The Line Becomes a River Summary and Reviews

The Line Becomes a River

Dispatches from the Border

by Francisco Cantú

The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantú X
The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantú

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Book Summary

Searing and unforgettable, The Line Becomes a River makes urgent and personal the violence our border wreaks on both sides of the line.

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. Haunted by the landscape of his youth, Cantú 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. Cantú 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, Cantú discovers that the border has migrated with him, and now he must know the whole story.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Starred Review. Fresh, urgent...A devastating narrative of the very real human effects of depersonalized policy." - Kirkus

"Starred Review. Cantú's rich prose ("For one brief moment, I forgot in which country I stood. All around me the landscape trembled and breathed as one") and deep empathy make this an indispensable look at one of America's most divisive issues." - Publishers Weekly

"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

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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.

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