Cummins Jeanine of American Dirt
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Cummins Jeanine of American Dirt

I was planning to write my review of Jeanine Cummins’ American Dirt the day after it ended. But for starters, I was so sad that I couldn’t quite find the words I needed to write about it as eloquently as I would have liked, and then I ended up in a Google rabbit hole reading, watching, and listening to all the controversies that surrounded it. something that I will discuss after in this review.

My friend Jane, owner of Gertrude & Alice, lent me a copy; she and her daughter Kate had read it, and I took it to Byron Bay on Australia Day weekend to start it when – and when – I finished the book I was reading at the time. Unfortunately, I accidentally left the said book at the airport and started using American Dirt shortly after takeoff.

The opening of the book, in which we meet Lydia and her son Luca, curled up in the bathtub of their mother’s bathroom while sixteen family members are shot outside, sets both the tone and the rhythm for the rest of American Dirt, a book that I read in two unique sessions with a sense of impending horror and despair. What follows is a powerful portrait of the migrant’s plight as we witness an innocent mother and her young son desperately – and illegally – trying to enter the U.S. from Mexico while fleeing the cartel that executed their family. The grief, fear and risks that they had to take in order to save both their loved ones and themselves were of paramount importance for the well as the ferocity of the cartel in the pursuit of their victims. Basically, it’s a novel about love and sacrifice and privilege and fear. And although one should not trust anyone, in the midst of a lot of cold-blooded barbarism and those who want to make money quickly at the expense of the oppressed, there are good souls on the way who provide food, water and shelter to migrants.

During the last quarter of the American dirt I could hardly breathe, but at the same time I did not want it to stop. I really can’t remember the last time I felt so shaken, broken and hurt by a book (as anyone who saw me crying in Bondi as I went through the last few pages can testify). There have been many, many controversies about American filth. But for what it’s worth, here’s my take. For me, one of the reasons I read is to educate myself, foster more empathy for others, and learn about cultures I might not have otherwise, and I think American Dirt has allowed me to better understand what other people are going through. He has brought to life faces that I only see on the news, and a voice for the untold stories of many. Quite heartbreaking, heartbreaking, enchantingly beautiful. I don’t think I’ll ever stop thinking about this book.

About American Dirt

También de este lado hay sueños. Also on this site there are dreams.

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 although there are cracks in Acapulco due to medicine cartels, by and large his life is quite comfortable.

Although she knows that they will never sell, Lydia has some of her favorite books of all time in stock in her store. And then one day a man comes to the store to flip through, and appears at the checkout with a couple of books that he wants to buy—two of them his favorites. Javier is a scholar. He’s charming. And without Lydia’s knowledge, he is the leader of the new medicine cartel that has taken over the city terribly. If the revealing profile of Lydia’s husband about Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same again.

Lydia and eight-year-old Luca, who are forced to flee, soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable bourgeois existence. Lydia and Luca immediately turn into migrants and take la Bestia trains heading north towards the USA, the only place where Javier’s reach does not extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running away from something. But what exactly are you running towards?American Dirt will completely change readers. It is a literary achievement full of poignant, dramatic and human on every page. This is one of the most important books of our time.

About Jeanine Cummins

Jeanine Cummins has authored four books: the bestselling memoir a Rip in Heaven and the novels the Outside Boy, the Crooked Branch and American Dirt. She lives in New York City with her husband and two children.

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