Review of Francisco Cantu’s Memoir “The Line Becomes a River” in the Dallas Morning News

So my review of Francisco Cantu’s The Line Becomes a River, a memoir about his experience working as a Border Patrol Agent, appears in the Dallas Morning News today, and can be found here. It’s a good book, thoughtful and rather low-key, compassionate and remorseful. Cantu humanizes both the migrants and the border patrol officers trying to catch them. It’s a thoughtful balance to such films as Sicario (2015) or The Counselor (2013), which offer nightmarish visions of the Mexican border—inhabited mainly by the drug cartels and the law enforcement meant to stop them—making everyone involved seem guilty. The Line Becomes a River offers almost the opposite: It doesn’t make everyone seem innocent, but portrays the migrants and the border agents as trapped in a cycle determined by the tangled history of both the U.S. and Mexico, by the economics of both countries, and by the casual racism that is part of the tragedy. Other factors also exacerbate the problem: Climate Change is making the desert conditions hotter and dryer for the migrants, and harming some of the agricultural areas the migrants are abandoning. The controversy about building a border wall and the DACA debate loom in the background, creating a greater sense of urgency and timeliness for Cantu’s story.

About williamjcobb

William J. Cobb is a novelist, essayist, and short fiction writer whose work has been published in The New Yorker, The Mississippi Review, The Antioch Review, and many others. He’s the author of two novels—The Fire Eaters (W.W. Norton 1994) and Goodnight, Texas (Unbridled 2006)—and a book of stories, The White Tattoo (Ohio State UP 2002). He has reviewed books for the Dallas Morning News, the Houston Chronicle, and the New York Times. He lives in Pennsylvania and Colorado. He may be contacted at
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