Author KATHRYN FERGUSON
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
The Haunting of the Mexican Border: A Woman's Journey wins International Latino Book Award, Arizona author Kathryn Ferguson awarded
(September 25, 2016, TUCSON, AZ) The Haunting of the Mexican Border: A Woman's Journey, written by Kathryn Ferguson, received an award at the 18th Annual International Latino Book Awards (ILBA). The ILBA annually selects books from the United States and 17 other countries in languages English, Spanish and Portuguese to celebrate achievements in Latino literature. The Haunting of the Mexican Border: A Woman's Journey was awarded in the history category.
About the Author
Kathryn Ferguson, an award winning author, is author of the nonfiction book The Haunting of the Mexican Border: A Woman's Journey and co-author of award-winning Crossing with the Virgin: Stories from the Migrant Trail. Ferguson is also a documentary filmmaker and made the award winning films "The Unholy Tarahumara" and "Rita of the Sky" filmed in the Sierra Madre and Chihuahua, Mexico. Both films were screened in US and international film festivals.
For over a decade Ferguson volunteered with Tucson Samaritans to carry life-saving food, water, and medical supplies to people travelling the trails of southern Arizona. She has worked extensively at the US/Mexico border and presents nationally on US/Mexico relations and immigration issues.
Ferguson teaches writing and had a long career as a dancer and choreographer, performing and teaching dance in Europe, Asia-Pacific, Mexico, Turkey, Egypt, and the United States. She lives in Tucson, Arizona.
bout the Book
The Haunting of the Mexican Border: A Woman's Journey is a nonfiction book in which Kathryn Ferguson, an American filmmaker, crosses geographic, political, and personal lines that intersect at the US/Mexico border. The book is a personal story that mirrors the larger picture of US politics and immigration policies. Book awards include the New Mexico/Arizona Book Awards First Place Biography Other, International Latino Book Award, Foreign Policy Interrupted: Best Book of 2015, Sarton Women's Literary Award Finalist, and Foreword Reviews: The Act of Giving Award.
The Haunting of the Mexican Border FINALIST for Sarton Women's Literary Award
An international award given to women writers selected from the
United States & Canada.
(Para una reseña del libro en Español, mover se abajo a EFE agencia de noticias)
This book is available in the US and worldwide, but kindly inquire at your local independent book seller. Also available, "Crossing with the Virgin: Stories from the Migrant Trail," co-authored by Kathryn Ferguson.
To order a book, go to the page "Shop"
ABOUT THE BOOK
“The Haunting of the Mexican Border” is a nonfiction book in which Kathryn Ferguson, an American filmmaker, crosses geographic, political, and personal lines that intersect at the US/Mexico border. It is a personal story that mirrors the larger picture of US politics and immigration policies.
It begins with the story of a girl who travels the desert for adventure. It ends with a woman who travels a desert littered with intrigue and human remains, and discovers a border that breaks apart into grains of sand, like a puzzle undoing.
Beginning in the 1980’s, for 15 years Ferguson made documentary films in Mexico’s wild Sierra Madre. While she traveled south, she noticed people traveled north. As their paths converged, she learned that the line on which these journeys pivot is deadly.
She also learned that US immigration policies slowly erode the life of an ordinary US citizen, from coffee in the kitchen to a day in federal court.
It is a woman's point of view of violence and generosity at the Mexican border.
REVIEWS FOR “The Haunting of the Mexican Border”
This is an important book at the right time. We need to read this story and understand its vision. Recommended. - Luís Alberto Urea, author of The Devil's Highway, Nobody's Son.
At a time when immigration rises to the top of the national conversation, Kathryn Ferguson takes us on a compassionate, harrowing and deeply revealing personal and humanitarian journey. Accented with a rare woman’s perspective, she masterfully guides us through treacherous, hardscrabble geography and psychology where two different worlds both clash and meld. This is a must-read for anyone intending to live in and understand 21st Century America. - Marc Cooper, Journalist: Los Angeles Times, The Atlantic Monthly, The New Yorker, Rolling Stone. Author of Pinochet and Me: A Chilean Anti-Memoir, Professor of Journalism at the USC Annenberg School.
Ferguson has written an unforgettable memoir that takes readers south to Rarámuri country, then north into Arizona’s militarized culture of terrorized immigrants and the people who stand up for them. The author’s journey as a woman, artist, and activist ties the story together in surprising ways. Her writing is exquisite, descriptive, action-packed, and deeply meditative. The book reads like a novel; the plot thickens at every turn. I couldn’t put it down - Demetria Martínez, author of Mother Tongue, poet, activist.
As an Arizonan deeply connected to the US-Mexico border and familiar with all of its intricacies, Ferguson avoids the usual pitfalls associated with writing about immigration policy, the unfairness of NAFTA, and border life. With humor, wit, and sensitivity, she gives the reader a vulnerable and up close look at the sadness and joy that come with living, loving, and existing in the borderlands. Finally someone has written an honest and personal account of the complicated and problematic sociopolitical landscape that US immigration and trade policies have created in southern Arizona. It’s a must read for those who want to understand the fear, frustrations, and small triumphs of those who exist in this otherworld. - Jason De León, Director of the Undocumented Migration Project, author of the book, "The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail" and Professor of Anthropology, University of Michigan.
THE HAUNTING OF THE MEXICAN BORDER: BOOK REVIEW AND INTERVIEW WITH KATHRYN FERGUSON BY DAWN WINK https://dawnwink.wordpress.com/tag/kathryn-ferguson/
Dawn says: "I had no idea the blessing I was about to receive when I was asked to review The Haunting of the Mexican Border: A Woman’s Journey by Kathryn Ferguson for Story Circle Book Reviews. I said yes, since how could I possible resist that title? I spent the next few weeks savoring the experiences, ideas, and prose of this book. This is not a book that I read fast. I found myself re-reading sentences for the sheer beauty of the prose and scenes for the powerful experiences conveyed."
Dawn: "I reviewed the book, but that was not enough. I wanted to connect with the author, Kathryn Ferguson, for a conversation about lingering questions I had after reading the book. Kathryn graciously shared her time."
For interview and review go to: https://dawnwink.wordpress.com/tag/kathryn-ferguson/
SANTA FE NEW MEXICAN PASATIEMPO REVIEW
Kathryn Ferguson on the street where the Border Patrol fired from Arizona to Nogales, Sonora, shooting sixteen-year-old José Antonio Elena Rodríguez ten times in the back; photo Barry Gosling
review by Casey Sanchez
Kathryn Ferguson has been traveling the northern borderlands of Mexico since the family road trips of her childhood. In her thirties, the Tucson filmmaker ventured farther, white-knuckling her Nissan pickup through the ravine roads of Chihuahua’s Copper Canyon. In the region’s remote mountain communities, she met and befriended families of Rarámuri Indians for her debut 1998 documentary, The Unholy Tarahumara. The film portrays her encounters with a people who have fended off centuries of assimilation attempts and still live largely without electricity in the unforgiving Sierra Madre of northwestern Mexico. “I stepped into a whole different world. The biggest thing I had to learn was to be quiet. We talk a lot in our culture,” Ferguson said. “They can be friendly people if given time to trust and open up. They are hard workers, and they are tough people.”
As she explains in her new book, The Haunting of the Mexican Border: A Woman’s Journey(University of New Mexico Press), it has now been years since Ferguson has set foot in Tarahumara country. Mexican narco violence and U.S. Border Patrol militarization have made the Arizona-Chihuahua border a hostile, uncertain territory for migrants and travelers alike. “We’ve lost a lot of freedom in what is supposed to be open sky country,” Ferguson said. “What happened here is that the beautiful desert has become a graveyard.”
Ferguson reads from The Haunting of the Mexican Border on Thursday, Sept. 17, at Collected Works Bookstore. The book mixes behind-the-scenes details on the making of her films in the 1990s and 2000s with more recent accounts of her service with the Tucson Samaritans, delivering front-line survival assistance to crossing migrants. Over the book’s final chapters, Ferguson also explains how the Department of Homeland Security has aggressively scrutinized her marriage to a Mexican man, searching for proof that the couple sought to evade immigration laws.
Culture clashes, both funny and serious, run through every page. She struggles with Spanish. The social etiquette of the Rarámuri (the tribe’s name in their own language) elude her. To help organize a tesgüinada — a regional blowout of traditional dance and sacred fermented sour corn beer that will feature in her documentary — she buys exorbitant amounts of maize and two head of cattle. But on a return visit to prep for the party, two of her Tarahumara hosts flag down her bus and stage something just short of a kidnapping, demanding that she travel on horseback to their remote mountain valley home. It turns out Ferguson has committed a serious faux pas. She has bought cattle from a non-Tarahumara mestizo, and from a man at that — only women can own and sell cattle according to tribal custom.
Some of the book’s best moments come from Ferguson’s musings about the films she never made in Mexico. She recollects her coastal Mexican flights with Sandy, an American pilot who flies Mexican biologists on wildlife tracking runs. Landing at remote airstrips, the bush pilot runs the danger of being robbed, out of a misperception that she is an independent drug runner. To shock the narcos and secure her own safety, she dolls up her Cessna landing gear with glittery, painted red toenails. At one point, the pilot recounts to Ferguson an old saying that “flying is hours of boredom, punctuated by moments of sheer terror.” She could just as well have been talking about Ferguson’s life as a filmmaker in rural Mexico.
As the 2000s rolled around, the once-welcoming border country Ferguson had loved for decades turned cruel and hostile. The U.S. Border Patrol beefed up its apprehensions and deportations with military-grade weapons and helicopters. A turf war between Mexican drug cartels would leave thousands dead in the border states. It was a mood reflected in Ferguson’s next film, Rita of the Sky. The 2009 documentary provides a reconstruction of the life of a Tarahumara woman who walked from her home in Mexico’s Sierra Madre to Topeka, Kansas. Authorities mistook her indigenous language for the vocalizations of severe mental illness, medicating and institutionalizing her for over a decade.
Making the film in both Kansas and Chihuahua exposed Ferguson to the increasingly dangerous paths Mexican migrants were braving to enter the U.S. She started working with the Tucson Samaritans. She also began a relationship with a Mexican man, whom she later wed. Between her migrant activism and the heavy legal scrutiny of her binational marriage by the Department of Homeland Security, Ferguson felt like the friendly frontera she once knew was gone. In its place was something dystopian, like when she witnesses a dusting, a maneuver that takes place when Border Patrol helicopters fly low over migrants, kicking up debris and plants. The ensuing chaos forces the migrant group to scatter, making it easier for surrounding agents to apprehend them.
Immigration policy becomes the core of her family and relationship. After a year of marriage and thousands of dollars in legal fees, her husband gets a green card. But it offers little security. According to Ferguson’s account, he can still be deported at an agent’s whim. Immigration officials enter the couple’s house at dawn just to make sure they are sleeping in the same bed. They train their aggressive interrogation on her husband. Is he gay? Is he a narco? To Ferguson, the intrusive questions begin and end with the assumption that he is anything but a committed, loving spouse. It occurs to her that this isn’t a passing problem but a new way of life to which she must adapt. “I am married to this man, and to all that he brings with him. I am married to the border, to the Border Patrol. I am married to fear, to crossings, green cards, passports,” writes Ferguson. “I am married to interrogations, the bomb of deportation, and government agents looking in my bed.”
In a former life, Ferguson was a stage performer and dancer. She brings the same theatricality to her narrative style, and her prose is marked by a deep kinetic awareness of how her physical presence as an American, a woman, and a traveler affects the migrants and indigenous tribal members she encounters during her filming expeditions. Though she has curtailed her once-robust travel to Mexico, she is still on the road and in the air a lot, conferencing and networking with other migrant activists in the U.S. and Europe.
“I travel a lot. I talk to people in Philadelphia, Seattle, Boston, and lots of other cities who don’t know anything about the border, about what it once was or what it has now become,” Ferguson said. “As a girl, you could take off to Mexico and have a good time and feel completely safe, whether alone or with friends. The world is not that way anymore.”
A memoir that grapples with life, death, and documentary filmmaking on the United States–Mexico border.
Ferguson (co-author: Crossing with the Virgin: Stories from the Migrant Trail, 2010) grew up in Tucson, Arizona, and lived much of her life in the gorgeous yet dangerous terrain of the border country. A dance instructor who developed a passion for documentary filmmaking, she devoted seven years to creating a film about the indigenous Rarámuri people of Mexico. In the subtle first half of her memoir, the author recounts the tumultuous process that led to The Unholy Tarahumara (another name for the Rarámuri), which premiered in 1998. Ferguson is a sensitive writer, wary of excessively exoticizing the land and the people she meets, but she beautifully conveys the sense of wonder she feels with every trip across the border. That wonder turns to barely controlled rage, however, in the book’s second half, as Ferguson looks in the other direction, at migration from Mexico to the U.S. She describes how migrant deaths surged in the mid-1990s, from an annual average of 14 to several hundred—the equivalent, she writes, of a large passenger plane crashing into the desert every year. Outraged by the unfolding humanitarian crisis and the increasing militarization of the border, she joined groups that provide aid to migrants and began work on her next documentary, about a Rarámuri migrant woman who spent years held unjustly in an American psychiatric hospital. Meanwhile, she suspected that, due to her activism, the government was watching her. She was detained and arrested by mysterious federal agents in the desert, and she began a relationship with a Mexican man who, despite his visa, lives in constant fear of deportation.
A wise and humane account that draws on a lifetime of exploring the border country and pondering its meaning.
Pub Date: Aug. 15th, 2015
Page count: 240pp
Publisher: Univ. of New Mexico
Review Posted Online: June 1st, 2015
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2015
NEW PAGES BOOK REVIEW: BY TRENA MACHADO http://www.newpages.com/book-reviews/haunting-of-the-mexican-border
SANTA FE REPORTER REVIEW:
For a time, Kathryn Ferguson writes, she flew back and forth across the Mexican border like a bird. In a memoir threaded with metaphor and rich with detail, she recounts the early searching years, when the dancer and would-be documentary filmmaker, still seeking stories to tell, stumbles her way into the Sierra Madres and the Copper Canyon region of northern Mexico. There, she meets the Rarámuri tribes, sandal-wearing distance runners made famous in, among other things, the book Born to Run, which spawned the barefoot running movement.
From a position deeply embedded in these communities, Ferguson first describes their culture, the ceremonies and traditions she’s able to capture on film. Then, she’s drawn, as many of them are, ever further north, and the story becomes one of the ongoing battle with the US Border Patrol and the dehumanizing qualities of America’s immigration policy.
There’s a texture to what she finds over 15 years, beginning in the 1980s, when she traveled to Mexico, where she made The Unholy Tarahumara, a film about the loss of traditions, and Rita of the Sky, a documentary about a woman committed to a Kansas mental hospital because no one recognized the language she spoke. Hers is a Mexico far from the tourist-strewn beaches and the bars playing “La Cucaracha” on repeat to spring breakers.
Ferguson’s prose is transcendent, effortless, lifting off the page with the eye of a smart filmmaker who finds just enough detail to tell the imagination where to go but leaves off before layering on so much as to drown out that self-steered vision. (EM)
ALBUQUERQUE PBS "NEW MEXICO IN FOCUS" INTERVIEW WITH KATHRYN FERGUSON: Episode 916, Author and Documentarian Kathryn Ferguson, "The Haunting of the Mexican Border: A Woman's Journey".
August 22, 2015 7:00 pm • By Ernesto Portillo Jr.
Neto's Tucson: A woman's view of the border
In the 1980s, Kathryn Ferguson, a Tucson High School graduate, began to explore with her camera the indigenous people who lived in the depths and on the precipices of the famed Barranca del Cobre in northern Mexico.
Her forays continued over the years and morphed into activism on border and immigration issues, as she all the while continued to delve into Mexico’s communities, getting to know and appreciate the people, landscape and culture.
From her journeys, Ferguson produced two documentary films related to the Tarahumaras who live in the Copper Canyon in Chihuahua, Mexico, and co-authored a book, “Crossing with the Virgin: Stories from the Migrant Trail” published by the University of Arizona Press.
Ferguson has now put her life’s experiences into a new book, “The Haunting of the Mexican Border: A Woman’s Journey,” released last week by the University of New Mexico Press.
The book is about the deep changes Ferguson witnessed on both sides of the border, and about the changes she underwent as a participant.
“I never thought of my life as a book,” said Ferguson at her midtown home, which doubles as a studio where she teaches Middle Eastern dance.
Ferguson is reluctant to call her book a memoir. She prefers to see it as a woman’s examination of the violence and generosity of the border region and Mexico, her adopted country.
Her book, like her life, is divided into two parts. The first part is about her years traveling to the land of the Tarahumara and learning their history and challenges.
Her first film, “The Unholy Tarahumara,” was first screened in 1998 at the Arizona International Film Festival in Tucson, and subsequently in 11 festivals in the U.S. and Europe. Her second film, “Rita of the Sky,” released in 2009, is about a non-English-speaking woman who was placed in a Kansas mental institution because no one could understand her indigenous language. She was declared mentally ill and she spent 10 years locked up.
As Ferguson’s life progressed, change came to the border region. The militarization increased as did the number of migrant deaths. The detention and deportation of immigrants and the separation of families rocketed up. And xenophobia became accepted and louder in the American public discourse.
The times got darker, and so does the second portion of Ferguson’s “Haunting.” The book’s title, she added, refers to the consequences of the United States’ ham-fisted approach to resolving economic and social problems along the border.
“We’re living it as it goes now,” Ferguson said.
Ferguson, who has been active with the Samaritans, a Tucson group that offers first aid, food and water to migrants walking across the desert, said, “We’re haunted by what we do at the border.”
But Ferguson diffuses the darkness by shining light on people on both sides of the border. From fellow Samaritans to families in Mexico, Ferguson wants readers to know that the border region is “a lovely place of relationships.”
While pandering politicians want Americans to believe that the border and Mexico are out of control, Ferguson counters that the border region is full of families, many of which are multigenerational and connected to both sides of the line.
“It’s full of laughter,” she said. “I don’t look at the border as an evil place.”
Reconsidering the border: From Arizona to Copper Canyon
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El Daily Post
About 30 years ago, an Arizona native became intrigued with Copper Canyon and the indigenous Tarahumara who live there. Kathryn Ferguson embraced and recorded the evolving reality, producing several books and films that she hopes will change hearts and minds about global forces and their impact on people who are forced to look for better lives.
Prolonged drought in the Chihuahua sierra forced the indigenous Tarahumara to look for assistance at shelters in nearby towns. Here Guachochi residents make their way to a distribution center in a 2012 file photo. At top, President Enrique Peña Nieto poses with residents of Guachochi after presenting a new aid program to fight hunger in the region.
Her forays continued over the years and morphed into activism on border and immigration issues, as she all the while continued to delve into Mexico’s communities, getting to know and appreciate the people, landscape and culture.
– This article was written by Ernesto Portillo Jr. from The Arizona Daily Star, Tucson and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
Goodreads Review: Ferguson makes films. That is what took her to the Sierra Madre region for many years, an area whose people she came to know well. That she is a visual artist is evident from her writing, where she weaves words into remarkable images that linger with the reader after the final pages. This is her memoir of time spent in Mexico, and time in her native Arizona desert borderland. It is a world she has seen change dramatically with trade agreements (ones that don't help the Mexican farmers), drug trade, and the militarization of the U.S. Mexican border. These changes color and disrupt Ferguson's experiences of the border region. Her story is personal, but as the cliché saying goes "the personal is political." With a light hand, and an artist's precision, Ferguson gives the reader an intimate, compassionate look at what is happening. She refrains from offering up facile solutions, but rather asks us to look closely and let our better angels be our guides.
SEPTEMBER 7, 2015 BY KINO BORDER INITIATIVE
By: Roxane Ramos
On August 15, members of the Tucson community gathered at the Temple of Music and Art Lounge to celebrate the release of The Haunting of the Mexican Border: A Woman’s Journey. To introduce local author Kathryn Ferguson’s reading, Gabriel Ayala, a Yaqui classical guitarist extraordinaire who has played for the president, the pope and at the Pan Am Games, was on hand to entertain the crowd with several moving pieces, and John Fife, co-founder of the Sanctuary Movement, shared anecdotes about his work at the border and how he came to know Kathryn. Kathryn is a documentary filmmaker and a long-time volunteer with the Tucson Samaritans. Her book describes her experience of growing up at the border, her travels through the desert and to the Sierra Madre, and her observations about the increasing violence in that area and the disturbing deadliness of migrantjourneys.
Her book, along with two from another local author, Margaret Regan, are excellent reading about the migrant experience and life at the borderlands.
- Robin Rosenthal, Pony Highway Productions, says: "The Haunting of the Mexican Border" casts a spell from page one. From the moment I stepped with Kathryn Ferguson onto her storied Sierra Madre and Sonoran Desert trails I was carried along by the magic and wisdom of her deeply felt language. A brave adventuress, a struggling artist, a searcher for what truly matters; she’s a guide worth following. I couldn’t put this book down. Even while grieving for the changes happening to her beloved Rarámuri people, or outraged by the horrific militarization of our border and its effect on families, she manages to convey hope through the depth of her understanding. This very personal look at border issues has the power to change hearts and minds.
- Tracy Tindle says:
I LOVED THE BOOK!!!!!! I bought the book last Sunday and finished it on Monday. I had no idea what to expect but I was completely taken in by the story. I was eager to read it given that I twice spent time in the copper canyon. The book ended up devouring me rather than vice versa. It was haunting, beautiful, touching, and moving. The writing style is so beautiful! I felt transported through poetry, mysticism, wisdom, pain and love.
Reading this made the immigration issue a personal one for me by humanizing the whole gut wrenching situation across the globe. Anyone who reads this book will feel the same way. Ferguson is right, we are all connected by that big spider web and adding empathy and compassion to the cauldron would go a long way. This is a very important book.
- Meg Andersen says: "I am in tears over the book I just read, "The Haunting of the Mexican Border." I am outraged, and cannot imagine the torment migrants go through with border patrol agents. I am in shock. People need to read this book so they can stop venting misunderstandings about immigration. I am in tears. This book has touched me deeply."