Porter Fox, who grew up in Southwest Harbor, will sign copies of his new book about the U.S. - Canada border region Sept. 2 at Sherman's in Bar Harbor. PHOTO COURTESY OF PORTER FOX

Fox traveled entire U.S., Canada border for new book

BAR HARBOR – Author and Mount Desert Island High School alumnus Porter Fox will be at Sherman’s book store Sunday, Sept. 2 from 6 – 8 p.m. to discuss and sign copies of his new book “Northland: a 4,000-Mile Journey Along America’s Forgotten Border.”

Fox made the journey along the national boundary line from east to west in sections over the course of three years, returning home to Brooklyn, N.Y. in between trips.

He followed the rivers that make up some of the border between Maine and Canada, the St. Croix and the St. John, in the footsteps of Samuel de Champlain. He rode a freighter into the Great Lakes from the St. Lawrence, all the way west to Minnesota.

An excerpted chapter from the book, about the “Medicine Line” border territory in Northeastern Montana, was published in Outside Online magazine in June.

The book blends a history of the region with detailed reporting about life in border towns today.

Fox was inspired by a 2001 book by Ian Frazier about the Great Plains. The idea, he said, was “stumbling into stories as I go, and at the end, picking the threads that would echo off of one another.” This narrative nonfiction form is also his favorite to teach, in his role as a writing professor at Columbia University.

Fox appeared in a CBS news special about the northern border earlier this month and penned an op-ed in the New York Times about border security.

Part of the TV segment was shot in the town of Derby Line, Vermont, where the international boundary cuts right through the Haskell Free Library and Opera House.

“The building was purposefully built on the border to be representation of how friendly the border was,” Fox said. “Across the street is a huge apartment building that was there before the border and the border goes right through. If there’s a cross-border romance, instead of dealing with getting a visa you could just get a room in this apartment building. There’s another 100 buildings that have similar stories.”

In the New York Times op-ed, he argues that the borders with Canada and Mexico are radically different. “The northern border by no means should be locked down, it wasn’t built to be that way,” he said. It requires “a different type of surveillance, a different type of border agent.”

“Northland” follows the success of Fox’s 2013 book “DEEP: The Story of Skiing and the Future of Snow.” His book tour for that project included a talk at the Northeast Harbor Library, which he hopes to reprise next summer.

Fox grew up in Southwest Harbor, attending Pemetic Elementary. He graduated from MDI High School in 1990, where he said his classes were much harder than the ones he took in college at Middlebury.

His father, Crozer Fox, was a boatbuilder at the former Able Marine in Southwest Harbor. He built the Chuck Paine-designed Whistler series of sailboats, and later sold the designs to Morris Yachts.

Those boats are the subject of the next book Porter Fox is working on. He found the first boat his father ever built, a 32-foot ketch, and plans to write about sailing up the Maine coast.

Contact Sherman’s at 288-3161.


Liz Graves

Liz Graves

Reporter at Mount Desert Islander
Former Islander reporter and editor Liz Graves grew up in California and came to Maine as a schooner sailor.

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