1.The book starts off with the brutal killing of 16 members of Lydia’s family at her mother’s house for her niece’s quinceanera party. Did you think the horrific scene would set the tone for the book? How did this tragedy impact you and your reading experience?
2. In Chilpancingo, Lydia asks Sebastian’s friend Carlos for help. Carlos’ wife Meredith was reluctant to help transport Lydia and Luca on the missionary bus. Meredith is the chief organizer for the church that is hosting the missionaries from Indiana and responds with ” I also have to weigh my moral responsibility here.” What do you think about Meredith’s reluctance to help Lydia and Luca with the bus ride to Mexico city? What do you think about her moral responsibility?
3. When Lydia finds out that Javier is the jefe of Los Jardineros, the new drug cartel, she can’t reconcile the friend she knows to the jefe. How would you feel if you found out that a close friend turned out to be a dangerous drug lord?
4. Before you read the book, did you know how perilous the journey to el norte would be? Would you take all of those risks to protect your child?
5. Lydia had a tough decision to make regarding taking La Bestia, its myriad of ways death could take them on it, in addition to the kidnapping, torture and ransom. What did you think of her decision, was it brave or foolish?
6. What did you think of Sebastian and his decision to expose the truth about Javier and the cartel? What would you do in his position? Do you think he was selfish or did you admire him?
7. American Dirt was set in Mexico. Did you enjoy learning about a different culture? How does El Ratoncito Perez (the tooth fairy) and malls bring similarities that you can relate to?
8. Soledad and Rebeca are Indios from Honduras. Their back story had similarities to Lydia and Luca. Which story did you find more compelling? Do you think other migrants stories would be similar?
9. There were a lot of Spanish words and phrases in the book. Did you find it confusing or did it enhance you reading experience? Did you have to look up the words?
10. When Lydia, Luca, Soledad and Rebeca are caught on La Bestia, Lydia pays for her and her son’s freedom. Luca wanted to pay for Soledad and Rebeca’s freedom too and Lydia agrees. After the payment Lydia only has $243 in cash left. What do you think of Lydia’s decision to do that? Why would she compromise their situation?
11. What do you think of Javier’s reaction to Marta’s death? Was his behavior and reaction expected and predictable? Did you think he wanted Lydia to be dead? Do you think that his decision changed as we got to the ending?
12. Lydia, Luca, Soledad and Rebeca make it to el norte. Did you like the ending? What did you think their life would be like in the USA?
Check out American Dirt book review!
Check out the video with Jeanine Cummins discussing her novel, American Dirt, at Politics and Prose.