Reader’s Forum — Harriet Hoffman & Catana Barnes

Harriet Hoffman

Harriet Hoffman

The Line Becomes A River was, for me, a very unusual reading experience. Francisco Cantú’s descriptions of the “borderland” throughout the book were so evocative and alive that I felt I had been there with him. Similarly, his recounting of his frequent nightmares were so graphic and real that it seemed like I was there too. So even though this book is not difficult to read, I had trouble absorbing more than a few pages at a time!

Cantú’s writing is incredibly rich. He narrates the misery and the deaths that we are in large part responsible for in a style that is unflinching, mixed with comparisons to Greek mythology and stories of incredible generosity on the part of some of the migrants. He introduces us to his fellow agents and we learn about his mother’s fears for the soul of her border agent son, the history of the Mexican revolution, the drug trade and the brutality of the people smugglers – capitalism’s newest big business.

In the end we become intimate with his friend who becomes a victim of the senseless U.S. immigration policy and who he cannot save. Cantú doesn’t discuss the current politics of our border policy but we are aware that he was an agent prior to the ever escalating cruelty of the current administration. In the end I admired his openness in acknowledging his naiveté and the compromised position in which he placed himself when he became a border agent. This is a wonderful book.

Harriet Hoffman is a consultant specializing in grant writing and helping people maximize their Medicare and social security benefits. She is an activist with She is also active with the All Stars Project’s Committee for Independent Community Action.

Catana Barnes

catana barnes speaking
Catana Barnes

The Line Becomes A River, by Francisco Cantú, was a book I found difficult to put down and, ultimately, devoured in a matter of hours. I was drawn in by the author’s desire and struggle to know and understand the complicated and violent nature of the southern border as well as the motivation of the people to cross the border in the first place. I was also drawn in by the investigation and observation of humanity, the lack there of and how that is influenced by the language used to describe and define who and what the border beholds.

Francisco Cantú provides the reader with a glimpse of an experience at the border both through the lens of an agent of the government charged with “protecting” the border and through the lens of a human being who experienced the realities of the border. This prompted me to think about, at length, who the victims of the border are and I came to the conclusion that every single one of us are the victims and it is done through manipulation of the narrative. I feel the author illustrates this in paragraph 2 of the Author’s Note on page 252, “This current state of crisis did not descend from nowhere. For as long as many of us can remember, the border has been depicted as a place out of control, overrun by criminality. In the narrative that has dominated the national consciousness, violence and disorder are endemic to the region and those who are drawn to it.”

The Line Becomes A River is a powerful tool and touching story. It sparks curiosity and brings readers in touch with matters they may wish to ignore. This is a book I will add to my collection and read many times.

Catana Barnes is the founder and President of Independent Voters of Nevada.



Francisco Cantu
Politics for the People
Conference Call
The Line Becomes a River
With Author Francisco Cantú
Sunday, June 2nd at 7 pm EST.
Call in number: 605-313-5156
Passcode 767775#

Founder of the Politics for the People free educational series and book club for independent voters. Chair of the New York County Independence Party.

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