Girlhood in the Borderlands

Mexican Teens Caught in the Crossroads of Migration

272 pages

6 halftones

July, 2018

ISBN: 9781479862016



Add to Cart Available: 7/6/2018

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Lilia Soto is Associate Professor of American Studies and Latina/o Studies at the University of Wyoming.

All books by Lilia Soto

How gender and generation shape perceptions of place and time as told through the voices of Mexican teenage girls 

This book examines the lived experiences of Mexican teenage girls raised in transnational families and the varied ways they make meaning of their lives. Under the Bracero Program and similar recruitment programs, Mexican men have for decades been recruited for temporary work in the U.S., leaving their families for long periods of time to labor in the fields, factories, and service industry before returning home again. While the conditions for these adults who cross the border for work has been extensively documented, very little attention has been paid to the lives of those left behind. Over a six-year period, Lilia Soto interviewed more than sixty teenage girls in Napa, California and Zinapécuaro, Michoacán to reveal the ruptures and continuities felt for the girls surrounded by the movement of families, ideas, and social practices across borders. 

As they develop their subjective selves, these Mexican teens find commonality in their fathers’ absence and the historical, structural, and economic conditions that led to their movement. Tied to the ways U.S. immigration policies dictate the migrant experiences of fathers and the traditional structure of their families, many girls develop a sense of time-lag, where they struggle to plan for a present or a future. In Girlhood in the Borderlands, Soto highlights the “structure of feeling” that girls from Zinapécuaro and Napa share, offering insight into the affective consequences of growing up at these social and geographic intersections.


  • Girlhood in the Borderlands is a compassionate and compelling binational multi-site ethnography. It reveals the hardships and heartaches of lives interrupted, but also the determination and dignity of young women coming of age on both sides of the border. With an attentive ear and a discerning eye, Lilia Soto chronicles how immigration shapes the contours of gender and generation in unexpected ways by requiring young women to develop complex cognitive mappings of time and place, and to make meaning in their lives under conditions they do not control.”

    —George Lipsitz, author of How Racism Takes Place

  • "Lilia Soto brings fresh perspectives to our understanding of transnational migration through the eyes of Mexican teenage girls. Her analysis of their shifting temporal and spatial imaginaries illuminates how neoliberal thinking permeates life in Mexico and the United States."

    —Patricia Zavella , University of California, Santa Cruz