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

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Staff Reviews

Francisco Cantu served as a US Border Patrol agent for four years, putting him at odds with his Mexican American mother and heritage. An International Studies major in college, Cantu wanted to truly understand the border conflict between the US and Mexico from the ground. But he begins to realize that government work can have ill effects on the identity of a person, and some of his best learning will occur off the job, rather than by it. Cantu depicts life in the desert with such empathy (for migrants and agents alike) that is truly lacking in much of the political discourse that takes place today in an age of xenophobia and border wall talk. This memoir is so critical at a time like now and should be an essential read for any opinion on immigration policy.
HINT: If your Spanish is as poor as mine, use a translating site or app when reading this. Some of the most poignant moments happen in Spanish. Don’t be lazy, it is very worth it!

— From Carl


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