An exploration of the borderlands that deftly mixes memoir, groundbreaking sociology, deep reporting, and compelling writing.
A child of the parched Texas-Mexico border, Elizondo Griest (Mexican Enough: My Life Between the Borderlines, 2008, etc.) found herself teaching on a Mohawk Indian reservation that straddled the frigid New York state–Canadian border. At first, the author could not perceive any significant similarities between the two border experiences other than the deep roots of Catholicism. However, as the months passed, she began to realize the commonalities between borderlands shot through with poverty, cruelty by law enforcement agencies, language wars, environmental degradation, poor schools, ill health, drug smuggling, human trafficking, and extraordinarily high death tolls, including suicides. As Elizondo Griest documents the plight of border occupants, she struggles with defining herself within her mixed-race background. She has thought of herself as a mix of Tejana, Chicana, and Latina, but people outside her family usually viewed her as a gringa due to her unusually light skin and blue eyes. But as she began to understand, the borderland existence is the most defining factor of all. Portions of the author’s findings as a reporter are graphic, especially as she chronicles her travels with law enforcement officers to retrieve rotting bodies of Mexicans who died trying to cross rugged territory in Texas or Arizona to establish a life in the U.S. Perhaps the most revelatory portions of the book are the sections about the already existing wall on stretches of the U.S.–Mexico border, barriers predating the rise of Donald Trump. The chapters about the Mohawk struggles are quite likely to seem revelatory, too, given the dearth of national journalism coverage of that region.
In this well-conceived book, the author demonstrates unforgettably that national borders constitute much more than lines on a map.