High Country News

In its ungainly proportions, Maurice Sherif’s The American Wall mimics its massive subject, the U.S.-Mexico border fence. The “book” is actually two giant volumes enclosed in a slipcase. Heft one onto a table and if you don’t strain your back, you’ll struggle to make out the distant text at the top of a page. But largely because of its format, The American Wall offers readers a rare perspective onto a piece of public infrastructure that has generally defied such a panoptic view.

The full extent of the barrier can be tough to grasp. Construction ramped up in the wake of the Secure Fence Act of 2006. Since then, the wall has been built and rebuilt in a patchwork of styles ranging from Normandy-esque vehicle barricades to metal pillars 20 feet tall. But since the fence is deployed in segments across more than 650 miles of largely rural terrain, most Americans have yet to glimpse it, let alone assemble a sense of the thing as a whole.

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