Noé Álvarez’s impressive debut is both a travelogue of the 6,000-mile Indigenous peoples’ run that took him from Canada to Guatemala and a memoir of the path his life took before and after the run — from an isolating childhood in an immigrant community in eastern Washington, to a more winding route that took him to the East Coast as an adult. While the run was a true test of personal endurance, Spirit Run is not just about one man’s struggles, but instead it is about a community, as Álvarez lays in his companions’ stories alongside his own. It’s fitting that the true strengths of a book about running with a sacred purpose are the quick, steady pacing and the sure-footedness of his voice. Recommended By Keith M., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
"When the son of two Mexican immigrants hears about the Peace and Dignity Journeys — 'epic marathons meant to renew cultural connections across North America' — he's compelled enough to drop out of college and sign up for one. Spirit Run is Noé Álvarez's account of the four months he spends trekking from Canada to Guatemala alongside Native Americans representing nine tribes, all of whom are seeking brighter futures through running, self-exploration, and renewed relationships with the land they've traversed." Runner's World, Best New Running Books of 2020
"An anthem to the landscape that holds our identities and traumas, and its profound power to heal them." Francisco Cantú, author of The Line Becomes a River
Growing up in Yakima, Washington, Noé Álvarez worked at an apple-packing plant alongside his mother, who "slouched over a conveyor belt of fruit, shoulder to shoulder with mothers conditioned to believe this was all they could do with their lives." A university scholarship offered escape, but as a first-generation Latino college-goer, Álvarez struggled to fit in.
At nineteen, he learned about a Native American/First Nations movement called the Peace and Dignity Journeys, epic marathons meant to renew cultural connections across North America. He dropped out of school and joined a group of Dené, Secwépemc, Gitxsan, Dakelh, Apache, Tohono O'odham, Seri, Purépecha, and Maya runners, all fleeing difficult beginnings. Telling their stories alongside his own, Álvarez writes about a four-month-long journey from Canada to Guatemala that pushed him to his limits. He writes not only of overcoming hunger, thirst, and fear ‐ dangers included stone-throwing motorists and a mountain lion — but also of asserting Indigenous and working-class humanity in a capitalist society where oil extraction, deforestation, and substance abuse wreck communities.
Running through mountains, deserts, and cities, and through the Mexican territory his parents left behind, Álvarez forges a new relationship with the land, and with the act of running, carrying with him the knowledge of his parents' migration, and — against all odds in a society that exploits his body and rejects his spirit — the dream of a liberated future.
"This book is not like any other out there. You will see this country in a fresh way, and you might see aspects of your own soul. A beautiful run." Luís Alberto Urrea, author of The House of Broken Angels
"Noé Álvarez's words beat with the pulse of our hemisphere. Through them, we encounter Mexican, Indigenous, and migrant stories that are distinctly, defiantly American. Spirit Run is an anthem to the landscape that holds our identities and traumas, and its profound power to heal them." Francisco Cantú, author of The Line Becomes a River
"Spirit Run is the story of what brown bodies must do to reclaim identity and dignity. In language that puts us not only in the shoes but in the skin of the displaced, Álvarez takes back Raymond Carver country and tells an electric, kinetic, modern working-class story." Cinelle Barnes, author of Monsoon Mansion and Malaya
"Álvarez maps not only the land but his own body; his own relationship to people, earth, and ancestry; and the perils of capitalist frameworks that shape our lives on this land. Spirit Run is a running book, a social and environmental justice book, an anti-capitalist book, and an epic journey book." Book Marks
About the Author
Noé Álvarez was born to Mexican immigrant parents and raised working-class in Yakima, Washington. He lives in Boston, where, until recently, he worked as a security officer at one of the nation's oldest libraries, the Boston Athenæum.