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History North America

Imaginary Line

Life on an Unfinished Border

by (author) Jacques Poitras

Goose Lane Editions
Initial publish date
Sep 2011
North America, General, General
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Sep 2011
    List Price
  • eBook

    Publish Date
    Oct 2011
    List Price

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Shortlisted, Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing and Democracy 250 Atlantic Book Award for Historical Writing

Once, a single francophone settlement shared both sides of the Saint John River, until a political trade-off between countries split it down the middle. From that inauspicious start, the Maine-New Brunswick border, the first boundary to be drawn between the two nations, has served as a microcosm for Canada-U.S. relations.

For centuries, friends, lovers, schemers and smugglers have reached across the line. Now, post-9/11, mounting political paranoia has led to a sharp divide, disrupting the lives and welfare of nearby residents. An elderly Canadian couple's driveway touches the border, leading to a Kafkaesque overreaction by Homeland Security. The Tea Party political movement advocates complete border shutdown. Once friendly neighbors have become increasingly isolated from each other.

In this timely exploration, Jacques Poitras travels the length of the border, from Madawaska and Aroostook counties through Passamaquoddy Bay to a tiny island still in dispute to uncover the arbitrarily drawn line that shouldn't be there, almost wasn't there, and can be difficult to find even when it is there. The stakes are high as New Brunswick and Maine re-imagine their relationship for the 21st century and communities strive to stay together despite the best efforts of parochial politicians, protectionists, and overzealous border officials.

About the author

A seasoned political reporter for CBC Radio, Jacques Poitras has received the top national feature reporting award from the Radio and Television News Directors Association of Canada two years in a row. His work has also been honoured by the National Newspaper Awards and Amnesty International. He has appeared on National Public Radio in the United States as well as the BBC. With his credentials, insight, and knowledge of New Brunswick politics, there is no better person to have written The Right Fight, a truly Canadian story.

Jacques Poitras' profile page


  • Short-listed, Shaughnessy Cohen Prize for Political Writing
  • Short-listed, Democracy 250 Atlantic Book Award for Historical Writing

Editorial Reviews

"A very impressive volume. Not an easy subject to tackle but wonderfully researched and so very revealing. Canada-U.S. relations at the regional level have rarely been so expertly explored."

Lawrence Martin

"If you like to explore the nooks and crannies of the Canada-US border, if you know the idiosyncrasies of more than four border crossings (the Ambassador Bridge and the Peace Bridge don't count), and if you think that the National Film Board's Between Friends/Entre Amis (1976) is one of the great coffee-table books (and cultural statements) of all time, then Imaginary Line: Life on an Unfinished Border deserves a place on your nightstand."

<i>Globe and Mail</i>

"By highlighting what makes this part of the world unique, Poitras brings alive the quirks of communities whose cross-border heritage defies narratives of identity in both Canada and the United States."

<i>Canadian Geographic</i>

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