Off the Shelf: Memoir chronicles cross-cultural marriage

Crossing the Line cover

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Crossing the Line cover

Linda Valdez, who writes editorials and columns for the Arizona Republic that have made her a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize and winner of the Scripps Howard Walker Stone Award, has written a very different kind of work with her new memoir, "Crossing the Line: A Marriage Across Borders." In it is a joyful and moving personal account of her own unlikely crossing of cultural lines with her marriage to a man she fell in love with on a trip to Mexico in 1988.

For months on end the couple fill out all the paperwork and put together the necessary documents, intending to follow all the rules to get him into the country, only to find they were ignored completely. Finally "... there was this hole in the fence" and he slips through - today it is a steel fence without holes and impossible to slip through. Later, after they are married, they fill out other paperwork to make his presence here legal, and months later, succeed.

Throughout, the focus of the book remains on the challenges and delight they each face in becoming "bi-cultural." She is a highly educated woman from Ohio, with Irish and German family roots. He is a Mexican from a poor rural outpost, whose family lives in an adobe brick house with dirt floors, rectangle openings for windows, and a room designated to be a bathroom as soon as running water became available. "... behind the house was a wood-stove cut from a fifty-gallon barrel." All this would seem to bode failure, yet it does not.

"It would be a lie to say I didn't long for the Hotel ... with its brilliant white sheets and spotless bathroom," she tells us. But her mother-in-law keeps beans bubbling on the wood stove and the mesquite-fed stove provides perpetually pleasant aromas. And there are "mountains of good food." The next day the entire family talks and laughs as they prepare food for an outing at the beach, and as culturally normal in Mexico, everyone goes into the water fully dressed. Valdez finds all this very freeing.

This is merely a taste. Come to the Peregrine Book Company and hear much more from this award-winning author at 2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 27.

Reviewed by Susan Lang, Peregrine Book Company event coordinator