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Book corner: A Latina’s take on ‘Beast Rider: A boy’s journey across the border’

posted July 31, 2019 | in Pop Cultura by Natasha Ford

All Manuel can think about is his brother, Toño, who left their family’s farm four years ago on the top of the train to start a new life in the United States. His desire to be reunited with his brother brings Manuel to the decision to make the perilous journey on top of the train that runs through his small town and cross the border in the United States to find his brother in “the City of Angels.” 

Beast Rider: A boy’s journey beyond the border by Tony Johnston and María Fontanot De Rhoads was a fascinating book for multiple reasons. First, the story is told in a first-person, present-tense format. It gives the entire book a younger tone (which makes sense because Manuel is only 12 years old when his journey begins).

Second, this is not a story very often told. It is a story immigrants and children of immigrants now. Manuel’s journey from the first moment he jumps on the train to the moment he sees his brother spans almost five years. As the grandchild of immigrants, I am much more removed from the experience (and as a grandchild of a Cuban immigrant and a Canadian immigrant, the stories of my family are different from that of a Mexican immigrant).

I had no idea of not only the sacrifices made to get into this country but the sheer willpower and strength it takes. Third, and finally, Manuel story shines a different light on the struggles of an immigrant in the United States. He goes through this enormous, life-changing journey to be reunited with his brother, only to realize that life in America is not something he wants. This, again, is not often a story that gets told.

Americans assume that everyone who comes into this country, undocumented or otherwise, is grateful and blessed to be here. Americans, after all, live in the best country in the world, and anyone who gets to experience her bounty is lucky. This narrative of “The American Dream” and everyone in this country having a chance to live it is, frankly, a lie. Manuel’s story highlights that this “American Dream” is not for everyone. 

Tony Johnston and María Elena Fontanot De Rhoads have delivered an extremely important, thought-provoking, perspective-changing story about a young Mexican boy who only wants to be with his brother again, and the lengths he will go to make that happen. Beast Rider is a story that will stay with me for a long time. 

About the author: Natasha Ford lives and works in Austin as a bookseller. She enjoys reading young adult fantasy, eating tostones, and playing with her schnorkie. 

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