Cummins’s title is no accident. Many will die. The next day, Lorenzo attempts to assault Rebeca, and Soledad shoots him with El Chacal's gun. Lydia and her 8-year-old son Luca are the sole survivors in the attack, and they must flee Mexico. It is, after all, a work of fiction. This road is like the crappiest Mexican road he’s ever seen. The opening is tense, frightening and focuses on the emotions of a young boy and his mum hiding in the shower and thus avoiding murder. What exactly has happened to the understanding of creative liberties? American Dirt Jeanine Cummins Download Save Enjoy this free preview Unlock all 41 pages of this Study Guide by subscribing today. It doesn’t sound like something I’ll add to my tbr pile, but I’m happy to have read your review.  In an unusual decision, the New York Times ran separate reviews of the book both in the daily paper and in the weekly book review section, as well as publishing an excerpt. People need to be allowed to write about cultures they are not a part of, or review books from heritages that are not their own. Just in the first few chapters, things like quinceañeras, Carne asada, random Spanish words, and so on all make appearances. Our protagonist Lydia is especially saintly, and yet also kind of stupid. Commentators have also pointed out factual inaccuracies about Mexico, an over-reliance on stereotypes, and the strange foreign gaze that the Mexican protagonist has. Unfortunately, American Dirt is guilty of both these things. I’d imagine its similar to if someone wrote a book about an American family that dresses in red, white and blue, eats hot dogs all the time and decorates their house with pictures of eagles. The characterizations are questionable, and there’s an odd lack of hard decisions that need to be made in this situation that necessitates hard decisions. 16 days after departing Acapulco, Lydia and Luca cross the border into the United States, but they still have a long trek ahead. Four widely shared articles that are critical of the book can be found here, here, here and here. I think some of the criticisms are justified but I agree with you that they have gotten out of control- some people ARE downright hateful (read Myriam Gurba). 2. And in this connected age, neither will anyone else as long as they read the world news! This whole American Dirt controversy has been awful.The harder people try to extricate themselves, the deeper they sink. Lydia clears out her mother's bank account to pay him $11,000 for her and Luca. 1. Parts of the novel contain many details which clearly are the result of diligent research. Now, Lydia and Luca must run for their lives to try to leave Mexico despite the many dangers lurking along the difficult journey and with Fuentes and his men nipping at their heels. Then Oprah Asked Me To Talk About It. There seems to be a common commentary that it paints Mexico as only being overrun with drugs, crime or corruption and not much else. Free UK p&p over £15. A few pages into reading Jeanine Cummins’s third novel, “ American Dirt,” I found myself so terrified that I had to pace my house. I promise to give any (civil) comment genuine, open-minded consideration, especially when it comes to opposing perspectives. Book Review: ‘American Dirt’ by Jeanine Cummins April 19, 2020 6:00 AM In popular criticism of the novel, Cummins, and the publishing industry, this failure has led to … This terrifying and tender novel is a blunt answer to the question of why immigrants from Latin America cross the U.S. border—and a testimony to the courage it takes to do it. Meanwhile, Lydia’s son Luca is eight years old but says stuff like “your help would be a significant advantage” when asking for help. I think these are the pitfalls of a connected age. Others, like Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, on further inspection, misrepresent the societies they are depicting and contradict historical records. A distant cousin in Colorado offers the only hope of escape from the cartel’s reach, so Lydia and Luca head for el norte with a threadbare plan to reach the border by freight train (the infamous La Bestia), and then bribe a people smuggler to help them cross the desert to US soil. It also received praise from a lot of big names like Stephen King, Sandra Cisneros, Ophrah and various literary gatekeepers. American Dirt is at its best when it knowingly explores the insulations, obligations and tenuousness of privilege. The novel is a fast-frothing thriller about Lydia, a bourgeois Mexican bookseller, and her son Luca, who flee to … I would have wondered about the accuracy in general, but I wouldn’t know one way or another since I am neither from Mexico or of Mexican heritage. Lydia gets a job as a house cleaner and the girls are enrolled in school. Back on board La Bestia, they ride until immigration agents raid the train. How dared he to write about underwater escapades! The new novel American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, officially released on January 21, was anointed the biggest book of the season well before it came out. However, it’s also a book that has many issues and inaccuracies. “There are 16 bodies in the backyard, almost everyone Lydia loved in the world.” Only Lydia and her eight-year-old son, Luca, have survived, but there will be no justice, no protection: the police “do nothing, because that’s precisely what the cartel pays them to do”. Why does she rely on begging for food when she has thousands of pesos on hand and hundreds of thousands in the bank? That dream may be the meritocratic myth of classlessness (Philipp Meyer’s sharp 2009 debut, American Rust) or the pretence of a colour-blind justice system (Tayari Jones’s exceptional 2019 Women’s prize winner, An American Marriage). For example, they have the responsibility to ensure that it’s not full of stereotypes or otherwise exploitative. On La Bestia, they meet Lorenzo, a man who was part of Los Jardineros and recognizes Lydia as a target they're after, but Lorenzo claims that he is fleeing that lifestyle. There are few places on the planet more deadly to be a journalist, and the integrity that attracted Lydia to Sebastián terrifies her now that they have a child – it seems “sanctimonious, selfish”. (Author Jeanine Cummins also had a manicure — mirror here in case that link goes down — that many found objectionable.). Note: This is a summary of Jeanine Cummins's NYT's bestseller, American Dirt. When I saw it was a thriller I realized why the author, not understanding Mexico would distort life here. Sixteen people are killed. I’ll finally add that I think book twitter has gotten too vitriolic. It’s just “skin,” okay? If this summary was useful to you, please consider supporting this site by leaving a tip ($1, $2, or $4) or joining the Patreon! I would love to hear others’ opinions on this book! In much the same way, misrepresenting the story and culture of immigrants when those people are currently under attack by U.S. leaders (and using the symbols of their trauma as decoration as parties, see below) shows very poor judgement. I do think she did a good job of working these things into the narrative. But stuff like this really does reinforce the idea that this is just a big publishing house capitalizing on and exploiting the pain of immigrants without any genuine concern for their plight. Everyone is either a murderer/rapist or a saint, and the characters rarely have to make hard decisions. She calls Javier to tell him that Lorenzo is dead and to leave her alone. 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. So, what’s the deal, and should you read this novel? She met him as a customer at her bookstore. When Lydia and Luca beg the assistance of a busload of Pentecostal missionaries from some “faraway cornfield church” in Indiana, only to be met with hesitation. Carlos's wife Meredith puts them in a van pretending to be with a group of American missionaries to get to Mexico City. I started reading this book and since I have been living in Mexico for 15 years, could easily see the errors in the plot story. They soon find out Lorenzo has hired the same coyote and will be making the two-day journey with them, along with 8 others. I also think reviewers should be more honest about what they don’t know. Lydia and Luca travel north by bus from Acapulco to Chilpancingo to find Carlos, a friend of Sebastian's. Some books, like Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, are blatantly problematic. books I Spoke Out Against "American Dirt." Instead, they continue on foot to Huehuetoca and stay at a migrant shelter. And it's harmful, appropriating, inaccurate, … They give up the rest of their money to save them. Lydia finds Lorenzo's cell phone and discovers Lorenzo has been reporting her location to Javier. I will pass on American Dirt for that reason alone. thank you — yeah there’s definitely a lot of commentary about it right now to sift through! Hailed as "a Grapes of Wrath for our times" and "a new American classic", American Dirt is a rare exploration into the inner hearts of people willing to sacrifice everything for a glimmer of hope. In American Dirt, after her journalist husband runs afoul of cartel boss Javier Fuentes, Lydia’s entire family is murdered with the exception of her young son, Luca. The controversy about American Dirt feels intramural by comparison. When Sebastián publishes his exposé, Lydia’s darkest fears come to pass. For some other titles dealing in similar territory, check out The Devil’s Highway by Mexican author Luis Alberto Urrea, Fruit of the Drunken Tree by Colombian author Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Children of the Land by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo, or The Affairs of the Falcóns by Melissa Rivero. Discussion Questions 1. Many, many of you will be kidnapped, tortured, trafficked or ransomed … every single one of you will be robbed.” American Dirt turns each of these grim prognostications into object lessons, populated with characters who are vectors and vessels for instructional trauma. My OPINION But The Owl has eyes everywhere. Writers are finding themselves arguing with friends and heroes. (But of course, how accurate any of these depictions are is questionable, so I take it all with a grain of salt.). "It’s a heart-wrenching page-turner, and you won’t be able to put it down." Lydia Quixano's entire family is gunned down after her journalist husband, Sebastian, publishes an expose on a cartel boss, Javier Fuentes. Thank you! Soledad is pregnant by rape. Excerpt from American Dirt, by Jeanine Cummins One of the very first bullets comes in through the open window above the toilet where Luca is standing. Thanks for reading! Good book club reads are thought-provoking and lend itself to in-depth discussions. This gripping story of a mother and son on Mexico’s migrant trail combines humane intentions with propulsive, action-movie execution, Last modified on Fri 24 Jan 2020 12.39 GMT. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins review – a desperate Odyssey. There is no doubting the wrenching truths – and years of meticulous research on Cummins’s part – that underpin each inhuman ordeal, but there is a fine line between world-building and didacticism, empathy and pity, bearing witness and trauma tourism. American Dirt tells the story of Lydia Quixano Pérez, a middle-class Mexican bookseller who flees Acapulco with 8-year-old son, Luca, after a drug cartel violently attacks a quinceañera she's attending, killing her journalist husband who earlier had profiled the cartel leader, Javier. The backstory for the characters and the writing are superior to your standard thriller. They are then rounded up and taken to a warehouse. What do you think the author means by it? Save my name, email, and website in this browser for the next time I comment. She runs a bookstore. But does it mean that we stop reading works of fiction and appreciating them? Jules Verne once wrote a book about a submarine. It’s not to say that it excuses whatever inaccuracies entirely, but I imagine if she’d known it would be so widely read and if she’d had the resources she has now, perhaps some parts of the book would have been shaped differently. There wasn’t a ton that stuck out to me when I first started reading, beyond a standard level of nit-picks. She’s donated money. Hi Jinjer — thank you for letting me know about the messed up links, it’s been fixed! One thing I’ll say in Cummin’s defense is that I doubt she imagined when she submitted the book that it would end up being this large of a release. I really appreciate your suggestions of other, similar books to read as well as the links to four critics. It is Sebastián’s exposé on the kingpin, who also happens to be a frequent customer of Lydia’s bookstore, that serves as the linchpi… Of course, the sad fact is that literature, including stuff taught in schools, is rife with inaccuracies and inaccurate portrayals of places or people. American Dirtfollows the journey of a mother and son fleeing Mexico for America after their entire family is murdered on the orders of a local cartel kingpin. Having got my own copy and feeling quite awkward about reading and reviewing it,I absolutely feel you nailed both the issues and the responsibilities so well. It dusts American Dirt with a sheen of sensationalist unreality that obscures rather than illuminates the quotidian terrors that beat at the heart of this book. Dirt, dirt, and more dirt" (chapter 31, page 329). "American Dirt," a novel that is Oprah Winfrey's latest book club pick, has sparked a bitter controversy over its author's identity and portrayal of … Today we know, that such a submarine cannot be build using the materials he described. But despite its flamboyant and breathless first act, that’s not the novel American Dirt aspires to be. Yes Mexico is controlled by drug cartels, but there is beauty on those lands. Book club questions for American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins covers both the story and the controversy surrounding this novel. It would have not been strong enough to resist the water pressure at the depths he quoted. There are excellent food options, beautiful buildings from the 1500s, and beautiful beaches. But these stories all end up shaping our perceptions nonetheless, so it seems like we should be striving for something better. There are few places on the planet more deadly to be a journalist, and the integrity that attracted Lydia to Sebastián terrifies her now that they have a child – it seems “sanctimonious, selfish”. This book also doesn’t do justice of explaining the beauty that Mexico has. Action-packed and suspenseful, American Dirt is a thriller that tells a story about migration into the United States. • American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is published by Tinder (RRP £14.99). She has a son, Luca, the love of her life, and a wonderful husband who is a journalist. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, a controversial novel about a timely and important topic. American Dirt is very much a thriller in that there’s plenty of chases, suspense and a lot of action in the novel. It was enough for me to hear all the complaints about the bad writing. That said, I think that comes with it the burden of doing the work to portray other cultures or people accurately and responsibly. I don’t question Jeanine’s freedom of expression, I just wished this book was well researched. American Dirt is the first book to ever score a perfect 5-stars in BookBrowse's early reader program, First Impressions--and we've reviewed more than 600 books to date! – Stephen King. I was entertained by this book. For example, an issue that’s been brought up is the stereotypes about Mexico that many feel are pervasive throughout the book. Reviewed in the United States on January 22, 2020 Jeanine Cummins' American Dirt, a novel about a Mexican bookseller who has to escape cartel-related violence with her son, fleeing to the US. To order a copy go to guardianbookshop.com. I made myself a Goodreads shelf called American Dirt opposition and added the books you and Myriam Gurba mentioned to it. She runs a bookstore. They continue riding La Bestia and meet a asthmatic, migrant 10-year-old boy, Beto. I don’t doubt that there were many people with only pure intentions in the publishing process. Our Reading Guide for American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins includes Book Club Discussion Questions, Book Reviews, Plot Summary-Synopsis and Author Bio. 9. Thanks for reading! Follow along on Goodreads, or keep in touch via the newsletter. Lydia Quixano Pérez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. American Dirt is a book that tells a well-paced story that is timely and accessible. Dirt, dirt, and more dirt” (chapter 31, page 329). ISBN-13: 9781250209764 Summary Lydia Quixano Perez lives in the Mexican city of Acapulco. What do you think the author means by it? 50 Best Books About Libraries or Librarians, 15 Best Websites for Free Audiobooks Online (Updated for 2021), Every 2021 Book to Movie & TV Series Adaptation, 100 Best Book Club Books of All Time (By Year), The Best Book Club Books of 2021 (Anticipated). In terms of the story, there are quite a few questionable plot decisions and characterizations. So what! And does it matter that Verne could not even swim? Furthermore, Cummins throws in a wide range of stereotypically Mexican/Mexican-ish things. I’m from India and knowing the reality about my country, if some author only considers one aspect for their book and sweeps aside all the other things, then I won’t of course treat it as a misrepresentation. Why doesn’t she (a middle-class woman) know that you need documentation to ride a plane? We watch Lydia’s entire family get killed, one by one. Before the slaughter, Lydia Quixano Pérez is a bookseller in Acapulco, mother to Luca and wife to journalist Sebastián. American Dirt is being compared to The Grapes of Wrath, and the comparison is apt.” ―San Francisco Chronicle “Pulse-pounding.” ―Chicago Tribune "As literature, American Dirt is modern realism at its finest: a tale of moral. “Are they just drive-by Samaritans?” a local church member asks. For example, there’s much specificity in discussing conditions on La Bestia, a freight train, and the impact of Programa Frontera Sur, a joint U.S.-Mexican funded initiative to keep migrants off the train. American Dirt, the third novel by Jeanine Cummins, begins with a group of assassins opening fire on a quinceañera cookout. It’s refreshing to read a balanced review of this book! Or small planes as decor for a book about September 11? This gripping story of a mother and son on Mexico’s migrant trail … “Many will be maimed or injured. “I am acutely aware,” she explains in her afterword, “that the people coming to our southern border are not one faceless brown mass, but singular individuals, with stories and backgrounds and reasons for coming that are unique.” American Dirt is her attempt to “honour the hundreds of thousands of stories we never get to hear” by inhabiting one. Discuss the significance of the title, American Dirt. American Dirt Jeanine Cummins, 2020 Flatiron Books 400 pp. In the epilogue on month later, Lydia and Luca move to Maryland to live with Soledad and Rebeca at their cousin Cesar's house. The first link had some book suggestions. What an excellent,and balanced piece this is! I’ve never tried crossing the border, but my instinct is that acting brash, but cute is not a great strategy. From Theodore Dreiser’s An American Tragedy (1925) to Philip Roth’s American Pastoral (1997), there is a particular kind of literary ambition rooted in titularly American tales – a desire to puncture the soft complacency of American dreams. Barbed Wire Centerpieces, From Flatiron Book’s American Dirt Launch Party. Your email address will not be published. Thank you for this balanced review, Jennifer! One man party breaks his leg and his godfather stays with him so they can go turn themselves into border patrol (as opposed to dying in the desert). ydia Quixano Pérez owns a bookshop in downtown Acapulco, where she is teetering on the edge of an emotional affair with her favourite customer, the alluringly well-read Javier. It … See the archives. Current Rave reviews for American Dirt: "Extraordinary.”. opens this propulsive novel with a massacre. I haven’t read this book, nor am I going to soon… But I’m seeing this going on for about a year now, how an author is also abused instead of only criticised. (Furthermore, there are clearly systemic issues that allowed those problems to be ignored on its way to publication. The reviewer clarifies that a “lechuza” is more specifically a screech owl that has been considered an omen and harbinger of death in Mexican culture for thousands of years, which any Mexican would know (according to that person). Overview. (If a publisher is worried about that burden, finding writers that have first-hand experience is always an option!). Since most of the reviews thus far have been largely polarized, either a) willfully ignorant of any criticisms, or b) focused almost entirely on its flaws, I was curious to take a look. It’s clear the plot has been contorted to some extent to bring in these aspects of the story, but I can understand why Cummins would try to do this. Soledad miscarries. When reporters shove a microphone in someone’s face after they’ve experienced trauma, it’s exploitative. Middle East has been, is still being, in certain respects, misrepresented. “American Dirt” seemed poised to become one of this year’s biggest, buzziest books. I cannot even watch war or fight sequences and books like this that are too real will not even be given a chance…Luca is a complex character that is delightful and offers a relief and hope just when things need which is not “real”. Luca also lashes out at random guards, criminals and whatnot, and they all laugh it off because they find him so cute and precocious. When Sebastián publishes his exposé, Lydia’s darkest fears come to pass. “They just want to make pancakes and take selfies with skinny brown children?” Or when Lydia remembers her past self, “peripherally aware of destitution”, distractedly listening to news reports of the caravan of desperate families fleeing Guatemala and Honduras: “All her life she’s pitied those poor people. After I wrote a piece criticizing American Dirt, Oprah invited me to appear on Oprah's Book Club for a candid conversation with her and author Jeanine Cummins. Section-by-Section Summary of American Dirt. I’m currently reading this book and as someone who is mexican, this book has created mixed feelings for me. Links 2 & 3 seem to take me to the same article? It shows that what happened to Lydia, a misjudgment of character, trusting those on “face” value, Love Is Blind etc, can happen to anyone “in general”. However, I believe this book has become a catalyst for creating the conversation of what is an immigrant, and leading readers to other Latinx stories that are far better than American Dirt. American Dirt debuted on New York Times best sellers list as the #1 on the list for the week of February 9, 2020. However, when a non-Mexican writer publishes a book about Mexico and a non-Mexican reviewer declares its “authenticity,” any responsible editor should find that highly suspect. Thanks for your review. To be clear, this is not a book where no effort has been made to do any research. (The Detailed Plot Summary is also available, below). I don’t understand the hue and cry. American Dirt is very much a thriller in that there’s plenty of chases, suspense and a lot of action in the novel. Unreal books about REAL life circumstance the privileged cannot even begin to ingest let alone digest, crates the perfect taste to wet the appetite for more. Aside from any cultural stuff, it doesn’t take an expert to know that this story lacks realism in parts. Is it of a lesser value today? Unless there’s something noteworthy about the color, you can just refer to it as “skin.”. Cummins received a seven-figure advance for this book. She’s wondered with the sort of detached fascination of the comfortable elite, how dire the conditions of their lives must be wherever they came from, that this is the better option.”. Her reactions do seem oddly similar to how a foreigner would react to situations. Interesting review, there is certainly a lot of hype and negative press about the book around. This Study Guide consists of approximately 55 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of American Dirt. And I think recommending this book without making others aware of the problems with it is a little irresponsible.). Jeanine Cummins’s immoderately hyped third novel, American Dirt, opens with blood-sodden terror as The Owl takes revenge: a machine-gun slaughter at a family barbecue. I kept hearing about all the controversy surrounding this book but didn’t have time to read any articles until today, so yours is the first that I’ve read. American Dirt is being compared to The Grapes of Wrath, and the comparison is apt.” —San Francisco Chronicle “Pulse-pounding.” —Chicago Tribune "As literature, American Dirt is modern realism at its finest: a tale of moral. As for the negative buzz, well, there’s been a lot of that, too. Throughout the novel, Lydia thinks back on how But it proves hard to reconcile the novel’s humane intentions with its propulsive, action-movie execution (film rights have already been optioned by the company that produced the Clint Eastwood-directed crime drama The Mule). I just don’t like the concept of a middle aged woman with lots of money in the bank crossing the country, into the United states and suddenly everything is okay. As Mexican nationals, Lydia and Luca are free to go (with payment), but Luca demands that they save Soledad and Rebeca. Parul Segal wrote a review of it that (accurately) lambastes some of the writing as being tortured or otherwise questionable, but honestly it’s still a large step up from your average thriller. And the decision to promote this specific book (over other more authentic voices) is ultimately up to the publisher, not the author. And while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable. Out to me when i saw it was a thriller i realized why the author, american dirt review and summary understanding Mexico distort... Option! ) day, Lorenzo attempts to assault Rebeca, and writing! 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