San Francisco protesters have called upon Green Apple Books to cancel the scheduled in-store appearance of Francisco Cantú, a former Border Patrol officer whose debut memoir, The Line Becomes A River, addresses his involvement in the violence and persecution perpetuated against immigrants along the Mexico-United States border.
The owners and management of Green Apple Books (and many staff members who have read the book), do not interpret Cantú’s book as pro-wall, pro-ICE, or pro-violence. We believe that Cantú confronts the issues of immigration and border politics head-on as an individual who entered into a government institution of organized oppression with a supposed idea of his own ideology, but exited four years later with a more complete and profound understanding of the injustices taught, practiced, and enforced by the Border Patrol.
If we viewed Cantú’s book as hateful speech or border wall propaganda, we wouldn't have invited him for a discussion. However, we believe that readers of his book will find that his narrative, which does not advocate for the deportation of immigrants, deserves a chance to be heard. Given the reality of our polarized political environment today, we believe that a voice such as Cantú’s, one that attentively straddles a fine line, can speak to issues we all must face in a way that is extraordinary, nuanced, and significant.
Cantú himself has expressed a willingness to converse with people who disagree to challenge him. We invite all members of the public to listen to the discussion and ask their own questions. We believe it is our role as booksellers to help facilitate that dialogue, and believe that if we cannot listen to one another’s stories and experiences respectfully, especially ones that ultimately condemn systemic racism, then we are doomed to repeat our historic failures.
Green Apple Books has hosted, presented, and empowered the voices of many marginalized and international writers throughout the fifty years of its existence. Francisco Cantú is but one in a long line of voices in our increasingly diverse community granted space to share their experience. In no way, shape, or form does his appearance at our store undercut the voices that have come before him or will come after him. Instead, we hope his appearance proves that bookstores remain a necessary foundation of our democracy, a space where varied ideas are exchanged and egalitarian ideas are formed and reinforced collectively.