Spirit Run

Spirit Run

A 6,000-Mile Marathon Through North America's Stolen Land

Noé Álvarez


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  • A first-generation Mexican American, Noé Álvarez has always used running as an escape: from the realities of working-class immigrant life growing up in Yakima, Washington, and from a predominantly white, upper-class college where he struggles to fit in. When he learns about the Peace and Dignity Journeys—a continent-spanning, months-long marathon for Indigenous runners and allies—he knows it’s something he needs to do.
  • Spirit Run is an exhilarating, cliche-breaking adventure and coming-of-age tale that takes you along for Álvarez’s incredible journey; it’s also a clear-eyed and resonant depiction of the realities of Indigenous communities and working-class life in capitalist and colonized societies
  • Spirit Run is Noé Álvarez’s debut memoir, and he is an irresistible and incredibly talented storyteller. You cheer for him as he receives a full ride to college, just as you do when he makes the terrifying decision to drop out of college to find himself on the Peace and Dignity Journeys, and every step along his long journey—from his first forty-mile day to the last
  • This story is not just about Álvarez—it’s also a history of his own family, the journeys his parents took to the United States, and character studies of all the runners who join him on the run, and what brought them together
  • For fans of riveting narrative reportage and commentary like The Line Becomes a River and Tell Me How It Ends as much as for fans of empowering adventure memoirs like Wild and Rough Magic, Spirit Run is an unforgettable account of a single young man’s journey to self-discovery and an unflinching portrait of a continent
  • Álvarez plans to participate in the 2020 Peace & Dignity Journey, which will run in both directions from Alaska (Eagle Route) and Argentina (Condor Route) to Quito, Ecuador; final dates of the race are forthcoming
  • Álvarez will be participating in events at the NEIBA, PNBA, and MPIBA fall conferences in 2019.

    Bookseller Praise for Spirit Run

    "Noé Álvarez is the son of working-class immigrant parents, and he wants desperately to get out of Yakima, Washington. After an initial try at college, he signs up for the Peace and Dignity Journeys—a run from Alaska to South America celebrating Indigenous peoples. Along the way, he connects to the land and the people in ways he never expected. He finds a sense of peace within himself and a new appreciation for both where he's from and where he wants to go. Being from the Yakima Valley myself, and a fan of Raymond Carver, this book holds a special resonance for me. But that aside, this is a book about a journey. And like any great pilgrimage, this one is thoughtful, honest, emotional, and, yes, spiritual." —Kerry Cochran, Auntie's Bookstore (Spokane, WA)

    "Noé Álvarez grew up working-class to Mexican immigrant parents in Yakima, Washington. He dropped out of college after learning about a movement called the Peace and Dignity Journeys, marathons meant to connect Indigenous and Native peoples to each other and the land across North America. He takes on a 6,000-mile run from Canada to Guatemala that tests his physical and mental limits, as well as those of his running mates. Álvarez depicts sides of America that most of us aren't familiar with but need to be, and the result is very powerful and enlightening. " —Carl Kranz, Fountain Bookstore (Richmond, VA)

    "Noé Álvarez's writing has an ease to it that welcomes the reader, draws you in to in this journey. I have not read Born to Run, so I have little comparison. I have read The Places In Between and would compare Spirit Run to that. Although the reasons for and backgrounds of the journiers are different, there seems to be a similarity." —Julia Hobart, The Bookloft (Great Barrington, MA)

    "Noé Álvarez and his family had their dreams come true when he received a full ride to college, a way out of the endless labor of working at an apple factory in Yakima. While at school, he learns of the Peace and Dignity Journeys, a run held every four years from Alaska to Guatemala, stretching thousands of miles. This is a program that aids in helping Indigenous people from all nations reconnect to their lands, spiritually and emotionally. To Álvarez, this was an opportunity worth dropping out for. Álvarez recounts many highs and lows on his run—severe conditions, friendships, rivalries, and the freedoms the journey has brought him, in every sense of the word. Spirit Run is simultaneously harsh and uplifting, bound to engage and inspire readers across the board." —Andrew King, University Book Store (Seattle, WA)

    "Fantastic and timely memoir that has universal appeal through travel, immigration, and the many ways that long-distance running acts to bring people together. The powerful and revealing storytelling will satisfy fans of Born to Run, Wild, and Into the Wild. Spirit Run serves as a beautiful reminder that the human spirit is what unites us all." —Laura Taylor, Oxford Exchange (Tampa, FL)

    "The world needs more books like Spirit Run, written by people who have actually lived the experiences of marginalized communities, rather than just parachuted in, done a few interviews, and then written about them. Noé Álvarez speaks with an eloquent and much-needed voice for the working class, for the struggles experienced by people living—not just outside of, but ostracized by—the mainstream as part of a community that is at the same time a key element of the infrastructure the entire bloody framework is propped up on. I challenge anyone to find one drop of hyperbole in that statement. The community Álvarez and his family occupy—immigrant, migrant, whatever-you-want-to-call-them laborers—are a critical piece of the American puzzle and we only show them, at best, a vague disrespect. Beyond that, though, the story of the run hinted at in the title is interesting enough on its own. The way Álvarez threads the run and the people who undertake it through the rest of the narrative is done very well, and the book succeeds at being a kind of travel narrative/reporting piece as well. This is a timely and important book." —Chris La Tray, Fact & Fiction (Missoula, MT)

    "What a great book about a marathon—the Peace and Dignity Journeys—that happens every four years across North and South America to raise awareness about the challenges of Indigenous and migrant citizens. But that's the lite version. The lives that have led to this commitment are both daunting and inspiring, and it's an honor to be apprised of something I don't think I would have ever heard of otherwise—to find safe passage across lands that have been stolen from your ancestors, so that you have become the new slave to a modern master. The author searches for understanding of those circumstances and finds value and purpose, with none of it given freely. It's the American dream and nightmare in parallel universes, and well worth reading. Give it a sprint to the finish." —Todd Miller, Arcadia Books (Spring Green, WI)

    "This isn't a book about running in the way Christopher McDougall's books might be, nor is it a book about travel for the sake of travel. This is a book about trying to reestablish cultural and spiritual connection with a land, an entire continent, that has so frequently betrayed and heaved against Noé Álvarez and his family. A first-generation Mexican American, Álvarez grew up working-class and working hard alongside both his parents in Washington State, and a full ride to college doesn't help stave off or heal the feeling that he doesn't and will never belong. The Peace and Dignity Journeys, run (literally) every four years from the top to the bottom of the continent by Native groups, offer him a chance to meet others who have lived similar experiences and to reacquaint himself with the many stories and traditions embedded deep in the earth on which we all stand. It's not easy—the running destroys his knees, there are splits and rifts within the group, and his Indigenous roots are brought into question—but the route to understanding the self, especially as it fits in a community, is always arduous. A skillfully written memoir that deftly balances Álvarez's interior questioning and development with simple and stunning descriptions of the world he's running through, and moving with." —Anna Weber, White Whale Bookstore (Pittsburgh, PA)

    "Spirit Run by Noé Álvarez is an unforgettable quest, a love letter to the future of Indigenous and migrant populations within the United States and Canada. A runner and member of the Peace and Dignity Journeys, with every footfall and page Álvarez makes his way south from British Columbia to Guatemala, forging a path for himself while tracing the steps of Native American and immigrant journeys. This is a book for all Americans to read to understand the definition of otherness that white populations enforce upon the landscape, and the continued psychological boundaries that cause cultural divides today. A beautiful book that will resonate with change makers and those wishing to break free of spiritual bondage, Spirit Run is about bringing forth a call to action and healing through the physical activism of movement across the emotional wreckage of modern-day colonialism. Álvarez will inspire readers to seek greater knowledge of the fences we erect and roads we pave across our physical and spiritual wilderness." —Julia Buckwalter, Back of Beyond Books (Moab, UT)

    "For runners and sports enthusiasts alike, a refreshing memoir that will take you through our landscape—both physical and cultural." —Valerie Koehler, Blue Willow Bookshop (Houston, TX)

    "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." —Keith Mosman, Powell's Books (Portland, OR)

    "An unforgettable read with such raw honesty and insight into the immigrant experience. A refreshing and fascinating combination of self-discovery sought through extreme running, traveling, and connecting with others and in nature. This book deserves to be on every bookshelf." —Kathy Detwiler, Buttonwood Books and Toys (Cohasset, MA)

    "An epic journey as the author and other indigenous people relay run from Alaska through the indigenous lands in the United States, through Mexico and other parts of South America. As he runs, he connects with the land and his roots as he thinks about his parents, who made the journey in the opposite direction. A new writer to watch." —Audrey Huang, Belmont Books (Belmont, MA)

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