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May 2024 - Between the Pages: Telling the Story of the Stars with Katherine DiBella Seluja

Photo of author Katherine DiBella Seluja sitting on the tailgate of a truck.
Katherine DiBella Seluja

By Samantha Nagel

"If I’m going to write, I write about something that matters to me," Katherine DiBella Seluja (she/her) told me as I interviewed her. Writing is deeply rooted in what matters to her - immigration issues at the border and the challenges faced by migrants, refugees, and immigrants. These are the themes in her poetry collection, "Point of Entry," published by UNM Press.

The granddaughter of Italian immigrants and the spouse of a South American immigrant, Seluja understands the challenges of the immigration system. She recalls, "My grandparents' experiences are very much a part of my understanding of who I am in the world and who my

family is."

"I started to realize how those many sectors of my life were all coming together under this topic of immigration," Seluja stated. "I'm lucky most of our family history was preserved. I wanted to honor and memorialize them in some way for the rest of the family, my children, my


Seluja's poem, "Humanitarian Release" is dedicated to Jakelin Caal Maquin, a 7-year-old Guatemalan girl who tragically died from streptococcal sepsis in 2018. Along with her father and 163 other immigrants, Jakelin was detained by US Customs and Border Protection. During their detention, they were deprived of water for roughly eight hours at Antelope Wells, leading to Jakelin's deteriorating health. The poem reveals the contrast between the supposed "humanitarian" treatment and the harsh reality of Jakelin and many others, stating, "We have no idea how to care for our own."

The cover of Katherine DiBella Seluja's book, Point of Entry.
Point of Entry by Katherine DiBella Seluja

Seluja shared that she has a lifelong habit, inspired by her mother, of seeking solace by looking up at the night sky. For her, it symbolizes the vastness of human experiences and the interconnectedness that transcends borders. In this poem, she describes Jakelin's father sharing stories of stars, culminating in the poignant line, "Dead stars still emit light over the desert. Isn't that the definition of a star?" Seluja explains that the Spanish lines in her poem are translated from poet laureate Ada Limón's work, "Dead Stars," saying, "Those lines from Limón seem to fit very naturally with what I was imagining: Jakelin and her father walking through the desert, underneath the huge sky."

Stars represent loved ones who have passed, reminding us that we are tiny specs in this Universe – and that we are all connected more deeply than we often even acknowledge. "[Jakelin] was a beautiful, bright star," Seluja stated. "She was a bright star of her family, and she got snuffed out because of our border policy. There are many, many ways that the border could look where people wouldn't have to die."

"Point of Entry" is available for purchase on Amazon and UNM Press, representing Seluja's commitment to using her writing as a tool for advocacy. Through her poetry, she invites readers to contemplate the human stories behind immigration policies. Updates on her readings and events in New Mexico are on her website at


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