In his memoir “The Line Becomes a River: Dispatches from the Border,” Francisco Cantú uses a writing technique that might strike readers as unusual.
When he is writing dialogue, he omits quotation marks.
Cantú said quotation marks pull us away from the action on the page.
“It segregates what’s being said from the person who’s telling it or the descriptions that surround it,” he said. “I know it makes it easier for us to interact with on the page, but that’s one of the challenges I gave myself as a writer, to incorporate the conversations with the descriptions of these people and these places.
“I wanted readers to really inhabit the moment.”
Cantu also liberally sprinkles the Spanish dialogue when he interacts with immigrants, co-workers, and family.
“I was very particular about what I chose to leave in Spanish. I think even if we don’t understand what is said, that’s the reality of the border,” he said. “It’s a place where two languages are spoken. I wanted to maintain as much as I could without losing the reader, but to authentically represent how we speak.”