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Summer Reading Assignment

College does not teach you what to think, but rather gives you the tools to think clearly, critically and strategically. Ponder that statement. What does it mean to you? As you prepare for this new chapter in your life, why did you choose to invest in higher education? What are your expectations? What kind of person do you hope to be after college?

WVU's Campus Read

Book cover with image of rusted metal boarder wall with an opening in it and trees beyond. Text: "The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border. Francisco Cantú."

Through the Honors College Summer Reading Assignment, you will think critically, consider all options in order to make the best possible decision, and work toward becoming the best version of yourself. Active reflection, after all, is a huge piece of what college is all about, and what makes the college experience something that is invaluable and life changing. 

"The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border" by Francisco Cantú has been selected for the 2021-2022 Campus Read at WVU. All students should read this fantastic book during the summer months. 

As an Honors student, we ask that you delve into the material a little deeper and reflect on the book before starting your classes this fall. The Campus Read examines deep, complex issues that may be triggering to some. If you feel the need, please reach out to counselors at the WVU Carruth Center at 304-293-4431 or email

Your Assignment

The Honors College has developed four prompts for you based around the reading. Please choose one prompt and write an essay that is:

Your essay is due on Friday, Aug. 27, 2021 by 11:59 p.m. You will submit your essay to your HONR 102 mentors via eCampus. eCampus will be available starting Wednesday, Aug. 18, 2021.

Prompt 1

In Chapter 1, pp. 22-26, Cantú and his mother discuss why he chose to become a border patrol agent. She had many questions for him; from why he would want to do something “below him” after earning a degree to why he would choose this work to better understand a place when his heritage and upbringing helps him “know” the border. Cantú answered, “I don’t know if the border is a place for me to understand myself, but I know there’s something here I can’t look away from. Maybe it’s the desert, maybe it’s the closeness of life and death, maybe it’s the tension between the two cultures we carry inside us. Whatever it is, I’ll never understand it unless I’m close to it” (p. 23). 

What decision(s) have you made in your life that others may have struggled to understand? How did you know that you had to follow your gut? Did you maintain your relationship(s) with those that questioned your decision(s)? How so? How did that relationship(s) change or grow? What did you learn from the experience?

Prompt 2

In Chapter 2, pp. 101-104, Cantú recalls of when he attends the funeral of his Aunt Frances. His family members reminisce of stories about Aunt Frances and Cantú’s grandfather. They attend the mausoleum together and discover that Aunt Frances had requested in her final weeks that her nameplate say Cantú instead of her married name, Abram. Cantú reminds his family about his own name, which at one point was Joshua Tyler Cantú- Simmons, noting that he would be a different person if that name would have stuck. His cousin responds by saying, “A name is everything” (p. 104). 

What’s in a name? How do you identify with your name and its history and culture?

Prompt 3

Cantú writes of the US-Mexico border, “But even as an adult stripped, in large part, of my youthful illusions, to watch this cherished place descend into its current grim reality, all while knowing that I participated in the transformation, has been like watching a loved one slip into the grip of an incurable disease for which I myself served as a carrier” (pp. 251-252). 

Throughout the book, Cantú consistently weaves into his story the internal struggle he faces revealed through his dreams and by grinding his teeth. In Chapter 3, he ponders if he was attempting to redeem himself by trying to help his friend, José. After reading about the horrific acts that take place at and near the border, what would redemption look like for Cantú? Is redemption possible? What would you say to Cantú knowing that he carries this internal struggle?

Prompt 4

Cantú’s account as a border patrol agent lends itself to current events. One important aspect of a Campus Read is to exercise civil discourse and to work together to learn and become problem solvers to deep, complex issues. 

What are some things you learned about immigration and southern border operations that you did not know before reading Cantú’s story? What policies did you find worked well? What needs improved? What suggestions do you have to improve border relations?


From this reading assignment, we encourage you to consider complex issues through a new lens. 

As we come to the other side of the COVID-19 pandemic, we have the opportunity as Mountaineers to rediscover our passion, to reshape our identities as citizens of West Virginia University and to reimagine and redefine community. 

This past year, we all navigated day-to-day life differently from what we had known. Now, we have the opportunity to see things with fresh eyes; to challenge how things used to be; to forge ahead with new knowledge, experiences, ideas, innovative thinking, compassion, and creativity. Just as Francisco Cantú drew close to something he wanted to better understand, let’s also draw close to things that may be uncomfortable for us, so we may also better understand the world around us, and better understand one another.

We look forward to welcoming you to our Honors community, where you may make meaning of your life story, just as Francisco Cantú has with his story. We hope that you will take advantage of every opportunity set before you at West Virginia University!

How will this assignment be graded?

The assignment will be graded out of a total of up to 200 points. The assignment rubric is available here

What is a Campus Read?

The WVU Campus Read program is an academically- driven common read experience that engages students, faculty, staff and even members of the Morgantown community, to share ideas and think critically through thoughtful dialogue.

We look forward to welcoming you to campus this fall! #WVUReads


For questions about the summer reading assignment, please contact Dr. Ashley Watts via email at You can also watch our recorded Campus Read Prompt Discussions here.