Book review by Dinh.
I was super excited to read American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins because of the controversy surrounding it. The book has been criticized because the author is white, not an immigrant, and her her use of stereotypes exploits Mexican immigrants, in addition to depicting an unauthentic story.
I really didn’t pay attention to these criticism as this novel is a work of fiction. All authors have the liberty to use their imagination. Cummins did do 5 years of research before completing this book and judging the author because she is not an immigrant is ridiculous.
Okay, I will end my two cents here even though I do have more to say about the controversy.
Let’s move on to whether you should read this book or not. The short answer is you should!
I didn’t go into American Dirt with high expectations but was pleasantly surprised how good the book was. It was well worth the read and one of my top reads this year (along with Dear Edward).
Here’s why you should read American Dirt:
I was pulled into the story from the first page. The story is about a Mexican woman called Lydia and her 8 years old son Luca who have to flee their home because the drug cartel killed 16 members of her family and now are after them.
The story was about their harrowing and perilous journey from Acapulco to the U.S. border. If you haven’t heard about immigrant’s journey to the U.S border it will be an eye opener for you.
I really enjoyed how the book started off. It pulled me in right away. It was dramatic, horrific and surreal. Right away I wanted to know why and how things happened. It kept me turning the pages until the end; it was that good!
I liked how we get to go back in Lydia’s history and find out how it all began. Cummins does a good job in creating a balance between the now and the past so that you get to know Lydia and what she is capable of.
The pace of the book was fantastic. The story moved quickly and it flowed seamlessly. I was eager on finding out what happened next in their journey.
Cummins does a great job in portraying the fear and uncertainty in Lydia’s and Luca’s journey. Whilst there were some scary moments, there were also acts of kindness sprinkled in so emotionally you will be moved.
Cummins characters are solid and well developed.
I loved the two main characters Lydia and Luca but I also admired the sisters Soledad and Rebeca. The common thread between them was the drug cartel in their respective countries. Although Soledad and Rebeca were from Honduras, they were fleeing because of a cartel member.
- Lydia Quixano Perez
I love how strong Lydia was after her whole family is killed off. She knows if she doesn’t leave Mexico that both her and her son Luca will die. Her survival instincts kicks in and she protects her son.
Lydia was from a middle class family and owns a bookstore. Though she was aware of the drug cartel violence, she did not fear for her life until her journalist husband Sebastian published the story on the new leader of cartel drug war.
- Luca Perez
I really marveled at Luca and how he dealt with the whole ordeal. As an 8 year old, he was was able to keep it together and do what was necessary to make it to el norte.
I loved the ending, especially the epilogue when we find out what happens to them all. I would have loved to find out more about the asylum process since they were undocumented immigrants.
My Final Thoughts
I loved American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins! I would set aside the controversy and read it as a work of fiction and enjoy the book for its story.
Aside being a powerful portrayal of immigrant’s tale, it’s also about the length a mother would go to protect her child. This book was emotive and pulled my heartstrings.
I highly recommend American Dirt!
Belong to a book club? Check out American Dirt Book Club Discussion Questions!