An exploration of 2,000 miles of fraught, rugged and deeply contested territory.
Thompson (Documentary Studies and Cultural Anthropology/Duke Univ.; Spirits of Just Men: Mountaineers, Liquor Bosses, and Lawmen in the Moonshine Capital of the World, 2011, etc.), a former farmer, is a self-professed activist on United States–Mexico border issues. He has published scholarship on issues of immigration, agriculture and border politics and has brought groups of students to borderland regions for experiential learning, and this book represents a combination of reportage, travelogue, memoir and jeremiad. In 2010, Thompson and his wife undertook an ambitious trip in which they followed the path of the border from the Texas Gulf Coast to the Pacific Ocean, crossing nearly 2,000 miles through Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and California. They tried their best not to simply follow the interstates and other major highways but to hew as closely to the border as possible throughout the trip. They explored little towns and larger communities on both sides of the border, communities that in many cases are dying due to the construction of the border wall, which has provided a concrete example of the politics of separation that have dominated conservative politics and largely won out in the current debates over immigration. Thompson chronicles his discussions with ordinary folks, activists, border officials and just about anyone who would answer his questions. Although the author tries to be fair, his sympathies for immigrants and understandable frustrations with the wall and what it represents ring clearly throughout. He writes engagingly and elucidates both major issues as well as the subtle losses that have taken place over the years. The narrative cries out for a map or series of maps, but Thompson’s own photographs enhance his impassioned prose.
A potent cri de coeur for a more compassionate, sane and humane border policy.