The Line Becomes A River

The Line Becomes A River

Book - 2018
Average Rating:
Rate this:
"'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. 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. Searing and unforgettable, The Line Becomes a River makes urgent and personal the violence our border wreaks on both sides of the line"-- Provided by publisher.
"A former Border Patrol agent's haunting experience of an unnatural divide and the lives caught on either side, struggling to cross or to defend it"-- Provided by publisher.
Publisher: New York :, Riverhead Books,, 2018
ISBN: 9780735217713
Call Number: 363.285 C1693L
TEEN 363.285 CANT
Characteristics: 250 pages ; 22 cm


From Library Staff

A former Border Patrol agent's haunting experience of an unnatural divide and the lives caught on either side, struggling to cross or to defend it

A former border patrol agent discusses his work, with some brutal details. A personal story where we also learn about family and friends that complicate common understandings of the U.S.-Mexico border.

From the critics

Community Activity


Add a Comment
DPL_Graham Dec 13, 2018

Francisco Cantu’s debut non-fiction book / biography is split into three distinct section. We first see him as bright-eyed student eager to learn more about immigration policy and reform through hands-on experience. We then follow his career as border agent (La Migra) as he stops drug dealers, attempts to track immigrants, shows compassion, and recovers dead bodies. His third act lets him see the border from the side of the immigrants when a close friend goes back to help his mother and isn’t allowed back into the country despite having lived in the USA for over 30 years.

Cantu’s experienced and atmospheric storytelling bring the struggle on our southern border into sharp relief and you can feel his empathy for everyone involved. Still, his time with La Migra leave Cantu with the deep psychological scars. Can you fight in a war against masses of humanity and retain your own humanity? Cantu’s often leaves details to the imagination and sometimes has sections that I didn’t understand the purpose of but taken as a whole the book provided me with important information and knowledge of the day-to-day reality of the border.

**The Line Becomes a River is a 2019 Andrew Carnegie Medals for Excellence Shortlist Winner

Oct 09, 2018

"The border's in our blood. . ."
It's hard to right about border security and immigration with impartiality. If you're on one side, the border patrol (and ICE) are trigger happy good old boys living out wild west fantasies. If you're on the other, they are the last line of defense between wholesome Americans and the blood thirsty, drug-pushing criminals that are making their way to our border. It's become one of the most contentious political issues of our time. Francisco Cantu brings a unique perspective, as grew up in the Southwest, is Mexican-American, and was border patrol agent. The book, unfortunately, is a little uncertain about what it wants to be. It's a memoir in some ways, but also it's a little bit history, a little bit social commentary, and a little bit discourse on the very complex issues. I liked it and think it's a subject more than worthy of a literary approach, but I wanted something more, something deeper from it, which maybe was an unfair expectation.

Mar 05, 2018

Cantu' writes from first person perspective in this captivating story of his experience as a Border Patrol Agent. It's not about US politics but rather the "commodity" of the alien. In the author's sweeping description of the border landscape he also intimately and graphically describes the landscape of one's soul - in Mann's view, me vs."the other". He examines his experience, "I had little inkling of what happened to those I arrested after I turned over ther paperwork and went home from my shift." His friendly relationship with Jose' and his arrest brought him face to face with the depersonalized system and the steadfast attempts with which many try to re-enter US for a better life.

Mar 02, 2018

To be a border agent is to deal with people caught up in crime and those trying to have a better life for their families- and both ending up dying in the desert. I think the history of the border that he lays out for us is valuable for showing us that we need to have a policy that is knowable, enforceable and humane. This book makes me feel once again the overwhelming gratitude that I was born in the USA and how much I take it for granted.
It is no wonder that border patrol agents get PTSD with the carnage, inhumane treatment, and tragedy that they see every day. I feel for everyone involved.
I recommend this book to everyone, unless you are there on the border and seeing all sides you cannot possibly be informed.


Add Age Suitability

There are no ages for this title yet.


Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.


Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.


Add a Quote

There are no quotes for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number


Subject Headings


Find it at SFPL

To Top