The College of Charleston has chosen Francisco Cantú‘s The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border for its 2020 The College Reads! book.

The Line Becomes a River will open a conversation about the ambiguous nature of borders. In particular, this book is a memoir of Cantú’s experience growing up around the American-Mexican border in the desert southwest, studying the border as an international relations major at American University and his decision to join the Border Patrol from 2008-2012 and later leave it – all in an attempt to better understand the dynamics of natural and unnatural borders. The book is written in three parts: Cantú’s training and work as a border field agent; his decision to leave the field for an office-based intelligence assignment; and his personal relationship with Jose – an undocumented worker who must navigate the border in very dangerous ways to support his family. The book is rich with the ambiguities of borders and the complexities of the human condition. There are no easy answers, nor is this a story in black and white. The College Reads! Committee believes this will allow students from a variety of experiences to join an important and timely conversation about borders, immigration, migration and our shared humanity.

The author, Francisco Cantú, is a former Fulbright fellow, winner of the 2018 Los Angeles Times Book Prize and a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle Award in nonfiction. Cantú has been the recipient of a Pushcart Prize, a Whiting Award and an Art for Justice Fellowship. His writing and translations have been featured in The New Yorker, Best American Essays, Harper’s and Guernica, as well as on This American Life. He earned a MFA from the University of Arizona. Cantú lives in Tucson and coordinates the Field Studies in Writing Program at the University of Arizona.

The College Reads! is the College of Charleston’s campus-wide common reading program designed to connect students, faculty and staff around a single book. All incoming students and roster faculty receive a copy of the book (alternate formats are available). Additional copies are made available for borrowing and sharing widely across campus. All faculty and incoming students are encouraged to read this selection as it will be connected to the academic curriculum and campus activities throughout the year. Cantú will be on campus Oct. 21-23, 2020. His public lecture (free and open to all) will be on Thursday, Oct. 22, at 7 p.m. in the Sottile Theatre.