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American Dirt (Oprah's Book Club): A…
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American Dirt (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel (edition 2020)

by Jeanine Cummins (Author)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
1,8201187,012 (4.11)121
Lydia Quixano Perez 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 cracks are beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, reasonably 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 four 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.… (more)
Member:JTimmins
Title:American Dirt (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel
Authors:Jeanine Cummins (Author)
Info:Flatiron Books (2020), Edition: 1st, 400 pages
Collections:Your library
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Work details

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

  1. 00
    The Beast: Riding the Rails and Dodging Narcos on the Migrant Trail by Oscar Martínez (aspirit)
    aspirit: Called "magnificent" by Cummins in an interview. Describes migrant experiences through Mexico from Central American to the USA, by a journalist who traveled with them.
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English (114)  German (2)  French (1)  All languages (117)
Showing 1-5 of 114 (next | show all)
I have to say that I liked this book, because while the story has been told before, author Cummins develops many strong characters, especially the orphan boy from La Dumpe. Mother Lydia and her 8-year old son, Luca, are the sole survivors when a Mexican drug lord slaughters the rest of their extended family at a party for a 15-year old relative, retribution for their journalist husband/father. They go on the run, heading north to the U.S., without a sensible plan but with a lot of resolve and heartache. Along the way, they meet a pair of beautiful teenage sisters from Central America, fleeing their own gang-related problems, and Luca develops a crush on the younger sister. The sisters teach them how to ride the Beast, and together, they experience treachery as well as unexpected kindness from strangers. 4.5 stars. ( )
  skipstern | Jul 11, 2021 |
suspense/drama - Mexican woman terrorized by Acapulco drug cartel (author is not from Latinx culture).

I listened to this for over an hour and a half (about 9% of the book); there is a lot of sensationalized violence and it felt like Lydia and her family were victims in a thriller movie, rather than actual people. Even apart from the author not sharing the cultural background, I had hoped for at least a well-researched, humanizing story that provides some perspective, and this is just not that kind of serious fiction. Moving on to something else now. ( )
  reader1009 | Jul 3, 2021 |
Loved this book, despite the violence and despair. Lydia's husband and sixteen members of her family are murdered at her niece's birthday celebration. Her husband was a journalist for the newspaper in Acapualco and had just done a piece on the newest narco king-pin in town. Oddly, this narco king-pin was also a customer at Lydia's bookstore and had gotten friendly with her. As the thugs shot up the family celebration, Lydia and her son Luca were hiding in the bathroom and were undiscovered. Lydia knows that she must escape to the United States. The rest of the book details her and Luca's journey as migrants. If you don't understand how people would risk everything to enter the U.S. illegally, you should read this book. ( )
  mojomomma | May 26, 2021 |
Really enjoyable page turner! Loved the adventure of it and learnt a fair bit about the plight of Mexican immigrants trying to get into the US. ( )
  Annievdm | May 17, 2021 |
An expose article about the head of a cartel in Acapulco lead to the murder of almost an entire family. The mother and son of the author escaped, and now they need to run - all the way over the border to the United States. ( )
  lilibrarian | May 12, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 114 (next | show all)
I am an immigrant. My family fled El Salvador with death pounding on our door. The terror, the loss, the injustice of this experience shaped everything about me. I see no part of myself reflected in American Dirt, a book white critics are hailing as the great immigrant novel.
 
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.
added by kidzdoc | editMedium, David Bowles (Jan 18, 2020)
 
Cummins has put in the research, as she describes in her afterword, and the scenes on La Bestia are vividly conjured. Still, the book feels conspicuously like the work of an outsider. The writer has a strange, excited fascination in commenting on gradients of brown skin: Characters are “berry-brown” or “tan as childhood” (no, I don’t know what that means either). In one scene, the sisters embrace and console each other: “Rebeca breathes deeply into Soledad’s neck, and her tears wet the soft brown curve of her sister’s skin.” In all my years of hugging my own sister, I don’t think I’ve ever thought, “Here I am, hugging your brown neck.” Am I missing out?

The real failures of the book, however, have little to do with the writer’s identity and everything to do with her abilities as a novelist.

What thin creations these characters are — and how distorted they are by the stilted prose and characterizations. The heroes grow only more heroic, the villains more villainous. The children sound like tiny prophets. Occasionally there’s a flare of deeper, more subtle characterization, the way Luca, for example, experiences “an uncomfortable feeling of both thrill and dread” when he finally lays eyes on the other side of the border, or how, in the middle of the terror of escape, Lydia will still notice that her son needs a haircut.

But does the book’s shallowness paradoxically explain the excitement surrounding it? The tortured sentences aside, “American Dirt” is enviably easy to read. It is determinedly apolitical. The deep roots of these forced migrations are never interrogated; the American reader can read without fear of uncomfortable self-reproach. It asks only for us to accept that “these people are people,” while giving us the saintly to root for and the barbarous to deplore — and then congratulating us for caring.
 
A self-professed gabacha, Jeanine Cummins, wrote a book that sucks. Big time.

Her obra de caca belongs to the great American tradition of doing the following:

1. Appropriating genius works by people of color

2. Slapping a coat of mayonesa on them to make palatable to taste buds estados-unidenses and

3. Repackaging them for mass racially “colorblind” consumption.

Rather than look us in the eye, many gabachos prefer to look down their noses at us. Rather than face that we are their moral and intellectual equals, they happily pity us. Pity is what inspires their sweet tooth for Mexican pain, a craving many of them hide. This denial motivates their spending habits, resulting in a preference for trauma porn that wears a social justice fig leaf. To satisfy this demand, Cummins tossed together American Dirt, a “road thriller” that wears an I’m-giving-a-voice-to-the-voiceless-masses merkin.
added by kidzdoc | editTropics of Meta, Myriam Gurba (Dec 12, 2019)
 
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Epigraph
Era la sed y el hambre, y tu fuiste la fruta.

Era el dueloy las ruinas, y tu fuiste el milagro.

There were thirst and hunger, and you were the fruit.

There were grief and ruins, and you were the miracle.


----------------------------------------Pablo Neruda, "The Song of Despair"
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For Joe
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One of the very first bullets comes in through the open window above the toilet where Luca is standing.
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Lydia Quixano Perez 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 cracks are beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, reasonably 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 four 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.

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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?

American Dirt will leave readers utterly changed. It is a literary achievement filled with poignancy, drama, and humanity on every page. It is one of the most important books for our times.

Already being hailed as "a Grapes of Wrath for our times" and "a new American classic," Jeanine Cummins's American Dirt is a rare exploration into the inner hearts of people willing to sacrifice everything for a glimmer of hope.
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