My Two Border Towns

h1 September 16th, 2021 by jules


David Bowles has written more than one book about Mexican Americans whose lives center around borders, but now he’s penned his first picture book about the topic. My Two Border Towns (Kokila, September 2021), illustrated by Erika Meza, is tender, honest, and unforgettable.

“Every other Saturday, my dad wakes me up early.” The boy, narrating the story with enthusiasm, heads with his father to what they call The Other Side/El Otro Lado after packing up items for his friends. As they drive through town, they greet neighbors and take in the sights and sounds of the community they love, Meza’s bright palette and detailed watercolors capturing their world. They travel along the Rio Grande and over a bridge. “No one searches my bag this time,” the boy notes. “I say thanks to the Virgen.” This town they’ve entered, from the U.S. into Mexico, is a twin of the town where the boy lives. At least this is how he decribes it — “with Spanish spoken everywhere just the same, but English mostly missing till it pops up like grains of sugar on a chili pepper.”

Father and son dine in their favorite restorán; they walk by stalls and chat with vendors on the sidewalks; they visit the family’s jewelry shop; and the boy plays with his cousins. They make sure to check their list, which is composed of treats they want — but also …

… our friends need T-shirts, chanclas, bottled water. I think they need cold, sweet Gansitos and lots of chewy Glorias, too!

Dad also picks up some medicine.

Just which friends are they visiting? They head to a large bridge, where families from the Caribbean and Central America camp. “Refugees, Dad calls them. Stuck between two countries.” As the boy’s father crawls along in the traffic on the bridge, the boy hops out of their truck to deliver all they had packed and purchased.

There’s a significant tonal shift here when we meet the refugees, and it’s something I appreciate about this story, this core of emotional honesty. That is, the families in their makeshift homes on the bridge are depicted as weary. So weary. Tired eyes and even, in some cases, defeated body language. There is no sanitizing how it must feel to live on the edges like this. You can see that in some of the spreads below.

But another thing that is clear is the fundamental joy (if a tired, momentary one) that the boy’s visit (if brief) brings to these displaced people. They feel seen and cared for. After all, as the boy’s father tells him at one point: “We have a duty to care for our gente.” This statement, and the boy’s actions, are the beating heart of this story.

And there is no tidy, happy ending. That would do this story a disservice. The boy, after he returns to the truck and heads home with his father, merely imagines a day when all of his friends from the “Other Side” can move freely between “my two border towns, just like me.” Again, I say: It’s tender and honest — and a story that lingers with you.

Here are some spreads. …



“Every other Saturday, my dad wakes me up early. …”
(Click either image above to see spread in its entirety and read the full text)


“Down uneven sidewalks, our feet tap-tap-tap
to trumpet tunes bouncing out of stores. …”

(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)



“Walking back, we check our list. …”
(Click either image above to see spread in its entirety and read the full text)


“A line of people camp along the edge,
entire families from the Caribbean and Central America. …”

(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


“‘¡Asere!’ he shouts. ‘¡Mi cuate!’ I reply.
We do our special handshake and I give him the bag. …”

(Click spread to enlarge and read text in its entirety)


(Click cover to enlarge)


* * * * * * *

MY TWO BORDER TOWNS. Text copyright © 2021 by David Bowles. Illustrations copyright © 2021 by Erika Meza and reproduced by permission of the publisher, Kokila, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC, New York.

One comment to “My Two Border Towns

  1. […] Seven Impossible Things covered My Two Border Towns and featured some spreads from the book! […]

Leave a Comment

Should you have trouble posting, please contact Thanks.