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American Dirt

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También de este lado hay sueños. On this side, too, there are dreams. Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable. Even También de este lado hay sueños. On this side, too, there are dreams. Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable. Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy—two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same. Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia—trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?


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También de este lado hay sueños. On this side, too, there are dreams. Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable. Even También de este lado hay sueños. On this side, too, there are dreams. Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. She runs a bookstore. She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable. Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy—two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same. Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia—trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?

30 review for American Dirt

  1. 5 out of 5

    David

    [edit]For a deeper, nuanced conversation from a panel of Mexican American poets, professors, bloggers, librarians, poets laureate ... watch this video: https://youtu.be/O3UrtFJtAYQ Also, as part of the #DignidadLiteraria team, I met with Flatiron / Macmillan. Here's the press conference announcing the commitment to Latinx equity the publisher made: https://youtu.be/2U8nEgaXzT4 [/edit] Jeanine Cummins' American Dirt is a novel about a Mexican bookseller who has to escape cartel-related violence [edit]For a deeper, nuanced conversation from a panel of Mexican American poets, professors, bloggers, librarians, poets laureate ... watch this video: https://youtu.be/O3UrtFJtAYQ Also, as part of the #DignidadLiteraria team, I met with Flatiron / Macmillan. Here's the press conference announcing the commitment to Latinx equity the publisher made: https://youtu.be/2U8nEgaXzT4 [/edit] Jeanine Cummins' American Dirt is a novel about a Mexican bookseller who has to escape cartel-related violence with her son, fleeing to the US. Cummins received a seven-figure advance for this book. And it's harmful, appropriating, inaccurate, trauma-porn melodrama. Problem 1: The Author. Let me start with the obvious: Cummins has never lived even within five hundred miles of Mexico or the border. In fact, until very recently, she didn't lay claim to the Latinx heritage that comes to her through a Puerto Rican grandmother. Just five years ago, she was calling herself white. Latina or no, Cummins certainly isn't Mexican or Chicana. That's a problem. If you don't know this, Mexican writers are horribly underpaid. Women writers in Mexico, more so. And Chicanx authors suffer marginalization in the US market. As a Mexican American writer, I have seen my Chicana and Mexicana colleagues struggle to get their stories told, to get their manuscripts into the hands of agents and past the publishing industry's gatekeepers. While I have nothing against Jeanine's (or anyone else's) writing a book about the plight of Mexican women and immigrants (especially if they do their homework and don't exoticize our culture), I am deeply bothered that this non-#OwnVoices novel has been anointed the book about the issue for 2020 (with a seven-figure advance, no less) with glowing reviews from major newspapers and the support of big names in US publishing. Such reception is especially harmful because authentic stories by Mexicanas and Chicanas are either passed over or published to significantly less fanfare (and for much less money). There's been strong pushback, especially Myriam Gurba's masterful take-down of the book (that magazines refused to publish) and Parul Sehgal's examination of how the book "flounders and fails." Author Daniel Peña characterizes the book in stark terms: "lab-created brown trauma built for the white gaze and white book clubs to give a textural experience to people who need to feel something to avoid doing anything and from the safety of their chair." US readers would be MUCH better off diving into one of the many books on immigration by ACTUAL Chicanx and Mexican writers that already exist. I mean, Cummins sure did: "My research started with reading everything Luis Alberto Urrea ever wrote. Then I read everything else I could find about contemporary Mexico and by contemporary Mexican writers. Then I read everything I could find about migration. Sonia Nazario's Enrique's Journey is magnificent. So is The Beast by the Salvadoran writer Óscar Martínez." (from her Shelf Awareness interview) Yet even after reading EXISTING works, Jeanine Cummins STILL felt SHE needed to write about the plight of Mexican immigrants. Ostensibly, however, she was conflicted and nervous. On the one hand, she admits to Alexandra Alter of the New York Times: "I don't know if I'm the right person to tell this story." And in the afterword of her book, she worries that "privilege would make [her] blind to certain truths," wishing that someone "slightly browner than [her] would write it." But on the other hand … she still wrote it. After talking to various Mexicans on the border, this was her response: "Every single person I met made me more and more determined to write this book." Cummins was concerned, she claims, that people at the border were being depicted as a "brown, faceless mass." She wanted to give them a face. To be their white savior. Of course, she conveniently forgot about the very #OwnVoices books she had mined for ideas and cultural texture. In the midst of this literary amnesia, she decided to make millions off the pain and struggle of women from a completely different culture. Why does her identity even matter? Because she gets nearly everything wrong as a result. Problem 2: The Content For example, Cummins screws up Spanish egregiously (especially nuances in Mexican Spanish). First, when depicting Spanish-language dialogue as English, she sprinkles it with Spanish words, which is ridiculous ("Hola, abuela" is just "Hello, Grandma," in English, not "Hello, Abuela," as Cummins prefers). Even if we accept this as poetic licence to add cultural texture, she does it poorly, never using Mexican Spanish terms, just sterile, standard ones. If you're going to add spice, make it chile, Jeanine. Actual examples of Spanish are wooden and odd, as if generated by Google Translate and then smoothed slightly by a line editor. The Spanish is … not idiomatic at all. Cultural references are often missed, and Lydia Quixano Pérez (what a name, huh) is ignorant of things that any Mexican knows. For example, learning a cartel leader is called "La Lechuza" (which Cummins incorrectly glosses as "the Owl") Lydia laughs. Owls aren't scary, she insists. Now, a "lechuza" is a screech owl. They have been feared throughout Mexico for literally THOUSANDS OF YEARS, considered harbingers of death, witches in disguise. Lydia's reaction is that of the White readers, not actual Mexicans. And this is just one of literally dozens of examples. People are stereotypes in this novel, participating in stereotypical activities (quinceañeras, for example). They live in a flattened pastiche version of Mexico, a dark hellhole of the sort Trump rails against, geographically and culturally indistinct. Lydia and Luca - despite having money - escape to the precious freedom of the US aboard La Bestia (that dangerous, crime-infested train) because of COURSE they do. But they don't suffer the maiming, abuse, theft, and rape so common on that gang-controlled artery to the border. It's all very Hollywood, very best-selling thriller. And the characters. Gah. I am close friends with people from all social classes in Mexico, including light-skinned, middle-class, book-loving women like the protagonist ostensibly is. But none of the peculiarities of those lives and experiences make their way into this novel. Instead, Lydia and Luca feel like a White US mother and her son, with nominally Mexican names slapped on, sprinkled with a bit of lime and salt. They could easily appear in a Gillian Flynn novel with little adjustment at all. Furthermore, Cummins clearly wants us to be startled at how "erudite" and "elegant" some of the males are. "OMG! Really?" I imagine some US reader gasping. "In Mexico? Aren't all men uncouth swarthy beasts?" And frankly, I've barely scratched the surface here. Setting aside the melodramatic plot and mediocre writing, there is so much more to say, especially about how this book (which the editor characterizes as "a portrait of a nation and a people under siege") does little to explore the complicity of the US in the violence wracking Mexico. In avoiding politics, Cummins ends up implicitly blaming the victim. Let me be clear: because American Dirt contains multiple inaccuracies and distortions, the White US readership in particular will come away with a stylized understanding of the issues from a melodramatic bit of literary pulp that frankly appears to have been drafted with their tastes in mind (rather than the authentic voices of Mexicanas and Chicanas). Ah, and there's the rub. White folks and other non-Mexican Americans in the US: you CANNOT judge for yourselves whether American Dirt is authentic. You're going to have to trust Mexicans and Chicanx folks. I know that runs counter to the upbringing of so many. I know it defies our national discourse. Pero ni modo. That's too bad. At a time when Mexico and the Mexican American community are reviled in this country as they haven't been in decades, to elevate this inauthentic book written by someone outside our community is to slap our collective face. Books I suggest reading instead of (or in conversation with) American Dirt: -Reyna Grande: Dream Called Home & Distance Between Us -Luis Urrea: Devil's Highway, Into the Beautiful North -Cristina Henríquez: Book of Unknown Americans -Ana Raquel Minian: Undocumented Lives -Anabel Hernández: Massacre in Mexico -Guadalupe García McCall: All the Stars Denied -Yuri Herrera: Signs Preceding the End of the World -Valeria Luiselli: Tell Me How It Ends -Oscar Cásares: Where We Come From -Alfredo Corchado: Homelands -Javier Zamora: Unaccompanied -Daniel Peña: Bang -Sylvia Zéleny: The Everything I Have Lost -Sara Uribe: Antígona González -Silvia Moreno García: Untamed Shore Read the full version of this review here: https://medium.com/@davidbowles/non-m... Here's my follow up discussion of Cummins' enablers: https://medium.com/@davidbowles/ameri... Here's my article in the NEW YORK TIMES diving even deeper into the source and repercussions of the controversy: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/27/op... Here's my fourth piece, "American Dirt: Dignity & Equity" -- https://medium.com/@davidbowles/ameri...

  2. 4 out of 5

    Roxane

    Nope. https://gay.medium.com/white-fever-dr...

  3. 5 out of 5

    Myriam

    I wish I could give this book negative stars because it is, as its title attests, dirt. It is also profoundly racist. Here is my essay about the dissent surrounding this book, dissent that is being erased, disappeared and silenced: https://tropicsofmeta.com/2019/12/12/...

  4. 5 out of 5

    Nilufer Ozmekik

    What a mind blowing beginning of a book! A mother, Lydia and her little boy, Luca hid themselves in the bathtub for not being other victims of family massacre. The contract killers/ most dangerous drug-lords dirtbags kept looking for them, firing their guns, calling their names. And finally they thought they were not at the house so they left the place and 16 innocent victims behind. Now mother and her son have to leave the country for staying alive because one of the powerful men is chasing What a mind blowing beginning of a book! A mother, Lydia and her little boy, Luca hid themselves in the bathtub for not being other victims of family massacre. The contract killers/ most dangerous drug-lord’s dirtbags kept looking for them, firing their guns, calling their names. And finally they thought they were not at the house so they left the place and 16 innocent victims behind. Now mother and her son have to leave the country for staying alive because one of the powerful men is chasing them and he is determined to finish his massacre that he already started. The man, Javier Crespo Fuentes, once upon a time he was her friend. They talked about books, shared their secrets, formed a close relationship till one day Lydia’s reporter husband Sebastian wrote an article about Javier…The day the article had published their life’s direction had also traumatically changed. So now, Lydia’s husband, mother, sister and her children are dead! Only she and her son stayed alive from vengeful attack of the cartel. And now their thrilling, heartbreaking, dangerous journey begins. They race against the time, authorities and killers at the same time. So keep still at the edge of your seats and take deep breathes to calm your nerves! This book will increase your heart rates and blow your mind by making you agitated, anxious but stop squirming nervously, just keep on reading, don’t you want to know what will happen to those innocent mother and her brilliant, smart son? Let me tell you something, they say: “destination not important but the journey” but this time it works quite opposite at this book because throughout this long journey, the mother and son walked, hid, slept in different places, ran from dangerous people, jumped into the trains, put their lives in danger, met with different people who had amazing experiences and life stories. This journey makes you up all night to read more, learn more, ache more, fists clenched, eyes filled in tears. You whisper prayers slowly to wish the characters can escape from the real monsters are living in our modern world. Not only mother and son but the people they’ve met especially the sisters helped them will always stay in my heart and soul forever because they’re so realistically developed, well-build characters who have heart-wrenching stories. I think instead of the beginning of this story, author’s note part is also impressive. It summarizes all those people including me who came to this land to chase their dreams, deal with our disappointments and learn from our mistakes to try again. On the border wall of Tijuana, there is wonderful piece of graffiti. When the author feel faltered or discouraged, she clicks to her desktop and look at those words: “On this side, too, there are dreams” Everyone has different dreams but sometimes making too many sacrifices and leaving your old lives and old selves behind might be too tough and compelling for you so sometimes you just procrastinate or give up on them. This book could be dedicated to the dreamers who are brave enough to leave, who have nothing to lose, make so much sacrifices and pay so many dues to fight with everything they have and finally reach their destinations! Maybe it is too early to say that but I think this will be one of the most stunning, impressive and fascinating readings of 2020. Special thanks to Netgalley and Flatiron Book for sharing this amazing ARC COPY with me in exchange my honest review!

  5. 4 out of 5

    Felicia

    Ok seems like a bunch of privileged 'let me show you how woke I am' white people have decided they can speak for the Latin community. Surprise asshats, I am of Mexican and Native American blood. This is a work of FICTION. Google it if you don't understand. The author owes you nada. Move on. Get over yourself. Fuck off. To say that a non Latina has no right to write about Latin issues is absurd. Tell that to all of the writers of WWII fiction. Again with that word fiction. Any book that shines Ok seems like a bunch of privileged 'let me show you how woke I am' white people have decided they can speak for the Latin community. Surprise asshats, I am of Mexican and Native American blood. This is a work of FICTION. Google it if you don't understand. The author owes you nada. Move on. Get over yourself. Fuck off. To say that a non Latina has no right to write about Latin issues is absurd. Tell that to all of the writers of WWII fiction. Again with that word fiction. Any book that shines light on a dark subject is a good thing. Any book that gets people talking about the plight of others is a good thing. You caucasians leaving comments purporting to speak for people of color is fucking hilarious. Hypocrite much? As for your comments about Crawdads. No I haven't read it (which I stated in my review) but that doesn't make me ignorant of the fact that it was top of the bestsellers list since it's debut. Jfc go read a book. I've given my last fuck. ____________________________ Original Review: No doubt this will be THE book of 2020. The Where The Crawdads Sing book of 2020. I've never read Crawdads and I wouldn't have read American Dirt if not so kindly offered the opportunity by the publisher. This is so far from my usual genre. Give me a thriller any day. I want to feel compelled to flip the pages while balancing on the edge of my seat. I want to lose sleep because I can't put a book down, a heart racing, just one more chapter type of story. AND THAT'S EXACTLY WHAT I GOT WITH THIS BOOK. This book was nothing like what I was expecting and everything I could ever hope for. Cummins has written a gripping and compelling narrative that every American should read. Unfortunately, those that need this message the most will refuse this book out of spite and/or the inability to read. ☝️ If that statement offends you, then you are exactly who it is directed towards. ** Thank you Hachette Australia for an ARC in exchange for an honest review. **

  6. 4 out of 5

    Nicky Nicholson-Klingerman

    horribly racist book abt mexico written by a white lady. sooooooooooooooooo tired of yts pretending like they understand. stop telling our stories through your horribly racist oppressive lenses. please read a real review: https://tropicsofmeta.com/2019/12/12/...

  7. 4 out of 5

    mindful.librarian ☀️

    DNF the audiobook (free review copy from Libro.fm) at 15% for various reasons including overly dramatic writing that doesnt fit my reading preferences, major representation issues and perpetuation of racist stereotypes. ETA: I encourage readers to find books about this issue that more accurately depict Mexico and the immigrant experience. One excellent option would be this one: The Devil's Highway: A True Story ETA 2: WHY DID OPRAH AND BARNES AND NOBLE CHOOSE THIS FOR THEIR BOOK CLUBS???? ETA 3: DNF the audiobook (free review copy from Libro.fm) at 15% for various reasons including overly dramatic writing that doesn’t fit my reading preferences, major representation issues and perpetuation of racist stereotypes. ETA: I encourage readers to find books about this issue that more accurately depict Mexico and the immigrant experience. One excellent option would be this one: The Devil's Highway: A True Story ETA 2: WHY DID OPRAH AND BARNES AND NOBLE CHOOSE THIS FOR THEIR BOOK CLUBS???? ETA 3: Check out articles on NYT and The Guardian for more formal reviews about the controversy. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/17/bo... https://www.theguardian.com/books/202... This one on the LA Times about it being Oprah’s pick is SIGH. Hypety-hype-hype. NO PRESS IS BAD PRESS when it comes to hype and book sales. https://www.latimes.com/entertainment... ETA 4: if you want Cliffs Notes on the issues surrounding this book https://www.vulture.com/2020/01/ameri... ETA 5: YOU GUYS. THERE ARE PHOTOS OF AN AUTHOR EVENT FOR THIS BOOK IN WHICH THERE ARE FLORAL DECORATIONS FEATURING "BARBED WIRE / BORDER WALL CHIC". And in one of these links somewhere in here, OW says that Cummins "humanizes" the issue at the border. UMMMMMMMM. Don't the actual humans at the border humanize it? Like, there are HUMANS. AT THE BORDER. I forgive Oprah for making a mistake in picking this book. I don't forgive her for doubling down on her support. Also, a good piece by Seattle Review of Books https://seattlereviewofbooks.com/note... And the best piece of all about it: https://tropicsofmeta.com/2019/12/12/... If you want a stellar #ownvoices publishing insider's take on the issue, check out a story highlight on Instagram by @nastymuchachitareads titled "AD + Publishing" ETA 6: Here's the original pic of the centerpieces, from a May 2019 event - a post via the author herself (I'm a librarian - I believe in verifying sources): https://twitter.com/jeaninecummins/st... ETA 7: NPR coverage from 1.24.20 https://www.npr.org/2020/01/24/798894... LA Times article referenced in the NPR piece https://www.latimes.com/entertainment... ETA 8: Oprah has now posted on IGTV and I’m sure elsewhere that she hears all the concerns and is going to have a conversation about the issue on AppleTV. Which I won’t see bc I don’t have that but at least she acknowledged it 🤷🏼‍♀️ ETA 9: This episode on the 1A podcast from 1.28.20 is excellent regarding not just AD but why the publishing industry did what they did and do what they do https://podcasts.apple.com/us/podcast... ETA 10: Please listen to the Latino USA podcast episode from 1.29.20 about this issue AND, Flatiron canceled the book tour. They issued a statement too. You can read it here: https://lunch.publishersmarketplace.c... and click on "Full Statement" at the bottom to actually read it. There is massive controversy about the letter itself, my friends. ETA 11: I think I might be done updating this now. Bottom line? The more hype there is about a forthcoming book the more skeptical I’m going to be 🙄 ESPECIALLY if there’s any question about it being #ownvoices

  8. 4 out of 5

    Anne Bogel

    UPDATE: I read this book in early fall 2019, before important critiques and interviews were published. Some commenters have helpfully linked those in comments so you can see some of what I'm referencing. I've cleared my star rating. I'm listening, I'm learning, I'm asking questions. I considered deleting my original review; for now I'm leaving it below. I thought this was absolutely fantastic and I can't wait for everyone I know to read it so we can talk about it together. If you follow me, you UPDATE: I read this book in early fall 2019, before important critiques and interviews were published. Some commenters have helpfully linked those in comments so you can see some of what I'm referencing. I've cleared my star rating. I'm listening, I'm learning, I'm asking questions. I considered deleting my original review; for now I'm leaving it below. I thought this was absolutely fantastic and I can't wait for everyone I know to read it so we can talk about it together. If you follow me, you know I have a sweet spot for what I like to call "compulsively readable literary fiction." This is it.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Elyse Walters

    YES...YES...YES!!! READ IT! That beginning is gripping!!! The most anticipated novel for 2020 - has the word controversy around it. I wasnt even aware of the controversial issues until yesterday. As pure FICTION - its sooooo engaging!! In a different life, he could have been someone good. This isnt a different life. Much to engage your thinking... How in the world does one debate the degrees of violence? This novel GRABS OUR ATTENTION. It changes something inside us! Plus... Its not easy to stop YES...YES...YES!!! READ IT! That beginning is gripping!!! The most anticipated novel for 2020 - has the word controversy around it. I wasn’t even aware of the controversial issues until yesterday. As pure FICTION - it’s sooooo engaging!! “In a different life, he could have been someone good”. “This isn’t a different life”. Much to engage your thinking... How in the world does one debate the degrees of violence? This novel GRABS OUR ATTENTION. It changes something inside us! Plus... It’s not easy to stop thinking about the characters and all they were dealing with. I can’t think of any relationship more primal than a mother/child one. I thought about.... “How does fear, grief, love, irrational love...justify our actions? How do we deal with the complexity of good and evil mixed with love?” The controversy over “American Dirt”, is becoming as interesting as this novel itself. Has me pondering both sides. However, a book that stirs our emotions and thoughts, as much as this book does..... is definitely BUZZ WORTHY... and ...for lack of a better word: ‘entertaining’.... in-a-gripping-reading-way. I’ve experienced being on both sides of ‘positive/negative’ - books.... heated- debates a couple of times. In “Baby Teeth”, by Zoje Stage, I was on the negative side. A New York newspaper quoted me as calling it “fiction nonsense”. Many readers praised it with high ratings. What was garbage to me was fascinating for others. In “American Dirt”.... I’m on the positive side. The storytelling is addicting.....thought-provoking....compassionately well written....and timely. The *hype* started out gradually... and gradually continued to grow. Negative reviews started gradually... but then..... the ’controversy-wheel’, kicked in fast... faster than all the tea made in China. There are several ‘Dunkin-Slam’ -nasty comments about this book. Things I hadn’t thought about. Even being a new Oprah pick is controversial. But maybe that happens often with Oprah picks? Comparison to “The Grapes of Wrath”.... as the new modern American novel..... is also creating debatable conversations. I definitely see the comparison - understand it anyway. I just think ( and agree), that people who loved this novel as I did - and for many reasons- are TRYING to express how powerful and real this book feels. So..... “Why the extreme divisions on this book? Why all the attention?” Perhaps ‘all sides’ are coming from the same place? People ‘care’!!! Our tender sensitive sides don’t want to see others suffer, be abused, treated unfairly, or killed. In my opinion... “Any ‘die-hard-reader’, would be a fool not to investigate all the hullabaloo.... surrounding “American Dirt”. One needs to read it first. ...Two thumbs up from me! ...I lost two nights of sleep. ...Daytime plans were canceled. ...Read with urgency. A little question for those who have read it?? What book do you think inspired Luca to talk? Guesses? And... to everyone else.... What book would you like to read over and change the ending to be happier? 5+++++ riveting and extraordinary!!!!!

  10. 4 out of 5

    Angela M

    I wanted to read this novel because of the praise and high ratings by a number of my trusted Goodreads friends. Then just before I started to read it, I became aware of the criticisms in both the literary and press at large and I made the decision not to read any more of those articles until I finished the book. Youll have to read the criticisms for yourself and decide whether you think the book is worth reading. In spite of everything said about the novel, I found it to be riveting, I wanted to read this novel because of the praise and high ratings by a number of my trusted Goodreads friends. Then just before I started to read it, I became aware of the criticisms in both the literary and press at large and I made the decision not to read any more of those articles until I finished the book. You’ll have to read the criticisms for yourself and decide whether you think the book is worth reading. In spite of everything said about the novel, I found it to be riveting, informative, suspenseful, heartbreaking and hard to put down . It’s 400 pages and I read it in two days. It’s the harrowing journey of migrants from Mexico, running for their lives, not to find a better life with more opportunity, but running to save their lives. There’s so much out there on this, you can easily find enough on the plot and characters, so I’m not going to talk about those here. I will say that the grief, the fear, the uncertainty, what people will do to save their loved ones and themselves was impactful. I found the last third of the book especially gripping. There are very few perfect books and few that meet up to the hype. While this isn’t one of them, I think this novel has a lot to offer. Some of the criticisms may certainly be valid, but they didn’t diminish the importance or relevance of the story, at least not for me. If nothing else, hopefully productive conversations and awareness will be generated about the issues that the critics raise, as well as the timely issue of immigration. I read this with Diane and Esil and I so much appreciated having them to discuss this with.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Candi

    I doubt there is a single person here on Goodreads that has not heard at least a hint of the controversy surrounding this book. Im also confident that nearly every reader has at least a basic idea of the synopsis of American Dirt. So, Im not really touching either of those elements in my review. I am a white woman, living in upstate New York, thousands of miles from Mexico. I have no real personal experience regarding the Mexican migrant issue, and therefore cannot speak to whether or not author I doubt there is a single person here on Goodreads that has not heard at least a hint of the controversy surrounding this book. I’m also confident that nearly every reader has at least a basic idea of the synopsis of American Dirt. So, I’m not really touching either of those elements in my review. I am a white woman, living in upstate New York, thousands of miles from Mexico. I have no real personal experience regarding the Mexican migrant issue, and therefore cannot speak to whether or not author Jeanine Cummins writes a genuine representation of the crisis or not. I don’t even dare to attempt to do so. What I can write about, however, is my own reading experience of this novel. First of all, I was super excited to pick up this book. I lovingly cataloged it at my library when it first arrived. I put my name first on the list to get it on publication day. After all, it was hailed as “a new American classic” and was compared to the masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath. Naturally, this did give me pause, because both are tall orders to fill. Could this proclamation be true?! And it’s such a relevant topic! I need to read this book. I like to learn something when I read. Even if a book is labeled as fiction, I hope to garner some useful information regarding the topic surrounding a group of fictional characters. I want to feel as if I am in the shoes of a character or two, understanding what they are enduring for this short period of time we are together. To my disappointment, I was completely underwhelmed by American Dirt. It was far too melodramatic for my taste. It starts with a big bang right from page one. But for me it was too much. It seemed to be forced in order to provide the catalyst for the rest of the novel, an extravagant attempt to try to gain my sympathy. I felt an instant disconnection from the characters. I tried to remain hopeful about accompanying Lydia and Luca on their harrowing journey through Mexico towards their one glimmer of hope, the United States. And there were scenes that were charged with danger. Naturally, I hoped this pair and their fellow migrants would survive the risks. One additional thing that bothered me throughout – some characters were just not believable. I couldn’t help but think repeatedly “would so-and-so really act or speak this way in this situation?” One example would be too-wise beyond his years, eight-year-old Luca. I was further bothered by what seemed like an abundance of clichés. For example, the beautiful teenaged girl from Honduras – the threat of rape menaced her at every turn. Why not the arguably less stunning but perhaps still attractive mother of a little boy? Would not any migrant woman be at risk from such danger? I guess what I’m trying to say is that the characters were more like cut-outs, in my opinion. I missed the depth of characterization that I find so appealing in my favorite kind of novel. It doesn’t help that while reading this one, I also had the pure pleasure of another book that really did tick off all the boxes – including nuanced characters, equally relevant social and political issues, and perilous situations. I wouldn’t tell anyone they should not read this book. If it at all interests you, by all means, pick it up and make your own judgments. For me, the writing was mediocre and I was disappointed to remain a far-removed observer. None of the thousands of miles separating my home from the Mexican border were diminished after finishing the last page. But I truly hope it does get people talking about an extremely important issue. The best way to read this would be with a buddy, so you can bounce ideas off one another. I may not have made it to the end otherwise - muito obrigada, Pedro! I will continue my quest to become more educated on the topic. For an engaging write-up of this book, please visit my buddy's review here: https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

  12. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    3.5 Due to the controversy surrounding this book, Angela, Esil and I decided to make this our monthly read. Nice to bounce thoughts off of my trusted reading buddies. I was concerned I wouldn't be able to give this a fair and unbiased reading, so I tried not to look into this further, not read any other reviews, until finishing. I found it to be surprisingly well done and on an important subject. I truly liked these characters and felt for what they had gone through and the effort it took for 3.5 Due to the controversy surrounding this book, Angela, Esil and I decided to make this our monthly read. Nice to bounce thoughts off of my trusted reading buddies. I was concerned I wouldn't be able to give this a fair and unbiased reading, so I tried not to look into this further, not read any other reviews, until finishing. I found it to be surprisingly well done and on an important subject. I truly liked these characters and felt for what they had gone through and the effort it took for them to make the decisions they made. It definitely bought home the suffering of those arbour borders and what they had already gone through to make it this far. Eight year old Luca was my favorite, a young boy already wiser than his years who will see and experience things no child should. If there were cliches within, they passed me by. The authors note explains why she wrote this book and the research that went into the writing. Once again, I found her reasons more than credible. Who owns a story, an idea? This is after all fiction, not non fiction. Doesn't this book and it's promotion get the plight of the migrants out there and in the public eye? Doesn't that have value in and of itself? How many, who have not even read the book just jumped on the bandwagon to be part of something? Isn't trying to condemn, squash the popularity of this book, another form of the relinquishing of our rights to freedom of the press? Just a few things to think about and then go and read the book yourself and form your own opinions.

  13. 4 out of 5

    JanB

    4.5 stars Is this the definitive immigrant experience? Im not naïve enough to think so. This is fiction. Were there clichés or negative stereotypes? Not that I could see. Instead, this book destroyed the stereotypes. As the author notes in her epilogue the people are not faceless brown masses, an often quoted phrase by the naysayers taken totally out of context its an image the author says she tried (quite successfully) to dispel. The people crossing into our borders are individuals with 4.5 stars Is this the definitive immigrant experience? I’m not naïve enough to think so. This is fiction. Were there clichés or negative stereotypes? Not that I could see. Instead, this book destroyed the stereotypes. As the author notes in her epilogue the people are not “faceless brown masses”, an often quoted phrase by the naysayers taken totally out of context – it’s an image the author says she tried (quite successfully) to dispel. The people crossing into our borders are individuals with backstories and unique reasons for coming here. The humanitarian concerns of our fellow human beings touched my heart while delivering a page-turning thriller. As Lydia and her young son, Luca, fled for their lives, I felt I was in her shoes and quite literally held my breath more than once. This book puts a face to the plight of immigrants and the often harrowing journey they take to get here. It sent me to the internet to research for myself the conditions in Acapulco and what the drug cartels have done to make it one of the most dangerous places in Mexico. I read about “The Beast”, the train many migrants hop on, risking kidnapping, violence, and death in their long, hazardous journey to the U.S. I’m shocked and disheartened that the author is being vilified and subjected to threats of violence. Ugly, vile things have been said about her. Over fiction, people! This is nothing short of bullying and censorship. It’s a slippery slope when we have readers leave one star “reviews” of a book they haven’t read or change a 4 or 5 star rating to a one star after being “enlightened”. Readers are entitled to their opinions. The author, as stated, is a bridge. She spent four years researching the book and the epilogue left me with even more respect for her. Don’t we need as many voices as possible telling the story? Let the book open hearts and minds and start a civil discussion of the issues. I bought a hardback copy to support the author in the midst of this nonsense, and have no regrets. If you want to support the movement, read this book, followed by an #ownvoices book(s). * this was a buddy read with Marialyce and a book we both enjoyed. For our duo review please visit https://yayareadslotsofbooks.wordpres...- * please note if you want to have an honest discourse and a civil discussion, all comments are welcome. However, all rude comments from trolls will be deleted.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Mela

    i didnt readthis book. save your breath, do not comment telling me to not rate what i havent read. i did read this review by myriam gurba. do yourself a favor and read her work and this scathing and hilarious review instead. then go read something writte by someone with actual experience of the border. not someone benefiting from privilege and so tone deaf as to use the border wall as fucking centerpieces. https://tropicsofmeta.com/2019/12/12/...

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tatiana

    As a person who constantly complains about writers borrowing and cashing in on Russian culture without having any expertise to do so (you, Leigh Bardugo, you, Julia Phillips), I find the takedown of this novel fascinating and infinitely satisfying (obviously, the stakes are not the same). Ever since The Help (and definitely way before that) well meaning white ladies have been lining their pockets by appropriating and "educating." Maybe it will finally stop now? You want to write about a As a person who constantly complains about writers borrowing and cashing in on Russian culture without having any expertise to do so (you, Leigh Bardugo, you, Julia Phillips), I find the takedown of this novel fascinating and infinitely satisfying (obviously, the stakes are not the same). Ever since The Help (and definitely way before that) well meaning white ladies have been lining their pockets by appropriating and "educating." Maybe it will finally stop now? You want to write about a different culture, go for it, but have the decency to write from the POV of an outsider. Because that's exactly who you are. https://tropicsofmeta.com/2019/12/12/... https://slate.com/culture/2020/01/ame...

  16. 4 out of 5

    etherealfire

    I've been dreading this review because I don't love writing reviews in the first place and - as everyone else on the planet undoubtedly knows - this book is steeped in controversy. I've read all kinds of viewpoints but I was unwilling to let any of them prejudge the book for me. My rating system is incredibly simple and completely subjective. If a story or the writing moves me, that book is going to get a high rating. I've read that many people found the story over the top, or melodramatic or I've been dreading this review because I don't love writing reviews in the first place and - as everyone else on the planet undoubtedly knows - this book is steeped in controversy. I've read all kinds of viewpoints but I was unwilling to let any of them prejudge the book for me. My rating system is incredibly simple and completely subjective. If a story or the writing moves me, that book is going to get a high rating. I've read that many people found the story over the top, or melodramatic or implausible. I cannot say that I felt the same to the extent that the story is fiction. The storytelling and the plight of the protagonists moved me to tears. The only thing that kept me from giving this book a five is because I have been unable to completely disregard the complaints about this not being written by a Mexican heritage person but.... I'm sorry but great writing (and as far as I'm concerned this qualifies as my experience of great writing) should not be disregarded because the person does not fit the descriptor of the protagonist. I support and read Own Voices books and I think there should be plenty more where that comes from. But I can't support the idea that this author's book is an obstacle to Own Voices or that there is no place for this book. I do think that the publishers handled this roll out poorly and that is probably an understatement on my part. BTW, not that I suppose it really matters but I am half Peruvian; my dad immigrated to the US in 1956 on a scholarship to Purdue University and he arrived here at a time when it was relatively easy to immigrate - and as far as I'm concerned that is the way it should continue to be. So while I'm not Mexican American, this story means a great deal to me. This book tells a story I desperately want people to hear, to be moved by and to understand - and to find their compassion and moral compass when discussing, thinking about and forming opinions on the plight of "illegal" immigrants. Any and every voice that can get the message across is welcome in my estimation, especially when that message is told in such a moving and compelling way.

  17. 4 out of 5

    Cynthia

    Exploitative trauma-porn coming from a non-Mexican white woman. Full of harmful stereo-types and stylized violence. But of course why be critical of what youre reading, right? Do not recommend. Exploitative trauma-porn coming from a non-Mexican white woman. Full of harmful stereo-types and stylized violence. But of course why be critical of what you’re reading, right? Do not recommend.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Ruth

    Author appears to be a white woman profiting off the suffering of Brown people, telling a story that isn't hers/her people's to share.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Robin

    Good god. I know there's an angry wasp nest of controversy surrounding this book (about cultural appropriation, about misappropriation, about racism in the publishing industry, about Oprah and her sticker-of-doom, about a book launch decorated with barbed wire, about a white person writing a story for other white people so they can feel better about themselves and more enlightened in regards to the Mexican migrant's plight, and so on, and so forth). But I'm not going to go there. I'm a Canuck in Good god. I know there's an angry wasp nest of controversy surrounding this book (about cultural appropriation, about misappropriation, about racism in the publishing industry, about Oprah and her sticker-of-doom, about a book launch decorated with barbed wire, about a white person writing a story for other white people so they can feel better about themselves and more enlightened in regards to the Mexican migrant's plight, and so on, and so forth). But I'm not going to go there. I'm a Canuck in snowy Montreal, it's probably not my place to go there. Besides, I just can't seem to get myself jazzed up about all that. (Though, for the record, I do believe in the fiction writer's right to write about whatever floats their boat.) I just CAN'T. How can I get myself stirred and feeling strongly about a book like this? A book so full of cliches, overdosed with melodrama, stuffed to the gills with unbelievable characters including an 8 year old Mexican boy with an Italian name who sounds like a perimenopausal woman... essentially, a book written so badly that the feeling I had the whole time reading was "I can't believe I am reading this." And seething because of the time stolen from reading other worthy novels. What I CAN get worked up about is the sacrilege of the blurb on the book's cover, likening it to John Steinbeck's The Grapes of Wrath. Don Winslow should be ashamed. The silver lining, of course, is that a) I've already reached the low point of my reading year, yay! and b) because of this book, I will emerge with a new awareness of worthwhile Latinx writers to add to my TBR.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Rebecca Kaye

    Hard pass on this. There are so many other more authentic books written on this subject. Expanding one's circle of authors is not difficult. https://tropicsofmeta.com/tag/book-re...

  21. 5 out of 5

    Tammy

    This is a timely and powerful portrayal of the plight of the migrant. An innocent mother and her young son desperately and illegally attempt to enter the US from Mexico while fleeing from a cartel. The beginning is brutal and the tension never ceases. The cartels savagery is not the focus of the novel but it is the impetus. At its heart, this is a novel about victims and there are victims aplenty. No one is to be trusted. Although, amid much cold-blooded barbarity and those out to make quick This is a timely and powerful portrayal of the plight of the migrant. An innocent mother and her young son desperately and illegally attempt to enter the US from Mexico while fleeing from a cartel. The beginning is brutal and the tension never ceases. The cartel’s savagery is not the focus of the novel but it is the impetus. At its heart, this is a novel about victims and there are victims aplenty. No one is to be trusted. Although, amid much cold-blooded barbarity and those out to make quick buck at the expense of the downtrodden, there are good souls who provide food, water, and shelter to the migrants. Be prepared to read this with your heart in your throat. I know of a certain occupant of the White House who would benefit greatly from reading this book but, alas, he does not read. Let’s hope American Dirt opens the eyes of others.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Karen

    Forced to flee from Acapulco after the massacre of their entire family, Lydia and her eight year old son Luca become migrants and begin their journey to the United States. What a journey! This is an extraordinary novel! This is a page turner that explores all the elements.. grief, love, kindness, survival... The movie rights have already been acquired... I dont care about any controversy about the book or writer..its a NOVEL. a great one! Forced to flee from Acapulco after the massacre of their entire family, Lydia and her eight year old son Luca become migrants and begin their journey to the United States. What a journey! This is an extraordinary novel! This is a page turner that explores all the elements.. grief, love, kindness, survival... The movie rights have already been acquired... I don’t care about any controversy about the book or writer..it’s a NOVEL. a great one!

  23. 5 out of 5

    Cheri

    !! NOW AVAILABLE !! 4.5 Stars Beginning at the end, or perhaps more accurately after the end of the story, for a change. In the Authors Note at the end of the story, Cummins writes: As I traveled and researched, even the notion of the American dream began to feel proprietary. Theres a wonderful piece of graffiti on the border wall in Tijuana that became, for me, the engine of this whole endeavor. I photographed it and made it my computer wallpaper. Anytime I faltered or felt discouraged, I !! NOW AVAILABLE !! 4.5 Stars Beginning at the end, or perhaps more accurately – after the end of the story, for a change. In the Author’s Note at the end of the story, Cummins writes: ”As I traveled and researched, even the notion of the American dream began to feel proprietary. There’s a wonderful piece of graffiti on the border wall in Tijuana that became, for me, the engine of this whole endeavor. I photographed it and made it my computer wallpaper. Anytime I faltered or felt discouraged, I clicked back to my desktop and looked at it: ‘También de este lado hay sueños.’ “On this side, too, there are dreams.” While there is much about this that seems painfully current, a story I would not be shocked to hear about through some Breaking News report which seem to occur much more often lately, it would be easy to forget the news is most often comprised of facts and figures and – especially lately – to be slanted to one side, politically, or the other. But this story is filled with a truth that needs, deserved to be shared, one that fuels the heart and soul of this book. It is a story about people enduring the worst, people who are so desperate for a life that doesn’t involve having to worry every day, every minute about the next minute, that they leave their home, friends and family for a dream. A dream that may, in reality, become their worst nightmare. The opening chapter grabbed me and pulled me in, an event occurs as this begins that prompts a mother and her young son to leave their home in Acapulco to escape the men who killed the other members of their family. Desperately anxious to make their way to a place of safety they need to head to the United States, but there are few people that she feels that she can turn to for help. They’re on their own. There’s an edge to this story that kept me reading, I cared about these people and wanted to see their dream come true, a dream for a life free of the sort of dangers that they’d fled. I wanted to see them reach a place of peace, and to see the possibility that their dreams might come true. A very timely read that moved me, shook me to the core, this is filled with heartache, as well as humanity, the kindness of strangers. While there is a struggle for their survival, and heartache, it is the fierce determination of a mother determined to give her child the best life she can, along with some exceptional, inspired writing, that moves this story along at an almost unputdownable pace. This is already in the works for a film, which will be brought to you by Imperative Entertainment, and yet, this book hasn’t even been published, yet. Do yourself a favour and read it first. Pub Date: 21 Jan 2020 Many thanks for the ARC provided by Flatiron Books through the Goodreads Giveaway program!

  24. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    ***Goodreads Giveaway Win*** I need to update my review after getting educated by Myriam Gurba After reading this article (https://tropicsofmeta.com/2019/12/12/... ) . I learned to look at the book through a non-gringa point of view. Everything she said made me re-think my take on this book. Please read Myriam Gurba's review. Here's Original Review: This is going down as one of the best books I have ever read. I loved every single word, sentence, paragraph and chapter. Jeanine Cummins told the ***Goodreads Giveaway Win*** I need to update my review after getting educated by Myriam Gurba After reading this article (https://tropicsofmeta.com/2019/12/12/... ) . I learned to look at the book through a non-gringa point of view. Everything she said made me re-think my take on this book. Please read Myriam Gurba's review. Here's Original Review: This is going down as one of the best books I have ever read. I loved every single word, sentence, paragraph and chapter. Jeanine Cummins told the story with such compassion and from a different view than most of us normally explore. She offered grace to characters in ways I had not expected. All characters were drawn out and given nuance. On top of this the plot was exciting and pulled me forward breathlessly until the end. It doesn't come out until 2020 but when it does I hope it wins all the rewards.

  25. 4 out of 5

    s.penkevich

    Also consider: Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera Unaccompanied by Javier Zamora Citizen Illegal by José Olivarez The Devil's Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea The Gringo Champion by Aura Xilonen Retablos: Stories from a Life Lived Along the Border by Octavio Solis Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions by Valeria Luiselli Sabrina & Corina: Stories by Kali Fajardo-Anstine The Distance Between Us Also consider: Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera Unaccompanied by Javier Zamora Citizen Illegal by José Olivarez The Devil's Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea The Gringo Champion by Aura Xilonen Retablos: Stories from a Life Lived Along the Border by Octavio Solis Lucky Boy by Shanthi Sekaran Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions by Valeria Luiselli Sabrina & Corina: Stories by Kali Fajardo-Anstine The Distance Between Us by Reyna Grande Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza by Gloria E. Anzaldúa The Land of Open Graves: Living and Dying on the Migrant Trail by Jason De León The Guardians by Ana Castillo The Book of Unknown Americans by Cristina Henriquez Almanac of the Dead by Leslie Marmon Silko The Crystal Frontier by Carlos Fuentes All the Stars Denied by Guadalupe Garcia McCall Border Crosser With A Lamborghini Dream: Poems by by Juan Felipe Herrera Return to Sender by Julia Alvarez I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter by Erika L. Sanchez Barrio America: How Latino Immigrants Saved the American City by A.K. Sandoval-Strausz All the Agents and Saints: Dispatches from the U.S. Borderlands by Stephanie Elizondo Griest Where We Come From by Oscar Cásares The Everything I Have Lost by Sylvia Aguilar-Zéleny Enrique's Journey: The Story of a Boy's Dangerous Odyssey to Reunite with His Mother by Sonia Nazario Across the Wire: Life and Hard Times on the Mexican Border by Luis Alberto Urrea No Borders: A Journalist's Search for Home by Jorge Ramos Caramelo by Sandra Cisneros Macho!: A Novel by Victor Villaseñor Untamed Shore by Silvia Moreno-Garcia Barefoot Heart: Stories of a Migrant Child by Elva Treviño Hart No One Is Illegal: Fighting Racism and State Violence on the U.S.-Mexico Border by Justin Akers Chacón Across a Hundred Mountains by Reyna Grande Ink Knows No Borders: Poems of the Immigrant and Refugee Experience No Tender Fences: An Anthology of Immigrant & First-Generation American Poetry an anthology by the truly amazing Carla Sofia Ferreira The BreakBeat Poets Vol. 4: LatiNext This is nowhere near a complete or even very large list of border literature by Latinx writers, please feel free to add more!

  26. 4 out of 5

    Dem

    A fast paced and heart stopping read, once I started I just galloped to the end as this was unputdownable I have to say I felt like I was on the run with Lydia and Luca as my heart was pounding from the first page of this novel and I was sucked into the story. I loved the characters of Lydia and Luca and was rooting for them as the story progressed. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader interested and I found myself staying up into the early hours of the morning to finish this A fast paced and heart stopping read, once I started I just galloped to the end as this was unputdownable I have to say I felt like I was on the run with Lydia and Luca as my heart was pounding from the first page of this novel and I was sucked into the story. I loved the characters of Lydia and Luca and was rooting for them as the story progressed. There are plenty of twists and turns to keep the reader interested and I found myself staying up into the early hours of the morning to finish this one. It’s not by any means a literary thriller but it certainly was a grippingly original novel for me. A terrific fiction story about a mother named Lydia and her eight year old son Luca who are the only survivors of a targeted massacre by a Mexican Cartel that have been terrorising and taking over their home town of Acapulco, when 16 of their family members (including Lydia’s Journalist husband) have been murdered at a family event Lydia and her son have no choice but to go on the run and try and make their escape to the United States. I wasn’t aware of the controversy surrounding this one until I had finished and read some of my friends reviews. I tend to stay away from reading reviews of new books I have purchased until after I have read my own copy. This way I don't end up with a tonne of books that never get read just because I have preconceived ideas. I also don’t buy into critic reviews again for the same reason. Thankfully we all react differently to books and I think that is what will make a book like American Dirt a great book club discussion book. This one reminded me a little of not in writing style but the atmosphere of the story. Defiantly one I will remember a year from now and another copy for my real life book shelf.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Jen

    American dirt is no American Pie. It is a compelling story that evoked emotions of fear and terror but also an appreciation of what a migrant must brave to triumph over crippling circumstances that lead them to take the journeys they do, to find a better place to live: For themselves and their families. This is story of Lydia and son, Luca, who have survived a tragic slaughter of their family and only happened to survive by chance. A journey to escape the cartel and Mexico in hoping of reaching el American dirt is no American Pie. It is a compelling story that evoked emotions of fear and terror but also an appreciation of what a migrant must brave to triumph over crippling circumstances that lead them to take the journeys they do, to find a better place to live: For themselves and their families. This is story of Lydia and son, Luca, who have survived a tragic slaughter of their family and only happened to survive by chance. A journey to escape the cartel and Mexico in hoping of reaching el Norte - the United States. This is also about the people they meet along the way with their own hardships and reasons for leaving their homes and families behind. This story gave me anxiety. I know there has been controversy over this one, which I’ve honestly steered clear of. In the author’s notes, Cummins states this is a work of fiction. However, the reality is, migrants often go through horrific conditions before they get to a safe haven. We can no longer think of them as a grey mass coming over a border; but rather that every migrant is a person with their own stories to be heard. This was a remarkable and memorable 5⭐️ read for me. Don’t let the controversy prevent you from picking this one up. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar. Kudos Cummins -You may not be the right ethnicity or colour to have written this, but this is true of so many writers. Good on you! ***And the movie rights have just been picked up***

  28. 4 out of 5

    Ashley

    Racist, white savior nonsense. RUN away. https://www.metafilter.com/184643/Ste... https://tropicsofmeta.com/2019/12/12/... https://twitter.com/DavidOBowles/stat...

  29. 5 out of 5

    Esil

    What is there left to say about American Dirt? This novel was barely published a week ago and it has already generated such polarized reactions. Im going to try to wave a white flag and give my own reaction to the novel divorced from the controversy... This is a harrowing story. It starts with the murder of Lydias whole family, except her son Luca, in Acapulco, and continues on as their perilous journey through Mexico to the United States. On their journey, they meet many people. Its never easy What is there left to say about American Dirt? This novel was barely published a week ago and it has already generated such polarized reactions. I’m going to try to wave a white flag and give my own reaction to the novel divorced from the controversy... This is a harrowing story. It starts with the murder of Lydia’s whole family, except her son Luca, in Acapulco, and continues on as their perilous journey through Mexico to the United States. On their journey, they meet many people. It’s never easy to know who to trust and it’s not possible to survive without trusting some strangers. Early in their journey, Lydia and Luca meet two teenage girls, Rebecca and Soledad, who are also escaping violence, in their case from Honduras. Cummins keeps the tension and fear at a maximum from beginning to end. Survival is far from guaranteed, and even those who survive become different people. I’m not sure how realistic Lydia and Luca’s characters are as illegal migrants to the US. They come from a middle class intellectual background and Luca is a child prodigy. But I found it hard not to care about these characters, especially Luca and the teenage girls, and I appreciated the vivid picture Cummins painted of their journey. It’s not a masterpiece. One of the niggly things that bothered me is that, toward the end, the story suddenly shifted from only being told from Lydia and Luca’s points of view to being told from several other points of view. But is was a solid 4 star read for readability and emotional engagement. This was a monthly buddy read with Angela and Diane. I think we all had similar reactions. I’m really glad to have read this one as a buddy read.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Julie Christine

    I wrote this in response to another reader's statement that the criticism of American Dirt amounts to censorship. I find this notion so appalling that I responded with the following, but realized I didn't need to bomb her feed with my opinion. I could bomb my own :-) Oh, as an author, it makes me so sad to see anyone conflate accountability with censorship. This author received a seven-figure advance, a massive marketing campaign, (bolstered ironically by the controversy); this book will be, is, I wrote this in response to another reader's statement that the criticism of American Dirt amounts to censorship. I find this notion so appalling that I responded with the following, but realized I didn't need to bomb her feed with my opinion. I could bomb my own :-) Oh, as an author, it makes me so sad to see anyone conflate accountability with censorship. This author received a seven-figure advance, a massive marketing campaign, (bolstered ironically by the controversy); this book will be, is, widely read; it's currently topping a number of best-selling lists, including The New York Times's. No publishing runs were cancelled, this book is featured prominently in bookstores across the country. Please, please reconsider your take on "censorship". Criticism is not censorship. Accountability is not censorship. Calling out an author and an industry is not censorship. Writers have every right to write as they wish, on the topics of their choosing. It is wrong to suggest otherwise, and trust me, as a writer, I will shout from every rooftop my right to creative freedom. But it is simplistic and offensive to all those who truly have been censored, by defamation and prejudice, to categorize this outrage as censorship. If anything, voices which have been held muted all this time are finally being heard. To hold up works of literature we'd miss if writers had 'stayed in their lane' is to ignore who historically was allowed a seat at the table in the first place. You cited William Styron, a white, upper-middle class, prep and Ivy-league educated writer as someone who wrote outside of his experience. Sophie's Choice is a stunning book, but these exceptional books prove the unfortunate, systemic fault: how many non-Christian, non-white, non-male voices have we missed because the publishing industry wouldn't/won't look their way? I guarantee you, we've missed a Library of Congress worth of literature because privileged voices were given the right to speak over all others. PEN America states, "As defenders of freedom of expression, we categorically reject rigid rules about who has the right to tell which stories. We see no contradiction between that position and the need for the publishing industry to urgently address its own chronic shortcomings. If the fury over this book can catalyze concrete change in how books are sourced, edited, and promoted, it will have achieved something important." To say that because this is fiction, Jeanine Cummins can write whatever she wants with impunity is to willfully ignore the fact that the author herself asserted that this novel somehow represents the reality of life on the border and the perilous journey so many take to cross it. Claiming years spent in research doesn't mean she successfully conveyed those realities on the page. When so many people, including Latinx writers and activists, people with actual experience living and working and crossing the border, writers who have written deeply and widely about their real life experiences, both in fiction and non-fiction, have come out against this novel for its misrepresentation of facts, for its promulgation of stereotypes, its inaccuracies in language, and its wobbly dance into plagiarism, how then does one stand by one's conviction that this book has anything relevant and credible to say about the crisis on the border? Where I empathize with Jeanine Cummins is in knowing that publishing a novel is a team effort. Once a manuscript is accepted for publication, its author must accept they are no longer the steward of their work. Dozens have their hands, eyes, input into the finished product, from editors and proofreaders to marketing teams and publicists. And in this case, dozens would have read it and bid on it before a contract was accepted. Not one stepped forward to question its authenticity, or if they did, they were ignored. The publisher saw only its commercial potential. Clearly it's a page turner, a gripping and fast-paced thriller. How fun! It should have been marketed as such. As Leon Krauze writes in Slate: "Which leads to the real problem here: the decision to package and sell American Dirt not as candy, but as fiction that should be interpreted as emblematic. Flatiron Books, the otherwise remarkable writers who offered blurbs, and those who have promoted the book as if Cummins truly were the reincarnation of John Steinbeck have all insisted American Dirt is a transformational work of art, aimed to inspire a deeper debate about violence, immigration, and American nativism. That cannot happen with characters whom immigrants themselves could never relate to. The Great American Novel and the great novel of the Americas about violence, loss, and immigration is still waiting to be written. I honestly don’t care who does it." The eventual publisher had ample opportunity to share AmericanDirt with sensitivity readers, or even conduct a basic copyedit by a native speaker of Mexican Spanish. Instead they pushed through and packaged it as realistic literary fiction. I know how this works. I know that writers who are asked to provide blurbs are more likely to have skimmed the book, rather than reading it in full. It's a bullshit racket, but everybody plays the game. When the stakes are this high, the house of cards has that much farther to fall. Who in their right mind thought it was okay to allow Jeanine Cummins to write in the author's note "I wished someone slightly browner than me would write it"? Like, HOW DID THAT MAKE IT TO PRINT? I'll tell you: because the publishing industry is broken. No matter what Cummins's intentions were, shame on her publisher for being so colossally tone deaf (and they have since admitted to many, many missteps. I appreciate their willingness to listen and learn). Roxane Gay wrote last week in GAY mag, "Creativity demands that anyone should be able to tell the kinds of stories they want, but how those stories are told matters and creative freedom does not grant critical immunity. Perfection isn’t the goal, but accuracy and authenticity are. When people tell stories beyond their subject position, all too often they do it poorly. The depictions are caricatures, rife with stereotypes, flat and distorted. The people whose communities are so poorly represented speak up but are rarely heard. Writers are allowed to make mistakes.Writers are allowed to write bad books. To critique American Dirt isn’t about jealousy or misogyny or censorship. It’s about demanding better." I celebrate authors writing beyond their own experience, skin color, culture, gender, faith. That is what we are called to do: articulate our imaginations onto the page to elicit universal emotions. Cormac McCarthy, Katherine Anne Porter, Graham Greene, Lucia Berlin are all authors I adore who have written brilliantly about Mexico and none is Mexican. But writing with "good intentions" doesn't excuse us from criticism when we write badly or misrepresent the culture and experiences of a group of people. ETA to add source material I've quoted. These, and many other book reviews and literary critiques, are so worth reading. Myriam Gurba's review of American Dirt, which was the catalyst of the controversy (Myriam was in fact censored by Ms Magazine, who refused to print her review) https://tropicsofmeta.com/2019/12/12/... PEN America press release https://pen.org/press-release/pen-ame... Slate Magazine dissects the controversy, with a multitude of links to other reviews and articles: https://slate.com/culture/2020/01/ame... Leon Krause's review of American Dirt https://slate.com/culture/2020/01/ame... Roxane Gay's essay in GAY: https://gay.medium.com/white-fever-dr... David Bowles has written extensively about this controversy, starting here https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/27/op... and has been instrumental in rallying an immediate, and positive, movement, #DignidadLiteraria, to awaken the publishing industry to its inherent and ingrained prejudice against writers of color.

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