The Line Becomes a River by Francisco Cantu

The grandson of a Mexican immigrant, Cantu struggles to understand his family’s relationship with the U.S. Mexico border patrol by joining the border patrol itself! As a Mexican-American studied in the international issues, with a tender heart, and the necessary Spanish skills, he hopes to be able to bring some kindness to the families being turned back at the border while helping establish justice and fair rules. He wants to know where and if there is a balance between the two. So the story starts there – leaving his schooling to pursue training on the ground as a border patrol agent. In part two, he is transferred to an intelligence position, which gives the audience a look into a second aspect of how the border patrol runs. Finally, having stepped away from the border patrol after a few years of service, Cantu learns that a wonderful friend has been detained after trying to cross the border and has to decide what he can do to help the family.

Next to the man it reads: “For (To) a world without walls”
Photo by Max Böhme on Unsplash

I honestly can’t imagine a better method of addressing this issue than what Cantu has accomplished. He mixes his schooling and research on the matter, his family and personal demons, as well as his professional experiences into a really beautiful illustration of what has been occurring at the border between the U.S. and Mexico. Not only is he articulate but there’s something really poetic and simple in his style that just sucked me in and made it all so much more emotional to read. I especially love the way he maintains his identity and culture by unashamedly weaving in bits of Spanish conversations without translation throughout the book.

I also appreciate that I kept waiting and waiting for him to give his solution, or any solution, or for him to just call out a problem and curse it for its awfulness. But he doesn’t. The voice in my head that I’ve created for Francisco Cantu speaks with a softness, and sometimes is sad, but never accusatory, crude or judgemental. And because of this, as I read I felt like I was able to make my own decisions about what needs to change and be done. What is working well already and what has shown improvement.

And after watching this video now, I think I’m mostly right about my choices in his voice. Here’s his similarly short synopsis and invitation to read the book:

Inferno by Dr. Steven Hatch

This book is the reason I finally caved and downloaded an app for ebooks, betraying all the wonderfully dusty-smelling pages of the tangible (albeit tree-killing) books that I love. Initially, it was kind of a random cover on the shelf at the library that caught my attention a while back. I went ahead and rented it, but with two little boys, carrying around a paperback book can be dangerous, so I didn’t get even close to finishing before it was due for return. But it had caught my interest.

So yeah, I rented the ebook version instead. And I’m glad I did.

“The University of Liberia was due to close because of an Ebola outbreak. But students protested and were meet with officers in full riot gear. I was one of the only American journalists there, an officer met my camera’s gaze.” Photo and quote by Monica Melton on Unsplash

In the book “Inferno” Dr. Steven Hatch takes readers with him on his very real medical mission assisting in the heat of the Ebola crisis. He describes the complex web of racism, world politics and a medicine culture that led to one of the most alarming modern outbreaks of a deadly disease.

Most of us in the developed world don’t pause to think how amazing it is that we drink water from a tap and never once worry about dying forty-eight hours later from cholera. Spending some time in Liberia might help to reveal just how truly amazing that really is. In a two week tour, I saw examples of how the lack of such wonders as running water, the ability to summon light at any moment of a twenty-four hour cycle, and cheap and efficient transportation all led to people worrying about dying from any number of maladies, even including cholera. Liberia’s rudimentary infrastructure underscored how these normally invisible advances that make life so livable elsewhere are crucial to the chances that you’ll live to see thirty.

“Inferno”, Steven Hatch

I loved so many parts of this book, but one thing that killed me at the beginning were the “go figure” and “the logical place to start” statements, because, as I told my husband, I was CLUELESS about the ebola outbreak. I think I had even forgotten that it had started in Liberia, only remembering that it had in fact happened somewhere. I couldn’t decide if I thought he was stuck up, if I was really in need of a history lesson, or if he was just writing to a very different and more activist-type audience than, well…me. I’m going to say the latter, but still haven’t entirely ruled out the other possibilities. After the first few chapters of the book, I felt like he had laid a sound enough historical background for me to understand where he was coming from.

Aside from that, I thought that this book was so well written and I felt that the author stuck to his word and tried to be as fair and unbiased towards the people and culture as possible, sharing what he saw without too many assumptions. I respected that a lot and was astonished at some of the events he described. It’s a great read, especially for those interested in medicine and activism.

The Beekeeper

January now officially kicks each new year off with National Human Trafficking Awareness Month! And as such, it seems like appropriate a time as ever to catch up on some book reviews, namely “The Beekeeper”.

Photo by Akira Hojo on Unsplash

This book is a true story, and one filled with true horrors. With that being said, I want to share a quote from a book called “Slave Stealers” by Tim Ballard before getting into this.

“Do you have children, Tim?”

“Yes,” I responded, my eyes matching the intensity I was reading in his.

“Then let me ask you something….” He hesitated. He must have known the question was somewhat cruel. But he went forward with it anyway.

“Could you get in bed and sleep at night, knowing that one of your children’s beds was empty?”I knew the answer was no, but I couldn’t get the word out, as instant tears and emotion blocked my ability to vocalize. I just shook my head.

“Slave Stealers”, pg 56, Tim Ballard

Books like this can be hard to digest, but Tim Ballard argues that if we don’t learn how to make it personal- imagining our own children and recognizing that the victims are real children of other heartbroken parents – and act as if our own families and loved ones were on the line, then this criminal market will never end. So in the parts when your heart and tear ducts start to swell at the same rate, and you think you’d rather just not finish, consider for a minute why you feel that way and what you can do. It might just be a defining moment in the start to someone’s rescue.

“The Beekeeper” is based on true stories from Abdullah Shrem, a beekeeper working to help liberate Yazidi women kidnapped by Daesh (aka ISIS), who through many means and people escape. He tells their stories in hopes of bringing light to the problem and to “rally the troops,” so to speak, against ISIS.

But for all the horrors, this book is very interestingly written, leaving no words to the author alone, but always quoting verbatim the conversations she had with the beekeeper and others involved in the rescues or being rescued.

If you’d like to learn more about the author and Abdullah Shrem (the beekeeper), then you can also check out this PBS News Hour Report and interview with her!