I stayed up late reading Francisco Cantú’s book. Its one of these non-fiction titles which are beautiful books about horrible things, in the manner of The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein. Mr. Cantú was a border patrol agent between 2008 and 2012, policing the border between Mexico and the USA in the deserts of Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.
Its confronting reading. Although he does his best to retain a sense of empathy, Cantú describes destroying supply caches (to discourage crossers so they give up) booking small children, and finding dead bodies. A descendant of immigrants, he reflects on the toll that border enforcement policies enact on people all the way from the governmental decision makers to the people attempting a dangerous desert crossing in hope of a better life. There are descriptions of the natural landscapes Cantú loves, and historical insights into the nature of borders and boundaries. Its a flowing, disparate, subtle book.
The brutality of a system which will separate families and incarcerate undocumented immigrants compares uncomfortably closely with Australian policies on asylum seekers – its just an ocean they cross to reach us, instead of a desert. Vital, timely, lovely.
Bodley Head 2018