The Clinton County Reads 2020 book will be Francisco Cantu’s “The Line Becomes a River,” the memoir of a man who joined the U.S. Border Patrol after studying the border in college and finding he wanted an unvarnished look at what happens at the southern border with Mexico.
In announcing the results of the voting, the Clinton County Reads Steering Committee notes that the vote margins among the five titles on the ballot were the closest in the history of the program.
A Wall Street Journal review of “The Line Becomes a River” says: “When the political rhetoric around the complex, ruggedly beautiful and scarred U.S.-Mexico borderlands is reduced to talk of a 30-foot concrete wall, it’s time to take a more nuanced look at our southern border. … ‘The Line Becomes a River’ veers away from propaganda and stereotypes and into the wild deserts and mountains, and, especially, the hearts and minds of the people who traverse the increasingly militarized borderlands.”
Kirkus Reviews calls “The Line Becomes a River” “a devastating narrative of the very real human effects of depersonalized policy.” Named a Top 10 Book of 2018 by the Washington Post and NPR, it also won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Current Interest and was a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Nonfiction Award.
Author Francisco Cantú’s mother, the daughter of a Mexican immigrant, worked as a ranger and raised her son in the national parks of the Southwest. She was unconvinced that a job in law enforcement would be necessary for her son to fully comprehend the system and was worried what would happen to her son’s humanity.
Despite the death and heartache he witnessed, Cantú was struck by how routine and dehumanizing the job became, and how much more complex the border issues are than he had realized. The book breaks into three parts, the last of which refocuses on Cantú’s acquaintance who leaves the United States to visit his ailing mother. Later, Cantú becomes involved in the tortuous legal efforts to bring the man home.
Cantú is a former Fulbright fellow as well as the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a Whiting Award, and an Art for Justin Fellowship. A lifelong resident of the Southwest, he now lives in Tucson, where he coordinates the Field Studies in Writing Program at the University of Arizona.
Clinton County Reads’ month-long, county-wide reading program starts in mid-March and culminates with an April 21 dinner at the General Denver Hotel in Wilmington. Details of discussions and programs will be announced in February.
The Clinton County Reads steering committee selects titles for the annual ballot based on literary merit and themes that lend themselves to programming and conversation throughout Clinton County. The committee times the announcement to allow ample opportunity to read the selection prior to the Clinton County Reads events in the spring.
Clinton County Reads is sponsored by the Blanchester Public Library, the Sabina Public Library and its New Vienna branch, the Wilmington Public Library and its Clinton-Massie branch, and BooksNMore.org. Copies of “The Line Becomes a River” are available at each library location.
Serving on the Clinton County Reads 2020 steering committee are chairman Chris Owens, Joy Brubaker, Peggy Dunn, Eileen Brady, Joe Knueven, Bonnie Starcher, Marla Stewart, and Mary Thomas Watts.