American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
First, this book is EVERYWHERE. I had no idea what it was about until I downloaded the audiobook from Libro.fm.
After reading/listening to the book, I sat with my thoughts. I’ve listened, discussed & read the buzz around the book.
Check Out Theses Articles & Commentary
First, I encourage you to read this Commentary: ‘American Dirt’ is what happens when Latinos are shut out of the book industry.
Here is a particularly scathing review from the New York Times. “The real failures of the book, however, have little to do with the writer’s identity and everything to do with her abilities as a novelist.”
There are some very important points in this Guardian article. The last sentence really resonates with me. “For a novel that sets out so earnestly to challenge the insular nationalism that leads the US‑Mexico border to feel like some kind of moral boundary, American Dirt may, despite or because of its manifest good intentions, accidentally reinforce the very kind of absolutist reasoning that keeps such myths alive.”
I’ve read this post written by Myriam Gurba several times. Each time I read it, more of the words resonate with me. “I don’t think Cummins intended to write a novel that would serve a Trumpian agenda but that’s the danger of becoming a messiah. You never know who will follow you into the promised land.”
Barbed Wire, Tone Deaf Author & Turning a Blind Eye
To quote my great friend Andrea, it seems Cummins is tone-deaf, to say the least. Flatiron is right there along with Cummins. These barbed wire centerpieces are disgusting, vile & completely insensitive.
With all the criticism, one may think Cummins would be open to listening. That doesn’t seem to be happening. Reading this NPR article, readers see comments like this: “Cummins says she’s aware of her own privilege, her cultural blind spots and the imbalances in the publishing industry. “And that’s not a problem that I can fix, nor is it a problem that I’m responsible for,” she says. “All I can do is write the book that I believe in. And I did that.”
Turning a blind eye and/or choosing not to listen is particularly troublesome when educated & respected writers share their responses to reading the book: “I wanted to see myself reflected in this book. It’s painful that not only did I not see myself, but I found all these things that constantly make us feel small.” This is a quote from LA Times writer, Esmeralda Bermudez.
Where Does That Leave Us?
For me, that leaves me changing my review to include what I feel is important and necessary commentary from those who understand the issues better than myself. I am grateful for those speaking out about the book and bringing an authentic conversation to the front of the line.
Perhaps We Should Read These Books Instead
I’ve taken recommendations from my fellow readers to seek out additional #ownvoices books. Included in that stack are:
Crux: A Cross-Border Memoir by Jean Guerrero
The Devil’s Highway: A True Story by Luis Alberto Urrea
The Only Road by Alexandra Diaz
Everyone Knows You Go Home by Natalia Sylvester
The Affairs of the Falcons by Melissa Rivero
Tell Me How it Ends by Valeria Luiselli
Make Your Home Among Strangers by Jeannine Capo Crucet
This is definitely not an all-encompassing list. I’m grateful to my bookstagram community for helping to compile this list of #ownvoices books.
My hope is this updated review is helpful & can spur meaningful conversation amongst all readers.
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