Whoever recommended this book, thank you.
If you have any interest in the border then read this book. What is this book? A detailed, historical look at the region? No. A book of facts and statistics? Not really. This book is a grain of sand. That’s it. Now you might be thinking “Milnor, that’s not cool, you just took a shot at this guy.” Nope, not at all. This book is a grain of sand on a beach with no end. Inconsequential? Quite the contrary. Anyone who hikes, runs or cycles knows what it’s like to start your journey with some tiny thing that might not be quite right. At the beginning of your journey it’s no big deal, but by mile fifty this tiny morsel of discomfort, either mental or physical, has transformed itself into a boulder of magnificent proportion. That is what this book is like.
Francisco Cantú is a former Border Patrol agent who is also a Fulbright fellow and Pushcart Prize winner. In short, he’s odd and probably doesn’t fit in, but luckily for us, this means we get this book. The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border, is a personal tale structured around small observations or feelings that represent all things large along the border.
This is a quiet, cautionary tale, but also a beautiful story that reflects a time and place that are unique to the world, to history and a predicament that seemingly has no end. Several things I loved. The description of the Border Patrol and their various working methods. Also loved the section about the author leaving the BP, going back to school, and in the interim he finds employment at a coffeeshop. He befriends a Latino guy who turns out to be in country illegally, but has been here for thirty years, has three children, is a model citizen and employee. This man finds out his mother is dying and returns to Oaxaca to be with her, thinking he can just slip back across the border when he needs to return. Doesn’t turn out that way, and through this one situation you learn the cruelty and complexity of the border.
Like I’ve said before, I’ve spent time on the border. Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. I love the border, and I hate the border. I’m in awe of this place, and I’m also somewhat terrified of it. I’ve purposely walked into, and out of, situations on the border that I was warned not to enter. While at other times I’ve departed scenes where I was assured of my safety because of nothing more than an overwhelming sense that something wasn’t quite right. I feel fluid when I’m along that fence, on either side, as if plans mean nothing because you are at the mercy of the current around you.
I’m by no means an expert on the border. Not even remotely close, but the message of this book is that most Americans need to educate themselves as to what this place actually is and what it means. We can’t allow our politicians to paint our portrait of the border because most of them have never seen it, don’t understand it, don’t want to understand it and are only looking for ways to stay in office, so whatever prevailing border wind is blowing(Hey, let’s build a wall and have Mexico pay for it.) they will put up their largest sail and race away.
Get it, read it.