Review by Booklist Review
Nearly every American is familiar with the 2016 campaign cries of "Build that wall!" Gibson, best known for his books about gentrification and unemployment, takes us to the San Diego County-Tijuana border, where that promise was becoming reality. He spent two years, from May 2017 to June 2019, first awaiting, then watching the construction and eventual testing of eight prototypes in the running to become "the wall." Gibson's first-hand accounts and comments on his broken Spanish and the quality of whatever coffee he's being subjected to bring a personal edge to his observations and research on a topic with international reach spanning decades. In the shadow of the prototypes, Gibson seeks out people willing to share their experiences of and perspectives on the impact of the many forces at work on the border. Among them are hopeful concrete salespeople, activists leaving water in the desert for migrants, a real-estate millionaire with presidential aspirations (not the obvious one), border patrol agents, and so-called caravan migrants. They're all given voices within Gibson's enlightening and inclusive report on the walled border.
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review
In this empathetic, voice-driven account, journalist Gibson (Not Working) reports from the U.S.-Mexico border between San Diego and Tijuana during the development and construction of a 14-mile stretch of President Trump's border wall. Visiting the area between 2017 and 2019, Gibson interviews people living on both sides of the border, including Aurelia Avila, a young Mexican-American woman who collects recyclables in Tijuana; Civile Ephedouard, a Haitian refugee seeking asylum in San Diego; and Lance LeNoir, a member of the San Diego Sector Confined Space Entry Team, who patrols subterranean passageways between the U.S and Mexico. Their overlapping perspectives set the book apart from more didactic, issue-driven accounts. Gibson quotes an ICE special agent who asks "how many people is our infrastructure designed to take?" and relates the story of a retired Methodist minister and aid worker whose neighbor once said that the value of her home was more important than the value of a refugee's life. More philosophical meditation on the meaning and function of a border than hard-hitting exposé, Gibson's multifaceted portrait makes a meaningful contribution to the question of what a humane and sensible immigration policy would look like. Readers will be left with a lot to ponder. Agent: Chris Parris-Lamb, the Gernert Agency. (July)
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Review by Library Journal Review
From 2017 to 2019, journalist and author Gibson (The Edge Becomes the Center) researched a small stretch of the U.S.-Mexico border. That 14-mile stretch where construction companies built border wall prototypes as part of Trump's campaign promise to reinforce the border is the focus of this well-documented narrative. Gibson interviewed people who live, work, and depend on this space for their livelihood, including a member of the Kumeyaay tribe whose ancestors lived on this land for generations, a San Diego contractor who submitted a border wall prototype, and a U.S. Border Patrol agent hoping to train teenagers to work at the agency. The author states early on that he is "searching for a way to figure out what a border really looks like in an increasingly interconnected world." For those who live along this small stretch of terrain, this space carries a heavy significance. For some it is their livelihood and for others it is their history. Gibson delves into the human element behind these 14 miles. VERDICT Written in a narrative style, this engaging book will appeal to anyone interested in learning more about who lives along the border and what a wall means to them.--Susan E. Montgomery, Rollins Coll., Winter Park, FL
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Review by Kirkus Book Review
A two-year on-the-ground investigation of "The Wall" and how it is affecting lives on both sides of the border. From 2017 to 2019, Gibson spent his days documenting the planning and construction of the 14-mile portion of the wall along the border between San Diego County and Tijuana. Though there is plenty of information about the numerous prototypes for the physical wall--as well as the tangled bureaucracy involved in choosing one and starting the work--the page-turning, often tense narrative covers much more. The author chronicles his time with men and women on both sides of the 1,954-mile border. In addition to telling Gibson about the tangible effects of the physical wall, many illuminate what the idea of a wall means to them. The author's range of reporting is impressive. He had discussions with Roque De La Fuente, the land speculator who used to own or still owns property that the U.S. government would need to acquire to complete Donald Trump's obsessive vision, as well as other entrepreneurs profiting--or not--from its construction. The law enforcement agents who appear in the narrative represent various bureaucracies and points of view, each of them mind-expanding, many antithetical to concepts of civil liberty. These include officers from the Border Patrol, local police departments, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and other units equipped with drug-sniffing dogs. In addition, Gibson examines the plights of Mexicans barely surviving economically within a few hundred yards of the barriers erected by the U.S. government. While the American ranchers and citizen vigilantes portrayed by the author consider themselves well-meaning patriots, the heritage of the Ku Klux Klan in San Diego County does not bode well for desperate asylum seekers from Mexico and points south. Throughout the book, Gibson portrays the varied humanity on both sides with journalistic integrity and readable prose that often includes subtle yet biting social commentary. An important current affairs book that deserves a wide audience before the 2020 election. Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.
Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.