cover image No Option but North: The Migrant World and the Perilous Path Across the Border

No Option but North: The Migrant World and the Perilous Path Across the Border

Kelsey Freeman. Ig, $17.95 trade paper (272p) ISBN 978-1-632460-97-4

Journalist Freeman’s earnest and self-reflective debut advocates for “a more sensible, decent approach to immigration policy” by telling the stories of Mexican and Central American migrants passing through the city of Celaya in central Mexico on their way to the U.S. border. Interviewing her subjects, some of whom are making their third or fourth journey north, at a local migrant shelter (which she later learns has been selling migrants to kidnappers), Freeman documents their experiences of sexual assault, poverty, and extortion in their home countries; untangles the web of connections between drug cartels, corrupt government agents, and human traffickers who prey on migrants; and documents how U.S. and Mexican policies make legal avenues of migration practically impossible, thereby forcing people “to put themselves at extraordinary risk to climb the ladder toward safety and prosperity.” Freeman routinely scrutinizes her “enormous privilege” in relation to her subjects, juxtaposing their lack of options with her own freedoms; though these asides raise useful questions about the ability of outsiders to accurately portray the migration experience, they fail to deliver essential insights and distract from the book’s central aims. Nevertheless, this respectful, carefully documented account succeeds in humanizing an issue that often gets obscured by political rhetoric. (Apr.)