American Dirt Paperback by Jeanine Cummins 9781250209764 1250209765

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American Dirt is a 2020 novel by American author Jeanine Cummins, about the ordeal of a Mexican woman who had to leave behind her life and escape as an undocumented immigrant to the United States with her son.

Lydia Quixano Pérez lives a comfortable life in Acapulco, Mexico, with her journalist husband, Sebastián, and her eight-year-old son, Luca. Lydia runs a bookstore and one day befriends a charming customer, Javier, who appears to have similar interests in books. However, Javier is revealed to be the kingpin of a drug cartel.

Sebastián publishes a profile exposing Javier's crimes, who then orders the slaughter of Sebastián and his family. Lydia and Luca escape the massacre, but are forced to flee Mexico, becoming two of the countless undocumented immigrants from Latin America who undertake the dangerous journey to the United States, taking a treacherous trip on La Bestia north of Mexico City.

On January 20, 2020, Oprah Winfrey announced that she had selected American Dirt for her book club.[1][2][3]

American Dirt debuted on New York Times best sellers list as the #1 on the list for the week of February 9, 2020.[4]

American Dirt received a mixed reception. Despite initial positive reviews and its status as one of the best-selling books of 2020,[5] it has also been widely criticized for its inaccurate portrayal of Mexico and Mexicans.

Oprah Winfrey, in selecting American Dirt for her book club, said, "Jeanine Cummins accomplished a remarkable feat, literally putting us in the shoes of migrants and making us feel their anguish and desperation to live in freedom."[6] The book also received glowing reviews from Mexican-American writer Sandra Cisneros, who called it "the great novel of las Americas" and "the international story of our time"[7] and Washington Post critic Polly Rosenwaike, who wrote that it "offers both a vital chronicle of contemporary Latin American migrant experience and a profoundly moving reading experience." NPR's Maureen Corrigan was equally positive, writing that "Cummins' novel brings to life the ordeal of individual migrants, who risk everything to try to cross into the U.S."[8] Jacob M. Appel, in New York Journal of Books wrote, "American Dirt is going to be the defining book of 2020."[9]

Myriam Gurba was one of the first reviewers to give a negative review. Originally requested by Ms magazine, her review was considered too negative but was ultimately published in Tropics of Meta. She says of the protagonist, "That Lydia is so shocked by her own country’s day-to-day realities [...] gives the impression that Lydia might not be…a credible Mexican. In fact, she perceives her own country through the eyes of a pearl-clutching American tourist."[10][11] In Medium, writer David Bowles called the book "harmful, appropriating, inaccurate, trauma-porn melodrama."[12]

On January 30, 2020, The Guardian published an op-ed by author and critic Daniel Olivas who explained why Latinx writers were so angry about the circumstances behind both the publication and promotion of American Dirt: "American Dirt is an insult to Latinx writers who have toiled – some of us for decades – to little notice of major publishers and book reviewers, while building a vast collection of breathtaking, authentic literature often published by university and independent presses on shoestring budgets. And while the folks who run Flatiron Books have every right to pay seven figures to buy and publish a book like American Dirt, they have no immunity from bad reviews and valid criticism." He noted that "it’s not that we think only Latinx writers should write Latinx-themed books. No, this is not about censorship. A talented writer who does the hard work can create convincing, powerful works of literature about other cultures. That’s called art. American Dirt is not art." Olivas concluded: "Perhaps American Dirt will be remembered not as a great novel, but as a key pivot-point for an industry that desperately needs to change."[13]

A group of Latino writers formed a movement in response to the publication and initial mainstream praise of American Dirt called "#DignidadLiteraria" (English: Literary Dignity). On February 3, 2020, the group met with Macmillan, the owner of Flatiron Books to demand greater representation of Latinx writers under the publication house. Macmillan agreed to these terms. The group is also demanding "investigation into discriminatory practices in the publishing industry at large."[14]

USA Today's Barbara VanDenburgh called the book "problematic". She wrote, "American Dirt positions itself as the great sociopolitical novel of our era. Instead, it reeks of opportunism, substituting characters arc for mere trauma ... These character, story and style missteps would be problematic no matter the source. But it matters in this case that the source is a European-born woman in the U.S. without ties to the Mexican migrant experience."[15] VanDenburgh also criticized Cummins' choice to position the main character as "forced" to illegally cross the border "by an all-powerful villain" which, she argues, makes it easier for sheltered, white American readers to sympathize with the plot. VanDenburgh calls this construct "a cunning calculation, and also a deeply cynical one."[16]

The New York Times published conflicting reviews of the book. On January 17, 2020, Parul Sehgal wrote on the daily Books of the Times section, "this peculiar book flounders and fails." Two days later, The New York Times Book Review published a review from Lauren Groff that said the book "was written with good intentions, and like all deeply felt books, it calls its imagined ghost into the reader's real flesh."[10][17] Still, Groff questions herself, writing, "I was sure I was the wrong person to review this book."[18] On Twitter, later the same day of publication, Groff called her review "deeply inadequate" and called the situation a nightmare.[18][19]

Due to widespread criticism, several bookstores cancelled appearances with Cummins to promote her book. On January 29, 2020, Flatiron Books cancelled Cummins's book tour, citing threats to Cummins. In the same statement, they apologized for using barbed wire decorations at the launch of the book.[20]

That same day, 82 writers signed an open letter to Winfrey, asking her to reconsider her endorsement of the book. A further 58 writers endorsed the letter after publication, bringing the total to 140. The signatories included Valeria Luiselli, Daniel Olivas, Tommy Orange and Rebecca Solnit.[21][22]

Winfrey took a stand amidst the controversy and carried on with her show by posting two one-hour Apple TV plus episodes that focused on "American Dirt". She acknowledged the criticisms and cancellation of the book tour. However, she felt moved by the book and decided, “If one author, one artist is silenced, we’re all in danger of the same. I believe that we can do this without having to cancel, to dismiss or to silence anyone.”[23]

Participants on the show included a panel of writers, as well as the author, Cummins, and Oprah. Representatives from the book’s publisher also participated in the show: Don Weisberg, Macmillan Publishing’s president, and Amy Einhorn, a Flatiron (the book's imprint) editor and publisher. "Weisberg readily acknowledged that the industry is too white, and he said he and others are working hard to diversify his company. Einhorn said she loved “American Dirt,” but she took full responsibility for the clumsy and sometimes tasteless way the novel had been marketed."[23]

  • ISBN-13: 9781250209764
  • ISBN-10: 1250209765
  • Language- English
5 out of 5 15 customer reviews
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4 months ago

I must say this is really an extraordinary novel. Times it had my heart racing in fear. It moved me to tears and it is achingly poignant. The writing is stunning and it will stay with me.This is creative writing at its best. I hear the criticisms that Cummins is not Mexican etc. But, do you know what, you don’t need to be a serial killer or forensic profiler to write a good crime novel. I have read some books written from experience and they have felt like an excuse to get on a soap box. They have not affected me like American Dirt. This book really opened my mind and touched my heart. I applaud Jeanine Cummins and I wholeheartedly recommend this book I listened to it and the narrator is superb

4 months ago

Some books I love and some I don't, but very few change my thinking on important issues. This one did undoubtedly an extraordinary novel! 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 a page turner that explores all the elements.. Grief, love, kindness, survival... The movie rights have already been acquired...

4 months ago

This will be in my top reads for 2020. Amazing book. Had a good pace, and full of humanity. I think it's an important book- for the reason that it gave me a much better understanding of the problems faced across South America and Mexico. A new empathy revealed itself to me for the brave and often desperate souls who arrive at U.S. border ; just looking for some safety and peace. Some have accused the writer of racial denigration against the people fleeing corruption and violence, this their own prejudice. No way, a middle class Mexican mother and son were the main protagonists. Informative. Wonderful book.

Incredible book
4 months ago

What an extraordinary book! This is really an emotional, compelling and such a thought provoking work I am utterly changed after reading this. I have to admit I have no clue how accurate this is nor do I care. This is fiction and an awesome work of fiction at that! I’m not sure why there is such disdain for this novel....or such harsh criticism for a fictional piece of work. This book left me gutted. Lydia, Luca, Soledad, Rebeca.... and Beto...oh Beto..... I will NEVER forget these characters nor this book, it left a lasting impression on I will never soon forget. I’ll leave you with one final thought....READ THIS BOOK!!!

4 months ago

I applaud Jeanine by Jeanine Cummins and I wholeheartedly recommend this book this was well written and alarming story about migrants journey. I feel she did a great job researching the topic. The title fits the story. We hear about all these issues on the news and movies for a very long time. This is not my usually genre. I was so in engaged with the story.

3 months ago

I was invested in this story from page one! This novel starts with a gut wrenching, pulse pounding, horrific opening scene. One that I’ll never forget reading. What a mind blowing book! Superior delivery from Booksgoat.

3 months ago

This is a terrific novel describing one gutsy woman's nightmare journey to flee a powerful Mexican cartel with her young son. 5 full-blown amazing stars Notably super delivery from Booksgoat Thanks

3 months ago

A beautifully written and timely story that is suspenseful, compelling and deeply affecting. A+++ Recommended

3 months ago

I would give 5 "heartwrenching, loving, unfathomable" stars !! Jeanine Cummins wrote a suspenseful and a heartbreaking story, a story that will stay with me for a very long time. This book had my heart pounding and tears rolling down my face, and I am so very impressed with the author’s ability to write such a timely novel with so much grace and honesty. This book is a MUST-READ for everyone! High-standard Delivery by Booksgoat!! Happy A+++

3 months ago

One of the best! I learned a lot. Super delivery. Recommended.

I felt everyone absolutely must read this book in his or her lifetime ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
3 months ago

A thrilling book that made me more informed.., unfortunately, will probably not be read by the people who need to read it: the people who can’t see beyond their narrow little sliver of privileged life. Which is a tragedy. Hopefully the people who WILL read it can overcome the horror and make this world better.

A stunning discourse on humanity, life
3 months ago

The most anticipated novel for 2020..YES...YES...YES!!! READ IT! I recommend to everyone

Anne Bogel
3 months ago

A book that has changed my perspective forever A+++

3 months ago

Fabulous read. Could not put it down.A great and important work of fiction wonderful!

All the stars!⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
3 months ago

Best book I’ve read in a very long time It's a beautifully written story. An incredible page turner that you won't be able to put down once you start. Ignore the noise and read for yourself. Must Read

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