How Powerful Stories Have Shaped Border Depictions In Literature And Film

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A Cuban man seeking asylum waits along the border bridge after being denied into the Texas city of Brownsville, on June 22, 2018. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
A Cuban man seeking asylum waits along the border bridge after being denied into the Texas city of Brownsville, on June 22, 2018. (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

For centuries, borders have inspired tales of tragedy and triumph.

Here & Now's Robin Young look at borders in literature and film with Arizona State University professor Claudia Sadowski-Smith.

Recommended Border Novels, Films And Documentaries

from Claudia Sadowski-Smith

"The River Flows North," by Graciela Limón (2009)

This novel by Latina writer Graciela Limón follows the journeys of Mexican and Salvadoran migrants, and their coyote, across the Arizona desert from Sonora, Mexico.

"The Guardians," by Ana Castillo (2007)

Set in a fictional New Mexican border town near El Paso, Texas, this novel by Latina writer Ana Castillo explores how a border crosser’s disappearance affects his U.S. family and the local community.

"Tropic of Orange," by Karen Tei Yamashita (1997)

Set in Los Angeles and Mexico, this magical realist novel by Japanese American author Karen Tei Yamashita represents the interconnected lives of seven diverse protagonists, many of whom cross and re-cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

"Almanac of the Dead," by Leslie Marmon Silko (1991)

Set mainly in Tucson, Arizona, and Mexico, this novel by Laguna Pueblo author Leslie Marmon Silko represents the historical and contemporary relationship of indigenous peoples to U.S. borders.

"Borderline," by Janette Turner Hospital (1985)

The novel by Australian-born writer Janette Turner Hospital fictionalizes the reach of the 1980s sanctuary movement to the U.S.-Canada border.

"El Norte" (Dir. Gregory Nava, 1983, 1985 Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay)

This British-U.S. drama film follows two Mayan siblings, fleeing the Guatemalan civil war, on their journey north through Mexico and across the border to Los Angeles.

"Sin Nombre" (Dir. Cary Joji Fukunaga, 2009, 2009 Sundance Film Festival Excellence in Direction & Excellence in Cinematography)

This U.S.-Mexican thriller represents the journeys of a Mexican gang member trying to escape his dangerous lifestyle and a Honduran girl traveling with her recently deported father through Mexico to the U.S. border.

"Under the Same Moon/La Misma Luna" (Dir. Patricia Riggen, 2009)

This U.S.-Mexican film tells the story of a 9-year old Mexican boy's search for his mother who works undocumented in Los Angeles.

"Which Way Home?" (Dir. Rebecca Cammisa, 2009, 2010 Emmy and 2010 Academy Award nominee)

This U.S. documentary follows unaccompanied Honduran, Mexican and Salvadoran children on their long and treacherous voyage through Mexico to the U.S. border in their quest to unite with family members or to find work to support their families at home.

"The Golden Dream/La Jaula de Oro" (Dir. Diego Quemada-Diez, 2013, Golden Ástor for Best Film, 2013 Mar de Plata International Film Festival)

Based on interviews conducted by the director, this Mexican film tells the stories of four teenagers (three Guatemalan and one Tzotzil-speaking Mexican from Chiapas) on their dangerous journey through Mexico to cross the border into the United States.

This segment aired on August 8, 2018.



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