“We were trying to change the vision and the conversation about border fears.”
Border Odyssey takes us on a drive toward understanding the U.S./Mexico divide: all 1,969 miles—from Boca Chica to Tijuana—pressing on with the useful fiction of a map.
“We needed to go to the place where countless innocent people had been kicked, cussed, spit on, arrested, detained, trafficked, and killed. It would become clear that the border, la frontera, was more multifaceted and profound than anything we could have invented about it from afar.”
Along the journey, five centuries of cultural history (indigenous, French, Spanish, Mexican, African American, colonist, and U.S.), wars, and legislation unfold. And through observation, conversation, and meditation, Border Odyssey scopes the stories of the people and towns on both sides.
“Stories are the opposite of walls: they demand release, retelling, showing, connecting, each image chipping away at boundaries. Walls are full stops. But stories are like commas, always making possible the next clause.”
Among the terrain traversed: walls and more walls, unexpected roadblocks and patrol officers; a golf course (you could drive a ball across the border); a Civil War battlefield (you could camp there); the southernmost plantation in the United States; a hand-drawn ferry, a road-runner tracked desert, and a breathtaking national park; barbed wire, bridges, and a trucking-trade thoroughfare; ghosts with guns; obscured, unmarked, and unpaved roads; a Catholic priest and his dogs, artwork, icons, and political cartoons; a sheriff and a chain-smoking mayor; a Tex-Mex eatery empty of customers and a B&B shuttering its doors; murder-laden newspaper headlines at breakfast; the kindness of the border-crossing underground; and too many elderly, impoverished, ex-U.S. farmworkers, braceros, lined up to have Thompson take their photograph.
Farmer-turned-activist and Duke University professor Charles D. Thompson’s compelling books and films intertwine agriculture and immigration, culture and philosophy.
A potent cri de coeur for a more compassionate, sane and humane border policy.
Thompson uses his travels to share his passion for the welfare of hard-working, good people, and to persuade his readers that such people have been trapped and exploited by a flawed immigration system.
~D.G. Martin, Winston-Salem Journal
[Thompson] sought a firsthand look at how modern U.S. border policy has affected the people in the region, from migrant workers to indigenous people to border patrol agents to residents of economically stagnant towns just north of the boundary. The result is a travel memoir with a conscience, an extension of Thompson’s ongoing work to humanize the hotly debated region.
~Corbie Hill, The News & Observer
Does Border Odyssey bring us any closer to dissolving entrenched divisions and ingrained attitudes about the border? In presenting the struggles and strife of this place and its people with honesty and hope, Thompson shows the possibility and potential of such a beautiful dream.
~Yvette Benavides, The Texas Observer
We need these stories that bring us together, the travel that makes us realize that the only borders that really exist between us are the ones that come of ignorance and fear.
~Julia Alvarez, author of In the Time of the Butterflies and A Wedding in Haiti
Breathes life into contemporary debates on immigration that often flatten the human implications of national policy by letting us hear from those whose voices may not otherwise be heard, and so allowing us to better understand this complex contact zone that cannot be contained by a wall of any size.
~Louis G. Mendoza, author of A Journey Around Our America
1. Evidence of Things Not Seen
2. The Border Etched in Bones
3. Traveling the Valley of the Shadow
4. Two Kinds of Flight
5. Of Roads, Fences, and Neighbors
6. Boca Chica Sunset
7. The Ghosts of Palmito Ranch
8. El Ranchero
9. Border Guards
10. Brownsville Raids
11. Rio Grande Guardians
13. World’s Most Honest Man
14. Cowboy Priests
15. The Hand-Drawn Ferry
16. Prohibition Bar
17. Border Walker
18. The Road to Eagle Pass
19. Border Ambassador
20. The Last Stay at Del Rio
21. Seminole Canyon
22. Braceros in Murder City
23. Fort Davis and the Buffalo Soldiers
24. National Park on the Line
25. Pancho Villa and the Pink Store
26. Smoke on the Apacheria
27. A Grandmother Mourns at the Wall
28. Fences and Neighbors
29. Ground Zero of the Border Crisis
30. Altar and Sacrifice
31. Phoenix Rising
32. Tohono Sacred Peak and Desert Deaths
33. Campesinos Sin Fronteras
34. The Wall of Shame and Entrepreneurship
35. Graves of Unknown Farmworkers
36. Desert View Tower and the X-Men
37. Walking Alone through Friendship Park
38. As If It Were Not There
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