The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border (Hardcover)

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Francisco Cantú, author of The Line Becomes a River, worked four years as a Border Patrol Officer along the borderlands of Mexico before getting his MFA in writing from the University of Arizona. As an agent, he kept a diary.

Cantú’s particular vision about the border comes from his personal experiences. Reconciling the difficulty of his work, Cantú looks into the history of conflict and flawed human services as they have manifest along the dangerous border. Whether through the lens of a young man crossing in the heat of the summer—with possible deadly consequences—or a patrolman coming to the “rescue” of the illegal border crossers, Cantú knows when to pull back or zoom in.  His descriptions of the physical landscape and the dry and desolate expanse make us feel the grit and smell the rare rainstorm. They are marked with an intimacy of the area one could only know by living in it. By infusing his personal narrative with the violent and turbulent history of the region, he gives us narrative non-fiction at its best: with heart, smarts, and soul.

At recent events, there have been protests against the author and the book that humanizes Border Patrol Agents. Cantú recently stated on Twitter: “to be clear, during my years as a BP agent, I was complicit in perpetuating institutional violence and flawed, deadly policy. My book is about acknowledging that, it's about thinking through the ways we normalize violence and dehumanize migrants as individuals and as a society.”

Sarah's review first appeared on 89.1 KMUW. You can listen to it HERE.

— Sarah Bagby


The instant New York Times bestseller, "A must-read for anyone who thinks 'build a wall' is the answer to anything." --Esquire

For Francisco Cant , 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. Haunted by the landscape of his youth, Cant joins the Border Patrol. He and his partners are posted to remote regions crisscrossed by drug routes and smuggling corridors, where they 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. Cant tries not to think where the stories go from there.

Plagued by nightmares, he abandons the Patrol for civilian life. But when an immigrant friend travels to Mexico to visit his dying mother and does not return, Cant discovers that the border has migrated with him, and now he must know the whole story. Searing and unforgettable, The Line Becomes a River goes behind the headlines, making urgent and personal the violence our border wreaks on both sides of the line.

About the Author

Francisco Cantú served as 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 and a 2017 Whiting Award. His writing and translations have been featured in Best American Essays, Harper's, n+1, Orion, and Guernica, as well as on This American Life. He lives in Tucson.

Coverage from NPR

Product Details
ISBN: 9780735217713
ISBN-10: 0735217718
Publisher: Riverhead Books
Publication Date: February 6th, 2018
Pages: 256
Language: English