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Amexica: War Along the Borderline Paperback – September 27, 2011
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“Vulliamy, with a mix of irony and pathos, writes like a latter-day Graham Greene. . . . Like all good travel writing, Amexica is vivid, colorful, and exotic, filled with striking vignettes and larger-than-life characters.” ―Tamar Jacoby, The New York Times Book Review
“Extraordinary.” ―Vanity Fair
“An engrossing travelogue . . . a vivid, disturbing dispatch from a very wild frontier.” ―Publishers Weekly
“Vulliamy paints a terrifying and authoritative portrait of violence.” ―David Reiff, The Wall Street Journal
“An absorbing odyssey . . . Vulliamy's reporting is faultlessly brave. . . . The scenery and characters he meets are brought alive with vividness and intensity.” ―Alex Spillius, The Telegraph (UK)
“The author writes lyrically, with the enticing rhythm of his sentences contrasting jarringly with the degradation of humanity found on nearly every page . . . Most of the narrative feels fresh because it is based so heavily on Vulliamy's own wanderings . . . An impressively rendered, nightmare-inducing account.” ―Kirkus Reviews
“Previously, to understand the ruthlessness, ambition and impact of today's global criminals, you needed to read Roberto Saviano's Gomorrah and Misha Glenny's McMafia. Now, you also need to read Vulliamy's Amexica.” ―Brian Schofield, The Times (UK)
About the Author
ED VULLIAMY was the New York correspondent for The Observer from 1997 to 2003 and spent many years as an international correspondent for The Guardian. The author of Seasons in Hell, Vulliamy lives in London and Arizona.
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To give you an idea of how the book is set up, Vulliamy starts at the western end of the border in the Tijuana/San Diego area, and works his way east. During his journey, he meets and interviews people on both sides of the border to get their perspectives on the impact the drug war has had on their lives, and what the region known as "Amexica" means to them. He talks to American law enforcement, Mexican drug addicts and priests, businessmen and the unemployed...you name it. His chapter on Ciudad Juárez does an amazing job of capturing the chaos and hopelessness of the city - how no one knows anymore who's doing the killing, the rise in local drug addiction, the shockingly severe shortage of schools, the daily abandonment of children by parents who work in the maquiladoras, and the few souls who still hold out some hope.
The author's journey doesn't have a formal structure, but that's one of the things I liked about it. He does arrange his stories as he travels from west to east, but the stories themselves are so incredibly engrossing that you just can't wait to see who he meets next, and what his or her story is going to be. It's at times eye-opening, funny, sad, shocking, and heart-wrenching. If you're looking for a source for an academic research piece, this isn't it. However, if you want to learn more about the drug war from the personal perspectives of people on the ground on both sides of the border and from all walks of life, this book is for you.
It is part social traveloque, part keen observation, part critical attempt to understand complex issues, part interviews and reflection, part documentation of systemic corruption and public executions, mutilations, barbarism, decline and hope. It is mostly superior jopurnmalism: crisply written and extremely informative. Current drug policies have created atrocity and this erodes what we used to call "civilization", replacing it with fear and silence. War is more than a metaphor and like all work that attempts to address this, it deserves the attention and serious reflection that is sadly mission from the nightly news. There are compelling issues and findings on all of the border cities and a damning critique of the simplifications that define conventional wisdom.
A fine bibliography guides the reader to serious work being done on the borderlands. If you can only read one book on these issues, this should be the one. Perhaps, someday a Mexican journalist or scholar will actually be free enough to write the sequal and those north of the border will awaken from the illusion that military technology and hardware, fences, and ideology can ever solve more problems than they create and magnify. We owe that to the children who live on the border who, after all, ought to shock us into being more responsible than we currently are. People who live there already know that. It is the rest of us who need to do our homework as it is our fantasies and priorities that govern their realities, and thus reveal our supreme ignorance of what lies behind the famed "invisible hand" of classical economics gone global: a black sun. This secular version of the Antichrist emerges when a society looses its moorings and the social fabric unravels. Shadow is confused for substance, and crude materialism for something of value. Fear trumps reason. Silence trumps inquiry and myths are reified, compounding ignorance. Not many journalists, hoever, are often mistaken for philosophers and scholars--additions reasons to read this vital book.
Sadly, it was just an idea: this book reads like a first draft dashed off in an airport or Starbucks. It is
virtually unreadable. The old axiom applies: easy writing makes for wretched reading.