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The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border (Paperback)
February 2018 Indie Next List
“Cantu personalizes the U.S.-Mexican border and all of its complexity in a way I've never seen. His writing is beautiful, with haunting and detailed descriptions of the desert, the immigrants, the cartels, and his own fears about violence and identity confusion. The criminalization of searching for a better life and the dehumanization of the process is looked at from several angles, and his journalistic approach does not make judgments, but clearly tells the facts. A great new writer to follow.”
— Pat Marsello, Bookworks, Albuquerque, NM
Summer 2019 Reading Group Indie Next List
“In a personal search for the purpose and meaning behind the U.S.-Mexico border, Cantúreflects on his childhood rooted in the Southwest, his mother’s immigration from Mexico, his scholarly studies, and others’ stories about the border. He seeks work as a border patrol agent, thinking his language skills and cultural sensitivity will be of value, but his intense curiosity about life at the border becomes a harsh reality that haunts his dreams. A lifesaver in America’s shallow rivers of rhetoric, Cantúenlightens readers on the endless American story of sacrifice and immigration with sharp insight and subtle lyricism.”
— Lisa Newman, Lemuria Bookstore, Jackson, MS
NAMED A TOP 10 BOOK OF 2018 BY NPR and THE WASHINGTON POST
WINNER OF THE LOS ANGELES TIMES BOOK PRIZE IN CURRENT INTEREST
FINALIST FOR THE NATIONAL BOOK CRITICS CIRCLE NONFICTION AWARD
The instant New York Times bestseller, "A must-read for anyone who thinks 'build a wall' is the answer to anything." --Esquire
For Francisco Cantú, the border is in the blood: his mother, a park ranger and daughter of a Mexican immigrant, raised him in the scrublands of the Southwest. Driven to understand the hard realities of the landscape he loves, Cantú joins the Border Patrol. He and his partners learn to track other humans under blistering sun and through frigid nights. They haul in the dead and deliver to detention those they find alive. Plagued by a growing awareness of his complicity in a dehumanizing enterprise, he abandons the Patrol for civilian life. But when an immigrant friend travels to Mexico to visit his dying mother and does not return, Cantú discovers that the border has migrated with him, and now he must know the full extent of the violence it wreaks, on both sides of the line.
About the Author
Francisco Cantú was an agent for the United States Border Patrol from 2008 to 2012, working in the deserts of Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas. A former Fulbright fellow, he is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a 2017 Whiting Award, and a 2018 Art for Justice fellowship. His writing and translations have been featured in The New York Times, Best American Essays, Harper's, and Guernica, as well as on This American Life. He lives in Tucson and coordinates the Southwest Field Studies in Writing Program at the University of Arizona.
“A must-read for anyone who thinks “build a wall” is the answer to anything.” —Esquire
"Fresh, urgent...A devastating narrative of the very real human effects of depersonalized policy." —Kirkus Reviews (starred)
“Cantú’s rich prose and deep empathy make this an indispensable look at one of America’s most divisive issues.” —Publisher's Weekly (starred)
“There is a line dividing what we know and do not know. Some see the world from one shore and some from the other. Cantú brings the two together to a spiritual whole. My gratitude for this work of the soul.” —Sandra Cisneros
“A beautiful, fiercely honest, and nevertheless deeply empathetic look at those who police the border and the migrants who risk – and lose -- their lives crossing it. In a time of often ill-informed or downright deceitful political rhetoric, this book is an invaluable corrective.” —Phil Klay, author of Redeployment
"Francisco Cantu’s story is a lyrical journey that helps bridge the jagged line that divides us from them. His empathy reminds us of our humanity -- our immigrant history -- at a critical time.” —Alfredo Corchado, journalist, author of Midnight in Mexico
"Cantú’s story, and intelligent and humane perspective, should mortify anyone who ever thought building a wall might improve our lot. He advocates for clarity and compassion in place of xenophobia and uninformed rhetoric. His words are emotionally true and his literary sensibility uplifting.” –Barry Lopez, author of Arctic Dreams and Of Wolves and Men
"This book tells the hard poetry of the desert heart. If you think you know about immigration and the border, you will see there is much to learn. And you will be moved by its unexpected music." –Luis Alberto Urrea, author of The Devil’s Highway