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Dying to Live: A Story of U.S. Immigration in an Age of Global Apartheid (City Lights Open Media)

4.1 out of 5 stars 10 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0872864863
ISBN-10: 0872864863
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Editorial Reviews

From School Library Journal

Adult/High School—Ten years ago Julio César Gallegos, one of countless immigrants, attempted to reunite with his family in Los Angeles and died of dehydration while crossing the U.S.-Mexico border in California's Imperial Valley. In Dying to Live, Nevins not only tells Gallegos's story, but also presents the geographic, historical, and political context of the U.S-Mexico border. Gallegos's motivations, struggles, and sacrifices serve as examples throughout the book of both past and present social stratification, political hypocrisy, and "global apartheid." Including photographs and maps, the book details the history, policies, and economics that have driven and prevented Mexican migration to the United States. The social and economic links between the two countries are described, primarily in relation to the agricultural industry in the border states. The strength of this book lies in the wealth of research and information presented on the history and politics of the border regions of Mexico and California. Teens will not only find the author's information valuable, but will also revel in the sources presented in the bibliography. However, researchers looking for insight into migration through Mexico from other Latin American countries will not find much information in this title. The scholarly tone and depth of the material make this book best suited for advanced readers and researchers.—Lynn Rashid, Marriots Ridge High School, Marriotsville, MD
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


"'Dying to Live' is a compelling, perceptive and invaluable book for our times." -- Susan Straight, author of "Highwire Moon"

"...a fierce and courageous denunciation of the foul politics of immigration..." -- Richard Walker, professor of geography, UC Berkeley

"An important, visually moving book that adds to our knowledge of the border and its place in history." -- David Bacon, author "Communities Without Borders: Images and Voices from the World of Migration"

"Invisible in life, like most exploited immigrants, Julio Cesar Gallegos now judges us from the hour of his terrible death." -- Mike Davis is the author, most recently, of "Planet of Slums" and "In Praise of Barbarians"

"Nevins blows the red-neck cover off the right wing engineered scapegoating of 'illegal' immigrants." -- Deepa Fernandes, author of "Targeted: Homeland Security and the Business of Immigration"

"Nevins writes a compelling indictment of this nation's immigration policy directed toward Mexico . . . thoughtful and elucidating exploration of this multifaceted problem." -- Booklist

"...packs a many-sided, moving, and uncompromising account of the development of U.S. immigration and its associated politics into a short and readable book." --International Socialist Review

"...a deftly written treatise on immigration, a must to those who want to further understand the subject." --Midwest Book Review

"Dying to Live is an invaluable book--one which is as contextual as it is analytical, as factual as it is moving. . . . In a compelling, accessible story, Josehph Nevins guides his readers through the complexities and intricacies of immigration, boundary-making, and their human affects and realities . . . with a Howard Zinn-like attention to historical detail, Nevins provides a comprehensive accounting of the actors, circumstances, and dynamics that culminated to create the current situation at the United States' southern border, specifically focusing on the Imperial Valley region of California." --Fellowship Magazine, Fall 2008

"Dying to Live is a journey into the historically evolved and still evolving meanings and effects of the US-Mexico boundary.Through his analysis, that moves from the early nineteenth century to the present (pp.75-121), Nevins shows the shift in the ideological and material weight of the boundary from a line on a map to a set of practices of inclusion and exclusion. . . Anyone interested especially in migration in the US-Mexican region, or more generally in the effects borders bear in people's lives, should take a look at Nevins's story." --Eeva Puumala, Cooperation and Conflict

"Dying to Live combines prodigious research, passionate argument, and masterful storytelling to describe the complicated landscape of U.S. immigration policies. . . Photographs by Mizue Aizeki appear throughout the book and add an element of human empathy that Nevins tries to cultivate in geography through story and argument. Dying to Live expands minds, ideas of borders, and notions of geography. . . Add Nevins book to your essential reading list." --Jillian McLaughlin, The Kosmopolitan Online

"[Nevins'] careful and well-written documentation of the historical and social antecedents of immigrant deaths on the desert conveys how absurd United States's politics of immigration and exclusion play out. By focusing first on geography - specifically the U.S.Mexico boundary and all that it implies in political and sociological terms - Nevins produces an ongoing accumulation of the prejudice and abuse that culminated in Gallegos' - and hundreds of other immigrants' - deaths. . . In spite of its title, Dying To Live is no tearjerker. Although Nevins makes no attempt to conceal where his sympathies lie, and pointedly criticizes U.S. policies and aggression, he focuses on facts, quotes, descriptions. And although one feels an immense sympathy for Gallegos and his American-born wife and children, the book engenders outrage, not tears." --New Politics

"Joseph Nevins's Dying to Live weaves the struggle of one family into the history of U.S. racism, global economic inequality, and 'nationalization' to provide a forceful indictment of global apartheid. Dying to Live is a hard-hitting book that should be read as a call to action. It breaks the silence surrounding migrant deaths at the hands of the power elite. Interspersed throughout the book are equally powerful photographs by Mizue Aizeki." --Gilda L. Ochoa, Latin American Perspectives

". . . a powerful, multifaceted study of Mexican and Central American migration to the US that combines historical analysis with a graphic narrative account of the economic and social factors that perpetuate it. . . . [Nevins] reminds us why we must tear down these artificial and illegitimate boundaries and allow migrants to find the same dream of a better life that so many Americans have had the privilege to live." --Gavin O'Toole, The Latin American Review of Books

"Dying to Live is a powerful examination of the messy politics and human consequences of US immigration policies. Joseph Nevins skillfully weaves the personal story of Julio César Gallegos, a migrant who died attempting to cross the US-Mexico boundary, together with detailed historical research to explore the boundary's ideological construction, the USA's `race-class-nation hierarchy', and the role of law in shaping Americans' geographical imagination." --Nancy Hiemstra, Progress in Human Geography

"Nevins's book, thanks to excellent research and a nuanced application of theory, demonstrates not only professional excellence but also an ongoing commitment to justice and human rights. By calling the entire notion of a 'right to be here' into question, Dying to Live serves as a powerful antidote to nationalistic amnesia on the part of the U.S. public, which has been too willing to embrace a shortsighted version of U.S.-Mexican history. By analyzing enforcement in the space of the border, he has provided an extension of the concept of structural violence. Those of us living in border states, especially Arizona, owe Nevins our appreciation. He shows how one can analyze policy information in a way that clearly communicates how common racial constructions support and extend the state's use of violence." --North American Congress on Latin America

Product Details

  • Series: City Lights Open Media
  • Paperback: 225 pages
  • Publisher: City Lights Publishers (May 1, 2008)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0872864863
  • ISBN-13: 978-0872864863
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 0.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #521,509 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Joseph Nevins is the author of Operation Gatekeeper: The Rise of the Illegal Alien and the Making of the U.S.-Mexico Boundary (Routledge, 2002) and, more recently, A Not-so-distant Horror: Mass Violence in East Timor (Cornell University Press, 2005). His writings have appeared in numerous journalistic publications, including The Christian Science Monitor, the International Herald Tribune, The Nation, Los Angeles Times, The Progressive, and The Washington Post. He is an associate professor of geography at Vassar College. Born and raised in Boston to a working class family, he attended the city's public schools. He graduated with a Bachelor's degree from Middlebury College in Vermont in 1987. It was as a student there that he became politically active, engaging in solidarity work with Central America, and efforts to end CIA recruitment on campus. He received a Ph.D. in geography in 1999 from UCLA. A long-time solidarity activist with East Timor, Joe is a founding member of the East Timor Action Network. He visited East Timor many times during the years of the Indonesian occupation and was the first American to meet with the East Timorese guerrilla movement. In 1999, he helped to organize and coordinate the largest non-governmental observer mission for the UN-run plebiscite in East Timor which resulted in the country's eventual independence. A father of two young girls, Joe is a board member of the Tucson-based BorderLinks, a bi-national organization that offers experiential educational seminars along the border focusing on the issues of global economics, militarization, immigration, and popular resistance to oppression and violence. He is also a founder and board member of La'o Hamutuk, the East Timor Institute for Reconstruction Monitoring and Analysis.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I've read a few of this author's books, and so far I'd say this one was my favorite. The book is very well put together, with chapters on the discovery of Julio Gallegos' body after he'd tried to cross the border into the U.S.; then a history of the Imperial Valley; a history of the border buildup; a vivid description of what life has been and is like in Juchipila, Mexico (where Gallegos was born); and a final chapter that shows the connection between the border and the continued needless suffering of those trying to escape poverty and find a better life elsewhere.

Throughout the book we learn of personal details of Gallegos' life, and that of his family who remain behind. After reading this book, it would be hard for anyone to hear of stories of immigrant deaths (while attempting to cross the U.S./Mexico border), and not feel like they may "know" these people a bit better...that they aren't so different from you and I.

The outstanding photos by Mizue Aizeki were a perfect complement to the text, and felt very personal and intimate.

I highly recommend this book!!!
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Format: Paperback
I was quite impressed by the thorough piece of work that is Joe Nevins's earlier "Operation Gatekeeper." This book, however, provides a more concrete human connection by complementing the meticulously documented history of Mexican immigration to the U.S. and racist legal and extra-legal harassment of same(which calls to mind the Latino power slogan "I didn't cross the border, the border crossed me") with the tragic story of one hard-working family man who died in the California desert trying to reach his loved ones.

The powerful text is complemented by heart-wrenching photos by Mizue Aizeki. This book is the perfect antidote to the disgusting scapegoating of immigrants which predominates on US hate radio. It artfully shows the importance of solidarity with the poor populations who are paying the price for corporate profiteering in the age of NAFTA.
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With the recent debates about immigration in the news, I felt compelled to get a good handle on the topic. This book is well-written, and also features amazing photography to illustrate the points. I got a comprehensive overview of the history of immigration enforcement (including the build up of the U.S.-Mexico boundary, and the struggle of those who risk their lives to cross). Not heavy-handed, but touching ... a great read.
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First of all, the title is misleading, there exists also legal immigration (equally tragic and merciless but the book doesn't cover this subject), so, the book is not about US Immigration but about an aspect of US Immigration. The book talks about undocumented immigrants from Mexico (but there are many undocumented immigrants from many other countries).
I loved the photographs. As far as the text is concerned, I have a strange feeling that anybody with an access to the internet and some money to travel can write such a book. It reads like a textbook, with the elements of Julio's tragic story inserted here and there. Is that a reworking of the good professor's textbook from his college? Some fragments of this book read indeed like a textbook - why is Los Angeles called Los Angeles, or why was there a war between the US and Mexico? Why Mexican people use the word "Don" before someone's first name...Thank God we are not told that the language of Mexico is Spanish.
Anyway, what is missing is a practical advise, what to do, how to help. Abolishing national borders is not a practical solution. Obviously undocumented immigrants will probably not want to go through legalizing their stay - if at all possible it is very costly and will take another 20 years of their life. There is just not a word of advice in this book and I thought the information that the professor collected is widely known to everybody.
Academic writers should be the people with a real solid vision for a better world, not a just a good background of knowledge about racism, class warfare, history and geography.. All we get from that book are appeals to the brotherhood of man, delivered in a generally "lamenting" tone. The absence of advice and conclusion is almost as upsetting as the tragedy of the story.
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On August 13th 1998 the Border Patrol found 23 year old Julio César Gallegos' body in California's Imperial Valley, still clutching a photograph of his 2-year-old son who awaited him in Los Angeles. In a powerful book fusing elements of photojournalism, history and social criticism, Nivens and Aizeki trace Julio's story through the politically charged geographies of the Imperial Valley, Zacatecas and Los Angeles. Nivens demonstrates the violent impact of an increasingly militarized border on numerous locations in Mexico and the US, and on the web of human lives that stretch between them. As a diligent investigation of changes in US immigration policy since this country's founding, this book could offer much to American history or government classes. Aizeki's artful photographs lend specificity and emotional charge to Nivens' demand for immigration policies which better reflect our society's commitment to human rights.
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