American Dirt is a novel written by Jeanine Cummins. The author currently resides in the United States. This book is actually a memoir of the journey she took to make America her home. In this blog post, we will provide a summary of the book American Dirt as well as some of the praise and criticism the book has received.
In this book, Cummins covers topics such as the refugee crisis, immigration, the border, and other immigrants living in the United States. Also, she talks about America and her experiences living there.
American Dirt book summary
Violence and migration – the background of the novel.
Lydia Quixano owns a bookstore in Acapulco, Mexico. Her husband is a journalist and is bound by the covenant of truth that he must follow in his profession. But this obviously causes risks and threats.
On the other hand, we meet Javier, a charming man who visits Lydia’s bookstore. And, to her surprise, he chooses some books that she never thought of selling and that are among her favorites. This situation arouses her interest. And, with Javier’s friendly attitude, they make the perfect complement to form a very strong friendship between them.
Lydia’s life changes completely after learning that Javier is the head of the new Acapulco cartel known as Los Jardineros. And that’s just the beginning of the nightmare. Lydia’s husband writes an article in which he reveals Javier’s identity. After the publication of the article, it doesn’t take long for the consequences to come.
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Lydia and her family gather for a fifteen-year celebration. Then, a group of men from the cartel arrives with a mission to kill all the partygoers. Lydia and Luca manage to hide. They save themselves from the massacre in which sixteen members of their family are killed.
The only way to survive now is to flee her city, leave her life behind, and embark on the painful path of migration. Dangers are just around the corner. They can’t find peace of mind knowing that Los Jardineros are chasing them.
And, to complete their journey, they must face La Bestia. It is the name of the freight train that Mexican and Central American migrants use at the risk of their lives. It is not an easy journey and the risks of losing one’s life along the way are very high.
American Dirt tells us about the hardships that Lydia and her 8-year-old son Luca must learn to face death in the most tragic way possible. And, at the same time, they must be strong enough to survive the journey they need.
American Dirt book review
Jeanine Cummins presents us with a raw, harrowing, and without a doubt, terrifying reality. It is important to highlight that we are dealing with a fictional story and fictitious characters. But the context and background are absolutely true.
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The book managed to reach number one on the New York Times bestseller list. Despite all the controversies it sparked among some readers and writers, especially Latinos. American Dirt has become a target of its detractors in the Latino community since it went on sale.
The reason is its fictional character and idealistic drug dealer who seduces Lydia. The previous love interest breaks up between Lydia and the head of the Acapulco cartel, a ruthless but polite and sensitive character.
Through this novel, it is possible to bring out a subject that we are familiar with but sometimes forget. And this is a book that opens our eyes to its importance. Lydia and Luca make us aware of the terrible reality that thousands of migrants must survive who have to choose this path for various reasons.
The other fact that confronts us, and which is the driving force behind this whole story, is the presence of cartels in Mexico. Armed groups whose level of violence does nothing but leave us speechless. This violence leads to many terrifying cases that we can find if we do a little research.
The book is sometimes humorous and sometimes serious, but it is an enlightening read. There are many sections in the book where one can learn about the different types of dirt and the habits that have developed.
The American Dirt is about how we see dirt in America. We don’t think of dirt as something that is good or bad. Dirt is a big part of our lives. Most people don’t see dirt as something that can be harmful, but it is.
The book also explores the various ways in which dirt can help people live better, healthier, happier lives.
Praise and criticisms
This amazing read received a mixed reception. Many readers enjoy it for its status as one of the best-selling, highly recommended books of 2020.
But as one influential journalist noted in his review, “The book has also been criticized for using such a narrow perspective to describe Mexican workers.” The criticism might not be entirely unfounded. But they seem to miss the mark when it comes to conveying the motif behind the story.
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“I challenge anyone to read the first seven pages of this book and not finish it.” _Stephen King
“A harrowing story of survival, danger, and love.” _New York Times
“A novel that fires the reader’s heart and adrenaline, makes him devour its pages, and keeps him awake until three in the morning.” _Los Angeles Times
Criticisms have mostly been directed at the plot of the novel. Which author and professor David Bowles has called “damaging and inaccurate.” Bowles argues that the book overuses dramatic imagery.
While other critics have voiced against the stereotypes, characters, and writing. According to many media outlets, some even questioned whether Cummins was fit to tell this story.
Barbara Van Denburg notes that “characters make terrible decisions that defy logic.”
Myriam Gurba also strongly criticized the protagonist. She says that Lydia is “incoherent”, “naive” and behaves “stupidly”.
She points out that “Lydia experiences shock after shock when she confronts the realities of Mexico. The realities that would not surprise a Mexican.” She also assures that the book distorts the image of Mexico.
American Dirt book summary and review | Conclusion
Without a doubt, American Dirt is a book that you will never forget in your life if you decide to give yourself a chance to read it. With an agile pen, Jeanine Cummins wraps you in her pages.
She makes you empathize with the characters in such a way that we forget we are dealing with a fictional product. And we feel like we are also suffering with the main characters.
Although the subject is real, it is still fiction. The thing to remember is that Lydia and Luca aren’t real. But there are thousands of people who have to go through similar or even worse situations.
It is a must-read for anyone who wants to understand the human cost of the immigration crisis. After reading the review and summary of the book American Dirt, you can buy it now from Amazon.
Kamran is a literature graduate from a reputed university. He started his journey in the world of writing blogs in 2012. Over the years, his passion for writing and love of books evolved into a dedicated book blog. With a discerning eye from a literature lover, he offers reviews, summaries, and thought-provoking discussion questions.