In an exhaustive study of news coverage in multiple borderland newspapers, Jane Zavisca, a cultural sociologist at the University of Arizona, surveyed ten years’ worth of reporting to determine the most common metaphors used by journalists writing about migrant deaths.

Economic metaphors were predominant, characterizing migrant deaths as a “cost,” “calculation,” or “gamble.” Death is a price that is paid, a toll collected by the desert. Death is the foreseeable outcome of “cost-benefit analysis, with measurable, calculable risks and consequences.” Death is the ultimate risk in a game of chance, the unlucky result of a roll of the dice. Metaphors like these, Zavisca writes, “naturalize death” and “suggest that migrants bear some responsibility for their own deaths.”

Violent metaphors were the second-largest category, depicting death as the vengeful punishment of an angry desert or the casualty of a war waged along the border. In such discourse, deaths were blamed on unforgiving weather, on lethal immigration policy, on a lack of enforcement against an invading army of migrants.

Dehumanizing metaphors constituted Zavisca’s third category. Here, migrants were depicted as animals, something hunted, the persecuted prey of smugglers, law enforcement agents, and militant vigilantes. “Lured” to the border by the prospect of well-paying jobs, migrants engage Border Patrol “trackers” in a “cat-and-mouse game” with deadly consequences. “A related metaphor,” writes Zavisca, “depicts enforcement agents as humane shepherds tending to a flock.” This allusion “reinforces the humanity of the Border Patrol while it dehumanizes migrants by portraying the Border Patrol as ‘saviors.'” An associated livestock metaphor, widespread in Mexico, casts migrants as chickens and smugglers as chicken ranchers—pollos at the mercy of their polleros.

Another subcategory of metaphors describes migrants as “dangerous waters threatening the nation. . .a metaphorical home.” Enforcement is represented as an effort to stanch the unwieldy flow migration, the border as a barrier to be plugged and sealed against a rising tide. The corresponding death toll is “a ‘surge,’ and the bodies are part of a ‘flood’ of migrants that overwhelm Border Patrol agents and medical examiners.” It is here that Zavisca cites the work of Otto Santa Ana, a sociolinguist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who argues that, ontologically, such metaphors dehumanize migrants by representing them as “an undifferentiated mass.”
francisco cantú 

nunca

It comforted me to breathe the same air and to be a part—albeit unnoticed—of their morning landscape, before they went their separate ways, probably until the next meal, which, on many days, would have been supper. The last day on which his wife and I saw him, they could not dine together. Or even have lunch. She waited twenty minutes for him at a restaurant table, puzzled but not overly concerned, until the phone rang and her world ended, and she never waited for him again.

javier marías (tr: margaret jull costa)

I’ve said many times that The Fault in Our Stars, while it is dedicated to Esther, is not about her. When the book was published, lots of reporters wanted me to talk about Esther; they wanted to know if my book was “based on a true story.” I never really knew how to deal with these questions, and I still don’t, because the truth (as always) is complicated. Esther inspired the story in the sense that my anger after her death pushed me to write constantly. She helped me to imagine teenagers as more empathetic than I’d given them credit for, and her charm and snark inspired the novel, too, but the character of Hazel is very different from Esther, and Hazel’s story is not Esther’s. Esther’s story belonged to her, and fortunately for us she was an extraordinary writer, who in these pages tells that story beautifully. I find comfort in that, but make no mistake: I am still pissed off that she died. I still miss her. I still find her loss an intolerable justice. And I wish she’d read The Fault in Our Stars. I am astonished that the book has found such a broad audience, but the person I most want to read it never will.

john green

excerpts from THE SURRENDER by veronica scott esposito

I did not know where this was headed. I did not know if I wanted to be a woman, if I wanted to be a person in a man’s body who could look sexy in a dress, if I wanted to be something else. I only knew I was realizing desires I had held as long as I had ever held desires.

*

The first time I had worn panties I was not capable of comprehending transgression. I wore them purely based on sensation and compulsion, similar to the childish impulse to eat glue. What struck in my memory was not the first moment I pulled on the panties, what struck was being told “no” in a way I had never been told “no” before. It was an accented “no,” a “no” that said, this is wrong for a dangerous reason. This was my foundation. Cross dressing was a transgression of the highest order. Under no circumstances should I ever do this. I should never. Not for any reason imaginable.

*

I now associate my years of middle school with stomach pains whose origins I did not understand. During those years I often theorized that they might be some form of punishment for my frequent masturbation. On at least one occasion they were of such severity that I convinced my mother to bring me to the emergency room hospital because I felt that my appendix might be inflamed. I also recall instances where I attempted to make deals with what I imagined was the deity so that these pains might cease.

It was only long, long thereafter that I understood they had been signs of enormous, ongoing stress.

*

I at last managed to exit my bedroom and walk out into the hall. Each step I took was a step unlike any I had previously taken. Never before had I stepped in full awareness that at any moment another human being might find me dressed as a girl. I might be seen—like this.

*

This is not a path I could ever choose. I will only ever feel that I must tear away my falseness.

If there are any of our readymade ideas that will survive our extinction, I trust that truth stands the best chance.

*

I will put it far more plainly than I could in my youth: I wanted pretty things. I wanted to be a pretty thing. I wanted permission to feel prettiness down to my roots, in every facet of my life to which prettiness pertained. I wanted the freedom to make my body pretty and feminine at times of my choosing.

*

For all the many times I cross dressed in that apartment, I never believed they made me a cross dresser. I also knew that they made me a cross dresser.

What is the difference between performing actions and inhabiting them?

*

At several junctures in the years between our first conversation in 2002 and our departure for Latin America in 2006, I made efforts to converse with this woman on the subject of my ache. All of these efforts concluded in failure. My hope for each of these conversations was that they would bring about a situation where I could live openly in my own home. Yet none of them brought me remotely near that mark. The blame is mine. These conversations failed because I was not yet prepared to claim my freedom. I had hoped that she would give it to me.

*

I walked down the hall and into the bathroom, and I stared at myself in the mirror above the sink. In the mirror reflection I saw the bathroom of a dingy hostel deep within South America. I peered into my own reflected eyes. I do very much believe that this was the first time I ever looked into those pupils and wanted to know what was in there.

*

Quite possibly, if I do not get this right I will go to my grave believing that much of my life has been in error. So I do my very best to converse with this thing, to find out what it wants, and to become it.

*

No one ever performs well the first time they’ve seen a close up. I take the blame for my own first two failures, those first two people who did not react well to what I had to tell them. They are people who love me, and I think their love would have won out had I the wherewithal to make my case as well as Sabzian made his that afternoon on the bus. But I doubted myself, and within a moment my doubt infected them, and we joined in rejecting what I had made us examine. But not that third time. On that third time I spoke without doubt, and I have done so every single time since then.

*

When I looked into the mirror and felt confidence fill me I decided to take just one photo of myself. I did not need to shoot photo after photo, because on that evening I knew that I was perfect, and when I looked at that image it would be perfect. I saw a woman. I could find not a single thing wrong with her. I was beautiful.

*

I did not hope to one day enter into my true body. My true body has always been and always will be the only body that I will ever have, the one that I had begun inhabiting with my emergence onto this Earth. This is mine and not any other. What coaxed my belief were the ceaselessly fluctuating states that would always want to control this body.

*

So many hurdles crushed, and at last I was broken upon too large a task, choking on my endless aspiration.

The clock was ticking and I was late. There was no choice but to go. But I could not go.

“Surrender to your desires,” I whispered to myself. Again and again I whispered it. “Surrender to your desires.”

*

For a year and a half I have been gathering the facts in this book. In that time I have lost the capacity to remember how it once felt to be myself. I no longer know this fear that once ruled me. It is inconceivable to me that there ever existed a person so paralyzed to take even one step forward. That person is now impossible.

*

In 2015, the year in which things would no longer be as they once were, I was reading Silvina Ocampo, Can Xue, The Piano Teacher by Elfriede Jelinek, Joan Copjec’s book on Lacan and Foucault, Sarah Manguso, Maggie Nelson, Claudia Rankine. I was most of all reading Thomas Bernhard’s autobiography.

One steadfast, activist colleague of mine at the university promised to go with me no matter what; another begged me not to go, insisting that my presence wouldn’t affect what happened, and all I would do out there was freeze to death. I tried to explain to her that you don’t go to a vigil expecting to halt action. You go to bear witness to what the state would prefer to do in complete darkness

maggie nelson