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The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border

Review

The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border

THE LINE BECOMES A RIVER dispatches from the border between the United States and Mexico, and shares insights into what story is behind each migrant and Border Patrol agent. Author Francisco Cantú is able to talk about this divisive matter as a five-year Border Patrol agent, but also as the grandson of Mexican immigrants who crossed the border generations ago.

Informed and with a sense of humanity, Cantú may be a lone, rational voice on the Southern Border --- bringing experience from both patrolling the desert and reminiscences from family. But THE LINE BECOMES A RIVER is far from a modern “both sides” argument: Cantú feels something was wrong with the way things went while patrolling the border, and has been in touch with Mexican subjects for which he feels empathy. He was troubled by, though very successful at, his job as a Border Patrol agent, and now expresses these feelings as a full-time writer in a savvy and intelligent nature.

"THE LINE BECOMES A RIVER is personal and emotional, not some everyday debate about immigration. It has nothing in common with an insufferable shouting match on television."

Cantú has had to collect the bodies of those who perished in the heat of the summer desert. He has rescued a pregnant woman who had walked for days, only to process her case and see her deported. It has resulted in memories and nightmares that linger with him today. Cantú has the irreplaceable and superb ability to uncover how the way the border has been patrolled for years resulted in violence for so many in the United States and Mexico. He explains how the border is more than just a barrier; it is a symbol and place of interaction where cultures, countries, generations and stories can meet and collide. He proves through a series of personal experiences that the story of the border is one that will always be shared by both Mexicans and Americans from the United States.

THE LINE BECOMES A RIVER is personal and emotional, not some everyday debate about immigration. It has nothing in common with an insufferable shouting match on television. The details are rough and the story is real, yet the contact between Cantú’s own story and those of the Mexican migrants is dignifying. Words flow from memory to prove how the history of immigration and the topic of identity are irremovable from the policies made, or that should be made, for the border. The humanity in his language is more familiar to poetry than anything else, but he is an adept writer with a faculty for prose. Cantú is in a better position than perhaps anyone to provide a balanced look for all involved in immigration, even though he was a Border Patrol agent, and an effective one at that.

It is a rare border story that connects more than divides, yet Cantú incorporates compelling immigrant stories to which every American family can relate in some way. He approaches this American border from many angles, and he is a product of that border, just as the border is a product of the movement from generations between the United States and Mexico.

Reviewed by John Bentlyewski on February 23, 2018

The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border
by Francisco Cantú

  • Publication Date: February 6, 2018
  • Genres: Memoir, Nonfiction
  • Hardcover: 256 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Books
  • ISBN-10: 0735217718
  • ISBN-13: 9780735217713