s got balls as well as serious talent.” —Brightest Young Things

“Though playful and unruly, her fiction feels surprisingly warm and old-fashioned.” —Kirkus, cover feature

“A lively, loopy experimental novel rich with musings on language, art, and, yes, teeth. . . .Tthe whole book is a kind of extended commentary on how possessions acquire value largely through the stories we tell about them. . . . A clever philosophical novel that, as the author puts it, has "less to do with lying than surpassing the truth.” Kirkus, starred review

The Story of My Teeth is an elegant, witty romp through the industrial suburbs of Mexico City and Luiselli’s own literary influences.” —Shelf Awareness

“[The Story of My Teeth] is brilliant, and has a great story; it began as a commissioned work written in collaboration with workers at a Jumex juice factory in Mexcio.” —Publishers Weekly

“There’s big buzz from booksellers around a small press hit, translated from the Spanish, The Story of My Teeth (Coffee House, Sept.) by Valeria Luiselli. Jeremy Garber, events coordinator, Powell’s in Portland, Ore., casts a vote for The Story of My Teeth. ‘It’s dazzling, it’s tremendous.’” —Publishers Weekly

The Story of My Teeth is a rich, provocative meditation on authenticity, heritage and personality.” —Publisher’s Weekly

“This highly inventive novel is narrated by a garrulous auctioneer who invents “hypertrue” stories for the objects he sells. . . . A work of immense charm and originality, written in vivid, witty prose.” —New Yorker

“Training as an auctioneer, Highway hopes these and other skills will help him find the perfect set of teeth. If that sounds like an odd plot, I can only promise you that things get delightfully odder. . . . Luiselli’s novel arrives in the United States from tiny Coffee House Press with considerable momentum behind it.” —The Guardian

“Luiselli’s unstintingly imaginative tale perhaps works as a parable for the way works accrue value in the art world.” —The Guardian (UK)

“Valeria Luiselli’s The Story of My Teeth, translated by Christina MacSweeney, is the most inventive and invigorating book I have read this year. . . . It manages to be intelligent and experimental without an ounce of pretension.” —Three Percent

“Besides its engaging characters and plot, there’s the equally compelling backstory of this book, which Luiselli wrote in collaboration with employees of Mexico’s Jumex, an industrial giant that produces and distributes juice.” —The Guardian

“Prefigured by her excellent book of essays, Sidewalks, The Story of My Teeth is playful, attentive and very smart without being for a minute pretentious. It’s Walter Benjamin without tears—sunnier, more casual and more nimble.” —New York Times Sunday Book Review

“This giddy, witty, idiosyncratic novel . . . is a jubilant celebration of the act of storytelling. . . . Ms. Luiselli persuasively suggests that our lives would be empty vessels, hardly worth bidding on, without the ‘stories that give them value and meaning.’” —Wall Street Journal

The Story of My Teeth’s playful re-contextualizations and detours are bound to leave you puzzled at some point—perhaps even many. . . . The book is a delightfully weird meander into art, salesmanship, Mexican culture, and experimental dentistry.” —Beijing Bookworm

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.” —NPR

“The story of Luiselli’s teeth is positively constructive, even warm. Instead of collapsing and decomposing fragments, The Story of My Teeth reaches toward a world composed of fragments, the creative process which Highway calls—in a moment of clarity—a ‘postcapitalist, radical recycling . . . that would save the world from its existential condition as the garbage can of history.’” —Los Angeles Review of Books

“Although buoyant, Luiselli’s work never seems flippant, perhaps because of her precise prose style. . . . Linear at first glance, it soon opens out into a world of stories, like a mouth with one tooth from every artist in the world.” —Chicago Tribune

“[The Story of My Teeth is] proof that Valeria Luiselli is one of the most exciting new writers working today.” —Los Angeles Times

“This charmingly slippery slip of a book, packed with fantastical allusions, reminds us that the world’s great stories can be ours for a very reasonable price.” —San Francisco Chronicle

“A perfectly defined universe” —Clash

“If her novel is a map, the route it will suggest for a reader who possesses few existing landmarks to Mexican culture will be quite different than that laid out for a reader with many, firmly planted ones. But maybe those routes will all lead to a similar place—one of shared enjoyment, if not shared concerns about a particular place, a Mexico made more of fiction than of fact.” —Americas Quarterly

“What Highway (and Luiselli) is really hawking is fantasy, a sort of shared experience of faith in the improbable—the art of storytelling, essentially, to which The Story of My Teeth pays manic veneration.” —Globe and Mail (Canada)

“Wonderful, unusual.” —Paris Review Daily

The Story of My Teeth defies classification, and underscores the power of storytelling and the importance of reading.” —Virginia Quarterly Review

“This boggling and enchanting collaborative novel about a man who believes he has had Marilyn Monroe’s literal teeth implanted into his mouth began as a bit of art gallery catalog copy sponsored by a large juice company.” —National Post (Canada)

“In a delicately layered, wryly funny fashion, Luiselli is exploring the actual value of telling made-up stories.” —HuffPost

“When reading it, I had no idea of where it was going, in the best possible way. I mean I felt like it encompassed such a wide shift in tone. There were comic moments; there were incredibly tragic moments; there were surreal moments.” —Vol. 1 Brooklyn

“The ever inventive, always incisive Valeria Luiselli presents a mosaic of fable, comedy, drama, and essay.” Largehearted Boy

“Luiselli riffs on art, literature, and city life; the result is a warm, deeply unpredictable, and very humanistic novel, with a fascinatingly memorable character at its heart.” —Men’s Journal

“As strange and beautiful as the novel itself is the backstory to its creation—a tale that involves a juice factory, a world-class art collection, and a rather unlikely collaboration.” —Studio 360

“This kind of writing—direct and gentle, affectionate and satirical, precise and imaginative, memorable and efficient—appears throughout, and the character of Gustavo is brought to life with exquisite imaginative power and beautifully judged tics and cadences. . . . It is a sad, beautiful and brilliant book. It will endure.” The National (UK)

“As Mexico takes centre stage at London’s Book Fair Matthew Sweet talks to two of the country's award-winning writers. Valeria Luiselli’s new novel The Story of My Teeth explores the meaning of home through the antics of an auctioneer, told in his own hyperbolic fashion, who has decided views on the meaning of value and worth in life and art.” —BBC

“Luiselli's delightfully bizarre novel follows Highway, a world traveler and renowned auctioneer, who collects teeth—specifically, the teeth of influential thinkers, like Plato, Marilyn Monroe and Virginia Woolf.” —MPR

“It’s not every writer who is brave enough to share the stage in her own work with her translator—and a group of employees at a juice factory—but Valeria Luiselli’s got balls as well as serious talent.” Brightest Young Things

“Luiselli offers a bright new voice in fiction, exploring the role of story in art through her quirky protagonist, Gustavo Sánchez Sánchez. . . . Playing with different ways to tell story, The Story of My Teeth is sly, endearing, refreshing, and ever broadening.” —Bookshop Santa Cruz

The Story of My Teeth will leave you wanting more of Luiselli’s sense of humor and grace, her perfect ear for entertainment and epiphany. But more importantly, this novel will change the way you look at writing and stories—and will reveal that in the end, what is imagined is as important as anything else.” —BookPage

“Wonderful and strange, The Story of My Teeth transgresses against straightforward storytelling by witnessing and remixing to make something so fresh and new that it defies easy description. Just know that it dazzles on every page. I love this book.” —Brazos Bookstore

“[The Story of My Teeth] reminds us of the power and sway of great stories, especially those we tell ourselves that, by sheer persistence, we come to believe!” —Green Apple Books on Park

“The hero of this ambitious fun-house of a novel set in Mexico is Gustave ‘Highway’ Sanchez Sanchez, an auctioneer, journeyman, and fabulist who’s had Marilyn Monroe’s teeth implanted in his mouth. Chew on that.” —O Magazine

“If you’ve found yourself in a reading rut, this just might be one of the most interesting books you have yet to read.” —Princeton Library

“Luiselli has proven in both her novels that she’s willing to break novelistic conventions to simultaneously tell and deconstruct her stories. If you don’t mind some post-postmodernism with your misadventures, The Story of My Teeth is well worth bidding on.” —PANK

“Shuttling between the quotidian and the transcendent, between the earthly and the intellectual, all the while disrupting those very tenuous categories, is precisely what makes The Story of My Teeth so engaging.” —Slant Magazine

“A fundamental openness and curiosity make Luiselli’s work fresh and exciting. She is serious in her engagement with art, literature, and society without being arrogant or sententious—she is part of all those games, and is happy to acknowledge it.” —World Literature Today