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Soldiers and Kings: Survival and Hope in the World of Human Smuggling (Hardcover)

Soldiers and Kings: Survival and Hope in the World of Human Smuggling By Jason De León Cover Image
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“A work of extraordinary reportage and compassion...[it] will shock you, move you, and leave you changed.”
—Matthew Desmond, Pulitzer Prize-winning and New York Times bestselling author of Evicted and Poverty, by America

“An enlightening, frightening, unforgettable read.”
—Sandra Cisneros, bestselling author of The House on Mango Street

An intense, intimate and first-of-its-kind look at the world of human smuggling in Latin America, by a MacArthur "genius" grant winner and anthropologist with unprecedented access

Political instability, poverty, climate change, and the insatiable appetite for cheap labor all fuel clandestine movement across borders. As those borders harden, the demand for smugglers who aid migrants across them increases every year. Yet the real lives and work of smugglers—or coyotes, or guides, as they are often known by the migrants who hire their services—are only ever reported on from a distance, using tired tropes and stereotypes, often depicted as boogie men and violent warlords. In an effort to better understand this essential yet extralegal billion dollar global industry, internationally recognized anthropologist and expert Jason De León embedded with a group of smugglers moving migrants across Mexico over the course of seven years.

The result of this unique and extraordinary access is SOLDIERS AND KINGS: the first ever in-depth, character-driven look at human smuggling. It is a heart-wrenching and intimate narrative that revolves around the life and death of one coyote who falls in love and tries to leave smuggling behind. In a powerful, original voice, De León expertly chronicles the lives of low-level foot soldiers breaking into the smuggling game, and morally conflicted gang leaders who oversee rag-tag crews of guides and informants along the migrant trail. SOLDIERS AND KINGS is not only a ground-breaking up-close glimpse of a difficult-to-access world, it is a masterpiece of narrative nonfiction.

About the Author

Jason De León is professor of Anthropology and Chicana/o Studies and director of the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology at the University of California, Los Angeles. He is also executive director of the Undocumented Migration Project, a 501(c)(3) research, arts, and education collective that seeks to raise awareness about migration issues globally while also assisting families of missing migrants reunite with their loved ones. He is a 2017 MacArthur Foundation Fellow and author of the award-winning book The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail.

Praise For…

Orange County Register's "20 Highly Anticipated Books Coming in 2024 We Want to Read"

“‘A unique read that emerges from seven years of research and firsthand experiences lived by the author amidst smugglers, or ‘guías,’ on the U.S.-Mexico border…De León offers a glimpse into a world rarely seen or understood.”Los Angeles Times

“A rare inside look at human smuggling on the border … Smuggling, [De León] says, ‘is not the problem.’ But as his own book memorably recounts, in a world with no shortage of problems, it’s nevertheless one of them.” The New York Times

“The book’s great virtue is in its close attention to the individual lives of its small group of central characters...toggling between the macro and the micro: the globe-spanning, incomprehensibly vast forces that have brought these smugglers’ lives into being, as well as their own individual struggles to make something of what the world has made of them.” The New Republic

“Anthropologist and MacArthur fellow De León offers a staggering view of the people who help move asylum seekers. His conversations with participants in a vast migration put human faces to a shadowy concept, and his story is illuminating and often heartrending in its telling.”Booklist

“A harrowing account of the work of human smugglers in bringing aspirational immigrants to America’s southern border...[and] an exemplary ethnography of central importance to any discussion of immigration policy or reform.”Kirkus *Starred Review*

“UCLA anthropology professor De León embedded with a group of coyotes, or migrant guides, over the course of several years to study the people behind the industry of human smuggling. His book seeks to dispel stereotypes about those involved with moving migrants across Mexico.”Orange County Register

“This is a real one. A work of extraordinary reportage and compassion, Soldiers and Kings takes us deep inside the lives of smugglers guiding desperate migrants across Latin America. One breathtaking scene follows another, rendered in vibrant, unsparing prose documenting grinding poverty and violence, but also young love and redemption. It will shock you, move you, and leave you changed.”
—Matthew Desmond, Pulitzer Prize-winning and New York Times bestselling author of Evicted and Poverty, by America
“A terrifying journey alongside men who have given up being men and are transformed into “ghosts or demons or dust.” De León, our guia, documents their inter-generational tragedies with full complexity. This book ultimately leads one to question what it means to be human, and, as such, to examine what one’s own responsibility is to this global issue.  An enlightening, frightening, unforgettable read.”
Sandra Cisneros, bestselling author of The House on Mango Street

“Rigorously researched and deeply felt, this book is for everyone who wants to understand the despair, sorrow, and violence that migrants and their guides experience each and every day while trying not to lose their humanity. Eloquent and urgent, it calls out to all of us to imagine what a better world might be.”
—Ruth Behar, author of The Vulnerable Observer: Anthropology That Breaks Your Heart

“Soldiers and Kings is utterly captivating from page one. Jason De León’s groundbreaking access to the lives of coyotes, or guías, offers a rare and intimate glimpse into their humanity. Soldiers and Kings is a powerful, immersive experience that will challenge readers’ preconceptions and leave a lasting impression. Beautifully written, surprising, deeply informative, and intellectually provocative, this is a must-read for anyone seeking a deep understanding of the human experience in the face of adversity."
—Laurence Ralph, author of Sito: An American Teenager and the City that Failed Him
Product Details
ISBN: 9780593298589
ISBN-10: 0593298586
Publisher: Viking
Publication Date: March 19th, 2024
Pages: 400
Language: English