"Braceros" by Deborah Cohen, associate professor of history at UMSL

“Braceros” by Deborah Cohen, associate professor of history at UMSL, was recently named the best book in agricultural history from the Agricultural History Society. (Photo by August Jennewein)

Current United States-Mexico relations and immigration reform are hot topics in the news now. But it’s a book about the mid-20th-century relationship between the neighboring nations that’s earning praise for Deborah Cohen, associate professor of history at the University of Missouri–St. Louis. The historian has received a trio of honors this year for her 2011 book, “Braceros: Migrant Citizens and Transnational Subjects.”

Published by the University of North Carolina Press, the book focuses on the Bracero Program, which brought thousands of Mexican men across the U.S. border to work temporarily in agricultural fields. The series of labor agreements began in 1942 and lasted more than two decades. The book combines a range of documentary evidence with oral histories given by former braceros through interviews conducted by Cohen.

The Agricultural History Society recently awarded Cohen the Theodore Saloutos Memorial Award for the best book in agricultural history.

“What kept the work from being simply an institution history with a strong agricultural perspective is that time and again (Cohen) returned to the perspective of the farm workers themselves, through a series of oral histories from some of the Braceros from (the Mexican state of) Durango,” said historian Oscar Chamberlain at the award presentation. “So their hopes, their dreams, their partially successful attempts to master their own fates in this evolving international context remain at the center of Cohen’s work.”

“Braceros” received further recognition this year as one of two honorable mentions for the 2012 CLR James Award for Best Book awarded by the Working Class Studies Association, and as a finalist for the 2012 Weber-Clements Book Prize from the Western History Association and Clements Center for Southwest Studies.

Cohen is a historian of the United States and Mexico. She has published in the Journal of American Ethnic Studies, Clio (France), Hispanic American Historical Review and Estudios Sociologicals (Mexico). “Braceros: Migrant Citizens and Transnational Subjects in Postwar United States and Mexico” is her first book.

Ryan Heinz

Ryan Heinz