Review: The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border

by Francisco Cantú (Riverhead Books/Penguin Random House, 2018)

In this debut memoir, Francisco Cantú does an excellent job of humanizing people who live, work, and dream on both sides of the border. The author comes of age between cultures in the American Southwest, where his mother (the child of immigrants) works for the National Park Service. He becomes a border guard, but struggles with a complicated moral compass doing this work. Fortunately for readers, Cantú puts down his weapon and his badge, steps away from patrolling the violence along the border, and picks up his pen. The author turns our attention to the wider issues that we humans are creating.

This memoir explores the very nature of violence, of justice, of the forces that compel people to risk it all to cross the border into America. We learn about those impacted by epidemic narco activity; femicide in Juárez; ranchers and residents living along the border; José, (long-time undocumented family man, who is detained while returning to America after visiting his dying mother in Oaxaca); border patrol agents; and anonymous “crossers” intercepted or found dead in the desert. This is an often-heartbreaking account that acts as witness to the stories of many other people.

Highly recommended—in fact, required—reading for anyone who seeks a deeper understanding of what is happening below the surface of news headlines.

Karen Lewis