American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is an edge-of-the-seat read that will have you cancelling any dreams of holiday travel to Mexico. It is because of this negativity, and the fact that the author is neither Latino nor Hispanic, that this novel has become the subject of much controversy in America.
Lydia runs a bookshop where she becomes emotionally entangled with a fellow lover of literature. Her husband is a journalist and it pans out that the charming lover of books is head of a cartel.
When sixteen members of her family are slaughtered at a family barbeque Lydia goes on the run with her 8 year old son. To escape the tendrils of the cartel she flees to America in a journey which is both frightening and brazen, and always with a machete strapped to her leg to protect her son.
I accepted this novel as a piece of fiction and took from it the view of how a mother would react to protect her cub, what a mother would do to cope with the grief, as well as the search for a better life. That I read it whilst the world has been rioting because of inequality added an additional layer.
When the Library is back in action I will look for a book with an alternative view of Mexico. Any recommendations are welcome.
About The Author:
Jeanine Cummins is an American author.She has written four books: a memoir entitled A Rip in Heaven and three novels: The Outside Boy, The Crooked Branch, and American Dirt. She says of American Dirt that “ her goal was only to redeem the humanity of migrants, to tell a story of singular individuals separate from their representation as a ‘‘faceless brown mass’’.
“Jeanine Cummins spent five years of her life writing this book with the intent to shine a spotlight on tragedies facing immigrants,” said Bob Miller, president and publisher of Flatiron Books,”We are saddened that a work of fiction that was well-intentioned has led to such vitriolic rancor.”
From further reading I suggest there are others issues at play here. Mexican American writers have been among those criticising American Dirt for stereotypical depictions of Mexicans and the large profit the author stands to make from the story. There is debate moving on to representation of Latino authors in general. #DignidadLiteraria, a movement set up by the novel’s critics, is in discussion with the publishing industry regarding the approach to Latino literature.