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Spirit Run

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Spirit Run is a memoir by Noé Álvarez, who talks about growing up the son of working-class Mexican immigrants and later participating in the Peace and Dignity Journeys. 

The memoir starts off powerful - rather than diving into running at the outset, Álvarez focuses on what it's like to work in fruit-packing plants. That section was quite well-written; I could just see those working conditions and imagine the toll they take on one's body (and mind). He continues on to talk about his experience beginning college as a first-generation Latino student. 

I was excited to (around 20%) get into the running content. I had not previously read about PDJ. But, this is very much a memoir. So Álvarez goes from one minute talking about Circle, to the run itself, to his experience of running, to recollections from his past - much as one's brain might cycle through these things while physically running. 

It's a slim book, and it left me wanting more. I expected the book to feature running, travel, and information on the PDJ, and while there's a bit of that, I tend to think Spirit Run is more coming-of-age memoir than anything - albeit, the coming of age of a son of working-class Mexican immigrants. That in itself is valuable, but that's not what I expected going into the book (given the title, cover, and synopsis). Still, read it for that - for Álvarez's journey to make sense of his place in the world. 

P.S. I'd be remiss not to mention that I had serious concerns about the health of the runners. (I suppose I could have expected that from the synopsis - thirst is not a thing to "overcome!")
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I found Spirit Run A 6,000-Mile Marathon Through North America's Stolen Land by Noe Alvarez to be an interesting read i really wish Alvarez could have given us more of his emotional journey through this, but this really was an interesting  immigration story that I would love to hear more of. Because I felt the book wish missing just a bit more i am giving it a 3/5., but i still recommend it. Thank you, Catapult for this gifted copy.
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Spirit Run leads you down what you believe is an all-too-familiar path, and then suddenly, you realize that you’re not reading the typical Latinx memoir. As such, Álvarez navigates the delicate balance between writing yet another story of border crossing and taking his readers down a spiritual, philosophical, and often brutal journey down the heart of North America, honoring the past and giving witness to the still radiant histories that have entwined themselves with nature itself. Noé’s pain was inevitable, but suffering, for him, was not an option. A beautiful, cathartic book.
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A very unique story, told in a clear and readable narrative. Alvarez's journey is so interesting; I just wish there was more of it. This read like a long essay more than a memoir. I wanted a little more digging into Alvarez's life before the run, his relationship with running, the areas he ran through, the others on the run... There was just so much I would have liked to know more about! But overall, definitely a good read.
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Noé Álvarez’s Spirit Run is a brief recounting if his marathon with other Indigenous runners in the Peace and Dignity Journeys, a run to pull together communities, to connect with the land, and to grow and heal as individuals while setting feet to the ground from Alaska to Panama. Set against the background of a childhood spent with his undocumented parents in Washington state in a community of labourers, and his eventual scholarship and entry into the hostile world of post-secondary education, Álvarez found the run at a crossroads in his life, and it clearly profoundly shaped him in so many ways. I most loved his description of himself on the land, truly what a journey. I also appreciated his honesty about some of the dysfunction and bullying on the journey - it was apparent that those experiences loomed large and are still unresolved for him. What was missing for me in the book was more of the relational piece between Álvarez and the other runners - who was he close to, and who were they as people?I think that this was probably somewhat limited by these being stories that were not Alvarez’s to tell, which I understand, but I wish that if the book hadn’t been able to go outwards to those that ran alongside him, that he had dug a bit deeper into his own emotional journey on the run. While the book brought me alive into what it means to truly appreciate the territories upon which we set our feet, I didn’t feel that I ever truly got to dig all the way into the soil of this book. Thank you @netgalley for the ARC, opinions are my own.
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Thank you to Catapult for this NetGalley of Spirit Run: A 6,000 Mile Marathon Through North America’s Stolen Land.

Noé Álvarez is the son of Mexican immigrants in California. At nineteen, he felt like he had been struggling to live up to the expectations that were placed on him by his family and himself, and joined the 2004 Peace and Dignity Journey (PDJ). “Through the Peace & Dignity Journeys, numerous and diverse indigenous nations reunite and reclaim dignity for their families and communities.” (peaceanddignity.net) Spirit Run is the story of Álvarez’s endurance and faith, and how this ultra-marathon helped him come to terms with his identity, his heritage, and the world around him.

The beginning of this book described his brief experience working in the fruit industry alongside his parents: his dad picking fruit from the orchards, while Álvarez works alongside his mother at a fruit packing factory. He includes poignant reflections about working-class life and his parents’ struggles to give him a better life than they had. Álvarez’s talent really shines during these ruminations.

However, the writing style completely shifted once he started the PDJ, beginning to tell the reader summaries of what had happened, rather than showing the events as they played out. The bulk of the book was comprised of his daily life on this journey, written in a very matter-of-fact way. The presentation of each new location in the journey from Alaska to Guatemala felt formulaic: information was provided about his surroundings and the challenging landscapes or conflicts of the day, then one of his running mates or hosts would be quoted, then he presented his lessons or reflections. I didn’t feel like I was actually there with the runners. I wish that there had been more descriptions of the terrain, his inner thoughts, or realistic depictions of his day-to-day interactions and conversations.

I feel grateful to have learned about this marathon and the spiritual journey that it facilitated. I imagine that it was challenging to write a book about this experience, especially about events that happened around 15 years ago. The runners were mostly solitary, and the whole journey was unimaginably physically and emotionally demanding. Álvarez describes a shocking amount of bullying, infighting, and street harassment. But, unfortunately, I finished this book wishing for more.
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This memoir is about the authors life, and also what it is like being the son of working class Mexican immigrants, in a town in Washington state, and of his search to find out who he really is and what he stands for in this world. 
His parents have had a hard life in the orchards and apple packing plants, that took everything out of them. I think a bit differently now when I bite into an apple that was so easy to acquire, knowing what it is like for the many workers in those packing plants. The author worked beside his mother at the plant while in high school and would always run to rid himself of the stress and frustration of his situation.
 After high school Noe was lucky to have gotten a full scholarship to a university, and was excited about the prospect of getting an education and being able to help people in similar situations as his parents.  Once at the school he just couldn't settle his mind and then one day, he heard a talk by an organizer of a Native American/First Nations movement called the Peace and Dignity Journeys, a race that starts in Alaska through the Americas, to Panama. A journey of Native runners who want to connect with the earth, their spirituality and to find out about other Native Americans beliefs along the journey.
As the run starts and the runners head south,  picking up runners in different locations, Noe encounters many different personalities, who have all had many hardships. Some with strong personalities, who did not always follow the rules or were not always as nice as they could have been to fellow runners, it was a hard run with many leg injuries along the way. The author made it to just over the Guatemalan Border, having run through Mexico, which had been his main goal, as he wanted to be able to connect to his parents native land.
He went back to education after leaving the race.
Beautifully written, he is a talented author.
I would like to thank NetGalley and Catapult  for allowing me to read this book.
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Rating (on a scale of 1 to 5, 5 being excellent)
Quality of writing: 4
Pace: 4
Enjoyability: 4
Ease of Reading: 4

Overall rating: 4 out of 5
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An important and often touching book. This isn't my usual genre, so I was a bit wary when requesting it, but I am now quite pleased I took the journey
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There is something inherently uplifting about books about running and or taking the metaphorical journey and making it a literal one.  This memoir is no exception.  Also compelling about this book is the intersection of the immigrant experience and the Native American one.  An educational and entertaining volume.
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This book really opened my eyes about immigrants and the extremely hard work they do to better the lived for their children.  Moe does well himself and earns a full scholarship to college but  a group that came and gave a speech had him leaving college and going on a 6000 run.  He feels he learned a lot about himself and what his parents did for him on this run.  I don’t for the life of me understand how and why people run or walk incredible mileage while in severe pain.  But it was an interesting book and I recommend it.
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Noé Alvarez was a nineteen year old college student, a son of Mexican immigrants, who, after spending a summer working alongside his mother at an apple packing plant, wanted to do more with his life. He was saddened by his mother's and other workers' acceptance of their lives. Struggling to fit in at college, Alvarez gave up his scholarship and decided to join a Native Americans/First Nation Movement called Peace and Dignity Journeys. PDJs are marathons that are meant to create awareness amongst Indigenous people of the Americas. Spirit Run is Alvarez's story of his four month journey with PDJ.

For Indigenous people, running the PDJ is a way of connection and prayer.  But as the group leader said, "it is not for everyone and the run will quickly teach you that."  Each runner on this PDJ took turns running part of the journey, carrying staffs, which are feathered sticks that are representations of communities that donated them. The leader of the run carries a Father Staff, which is the 'whole of the other staffs' and leads the run every day. It can only be carried by a runner capable of long miles, who can carry the spirit of the other runners forward.

Alvarez joined the PDJ runners in Alaska, one month into the run. A decent runner, he learns early on that he has to prove himself to the group. As he says: "nothing about me says Indigenous".  He was mocked for his brightly colored running shoes and his lack of camping knowledge. Throughout the journey, he struggles to find his place in the group. Several of the group are former gang members, hardened from violence. Some of the runners are bullied. In spite of this, Alvarez finds a few runners to connect with.

While on the run, the runners experience violence--on one run, Noé is hit by a rock thrown from a car--and racism. The runners talk about struggling to fit in while growing up. They run through communities where they are welcomed with open arms and experience tribal traditions.  There are conflicts between the runners about how traditions need to be respected. The PDJ was an interesting journey for the runners and the book really flows. Alvarez is a good storyteller.

The PDJ wasn't the journey I expected, but it was well worth the read. I will admit to some ignorance when I picked up this book. I didn't consider the whole of North America, including Canada and Mexico, as the home of indigenous people. Doh! Of course, it was. Spirit Run opened my mind to the ongoing struggles of the Indigenous people of the Americas. I also found it interesting when the runners were talking about discrimination amongst their own people, being told they weren't "Mexican enough" or "Native enough".

I won't tell you how the journey for Noé ends because just like we runners say, it isn't always about the destination, it's the roads you take to get there.
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The interesting story and family history of Noe, the child of Mexican immigrant parents working int he apple industry in Washington State. I found the family history very interesting. The discussions of the run are less than I expected., but overall I found it an interesting look into something I had little to no familiarity with. The book is well written and the story engaging throughout.
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I seriously had issues with the writing style.

i was hoping for an inspirational story and I never got to the end because the writing was so stiff and non engaging that I never even finished this.
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A memoir of running, identity, and trying to find belonging, Spirit Run is unique and tough to read. Not because of the writing, which is very descriptive and poetic, but because of the journey that the author goes on, and the resistance that he finds to the peace and dignity he was searching for in the run through North American indigenous lands. This is hard one to review - and to me, that makes it that much more important for everyone to read.
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An important book a book about America about immigrants about life .About a run that involves so many .So beautifully written perfect for book club discussion.#netgalley#catapult
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