Border Insecurity: Why Big Money, Fences, and Drones Aren't Making Us Safer
By Sylvia Longmire
$27; 256 pages; nonfiction
Given Sylvia Longmire's bio, it's easy to be skeptical of Publishers Weekly's characterization of this border-issues book as nonpartisan. However, this daughter of Cuban refugees, former Air Force special agent, writer for Homeland Security Today magazine and consultant for Glenn Beck manages to present a cogent argument and practical approaches to U.S. safety in Border Insecurity.
Longmire opens her argument by identifying terrorism, transnational crime and illegal immigration as central issues; she then examines the issues and U.S. attempts to combat them. Her scope is broad but her argument is focused. She details terrorist strategies and activity; the history and evolution of Mexican drug cartels (gruesome bits included); the work of the Border Patrol; the clumsy and costly attempts to fence our southern border; the ineffectual oversight of laundering drug money; the expensive, often failed, technologies to monitor the borders; the "homegrown" responses; and the inconsistencies between Canadian and Mexican border policies.
And the takeaway? It's complicated. But the solutions include legitimizing the noncriminal undocumented to get them on tax rolls and save them from exploitation by the cartels, clamping down on the cartels' money movement instead of drug distribution, monitoring government homeland security expenditures and recognizing the feasibility of homegrown terrorism via our northern border.
Brumby: A Celebration of Australia's Wild Horses
By Kathryn Massey and Mae Lee Sun
$45; 192 pages; nonfiction
Only a place that would have "Kookaburra" in a national song could call magnificent equines "Brumbies." In this book about the wild horses of Australia, Kathryn Massey and Mae Lee Sun capture images of these creatures, present tales of human interaction with them and document their vulnerability.
They make a powerful visual case. Their photographs of family groups, of stallions facing off, of mares with babies, and foals taking in the world—of them domesticated and in affectionate relationships with their owners—are striking. While the prose is nothing to write home about (owners/fosterers tell their own Brumby stories), it describes intelligent, difficult, independent, loyal animals. And the mistreatment described—chasing and frightening the horses for fun and the wholesale slaughter of herds of them by helicopter—makes you cry foul.
The Most Important Memoir Ever Written Ever
By Joshua Daniel Cochran
$14; 250 pages; fiction
Don't even think about turning to the last page to see how this imaginative new novel by Pima Community College instructor Joshua Daniel Cochran ends unless you want to slink away like a kicked dog. This book, "humbly dedicated to all humanity," promises to save the world, and you'd better go along for the whole, rollicking, "blasphemously satirical" (Cochran's words) ride to get to the salvation part.
So the gist of the book is this: Central character Joshua Cochran, deceased, has something to share with his readers (pre-deceased), which he elects to do via memoir—a form he normally deplores as "solipsistic, self-referential ... bloated distortions of truth," but that suits his purposes here. With the afterlife a vague, incorporeal venue where the dead float in a hazy ether, their time broken up by periodic themed banquets, Joshua, a writer in his live life, wills himself a desk and an ethereal pen to pursue his "humble endeavor" to save the world through memoir. It soon becomes clear that not all the dead approve of Joshua spilling the eternal beans (like the nefarious activities of the Bureau of Land Management and the Disney Co.), and he finds himself drawn into a showdown of good versus evil. Between relating events of his misspent youth and revisiting his untimely demise, Joshua hangs out with the likes of Milton, Mark Twain, Gertrude Stein and Homer, and speculates on the nature of the will, of fate (or fortune, "the slut") and of truth.
This book is meandering and recursive but it pulls you along by dint of audacity, personality and smarts. Clever, irreverent, impolite, thoughtful, indecorous and outrageous, it's a kick. And, dang, one little surprise toward the end made this reader both laugh aloud and tear up.