Coyotes: A Journey Across Borders with America’s Illegal Migrants (Conover)

It seemed important to include the subtitle. Apparently, in earlier versions, the final word of the title was ‘aliens’ – a positive switch, I think.

I wanted to like this more than I did. I think the trouble stems from Conover’s uncertainty about where to locate himself in the story. In the Foreword, he writes, “This is not the whole story, but I have tried to make it their story.” I don’t think he accomplishes this. He is central to the narrative, a constant threat and sometimes boon to the Mexicans he accompanies. He also says, early on, that a Mexican farmer told him, “It is better to see once than to listen many times.” I’m not sure that was very sound advice. Though Conover reports trying very hard to fit in, he is, in the end, a tourist of sorts. More than once, his American-ness saves him. Sometimes, he uses it to (try to) benefit the Mexicans, but it is always present. It may have been useful for him to see, but I think it would have served him and this book well for him to have listened more.

I also think it would have been more engaging if had moved between his own experiences and commentary on immigration policy. His narrative does not exactly pop off the page. Perhaps shorter pieces of it, combined with policy reporting, would have made this book more engaging. It also would have made it a different book.

Still, Conover accomplishes something we need now – to stop talking about immigration as an issue and to start talking about how it involves human beings. To the extent that he humanized border crossings, Conover does exactly that.


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