Book review – ‘The Line Becomes a River’ by Francisco Cantu

The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border— by Francisco Cantú
(Riverhead Books)
This is an articulate and self-reflective account of a young man attempting to hold onto his identity while serving as an agent for the United States Border Patrol from 2008 to 2012, working in the deserts of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. Raised by his mother, a park ranger in the Southwest, Cantú wants to really know the border in a way that could benefit his future career as a policy maker. But it becomes increasingly difficult for him to compartmentalize his internal compassionate beliefs while carrying out official orders — tracking humans who have illegally crossed the border, recovering abandoned drugs, and deporting or detaining the people they apprehend. The detailed portrait of the arid landscape provides context to the descriptions of the border and flow of migrants from Mexico, critical to understanding the current situation. This lucid account makes it possible for the reader to distinguish the plight and experiences of separate and distinct human beings caught up in the often indistinguishable and overwhelming mass of statistics. Cantú quotes “Bloodlands” author Timothy Snyder: “It is for us as scholars to seek (the) numbers and to put them into perspective. It is for us as humanists to turn the numbers back into people.” Cantú does just that.
— Reviewed by Jenny Lyons of The Vermont Book Shop in Middlebury.
Other reading
7 stories from the border
The Devil’s Highway, by Luis Alberto Urrea
Bones: Brothers, Horses, Cartels, and the Borderland Dream, by Joe Tone
In the Country We Love: My Family Divided, by Diane Guerrero
Rescue: Refugees and the Political Crisis of Our Time, by David Miliband
Tell Me How It Ends, by Valeria Luiselli
Americanized: Rebel Without a Green Card, by Sara Saedi
The Far Away Brothers: Two Young Migrants and the Making of an American Life, by Lauren Markham

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