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By Ms Vyk
Posted: 07/02/2020

AMERICAN DIRT by Jeanine Cummins

REVIEW BY MS. VYK for the Pasadena Village


Excellent writer. Excellent story. Excellent character development. Riveting and eye-opening. This author may not be Latina but she did her homework. She convincingly tells the harrowing story of what it must be like to live in a cartel-driven landscape. What it means to have to flee one's home and loved ones. What it means to suffer grief so deep it defies explanation. Some of the passages were weepingly beautiful. I was immediately transported to the plight of this mother and young son, their fellow migrants and their inner turmoil.  There was compassion, tenderness and love, too, that was expressed throughout the book.

There is substantial controversy surrounding this book. I do not agree that the author "appropriated the culture” or that there were stereotypes depicted. Not true! Everything she writes about is based in reality. Corrupt law enforcement. The deadly risk of “riding THE BEAST” (hopping freight trains). Rape, extortion and thievery.  The perils of crossing the border from Mexico to the U.S. and more. I learned so much. And although I was running to the Spanish-English dictionary every so often, that was okay. I did the same thing with LOVE IN THE TIME OF CHOLERA and THE HUMMINGBIRD'S DAUGHTER, learning mucho espanól in the process!

A couple of “yucky” moments particularly in this time of the Covid-19 pandemic:  I cringed when one of the characters gives his lip balm to a new friend to use on his chapped lips and then nonchalantly takes it back from him.  Another instance occurred when a harmonica was passed back and forth, sharing in some musical frivolity, and in the process exchanging major droplets of saliva. As the book was written before the pandemic, however, this can be forgiven.

All in all, I found AMERICAN DIRT to be a "must read" for any curious, intelligent reader who wants a glimpse into the life of migrants trying to escape their hellish lives. This book will inspire you (like it did me) to seek out other stories of this nature by Latino or other writers who may have experienced this same type of journey.

June 30, 2020

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