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American Dirt

4.12  ·  Rating details ·  3,194 ratings  ·  1,242 reviews
También de este lado hay sueños. On this side, too, 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 while there are cracks beginning to show in Acapulco because of the drug cartels, her life is, by and large, fairly comfortable.

Hardcover, 400 pages
Published January 21st 2020 by Flatiron Books
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Average rating 4.12  · 
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 ·  3,194 ratings  ·  1,242 reviews

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Dec 13, 2019 rated it did not like it
Jeanine Cummins' American Dirt is a novel about a Mexican bookseller who has to escape cartel-related violence with her son, fleeing to the US. Cummins received a seven-figure advance for this book. And it's harmful, appropriating, inaccurate, trauma-porn melodrama.

Problem 1: The Author. Let me start with the obvious: Cummins has never lived even within five hundred miles of Mexico or the border. In fact, until very recently, she didn't lay claim to the Latinx heritage that comes to her through
Nilufer Ozmekik
Nov 01, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What a mind blowing beginning of a book! A mother, Lydia and her little boy, Luca hid themselves in the bathtub for not being other victims of family massacre. The contract killers/ most dangerous drug-lord’s dirtbags kept looking for them, firing their guns, calling their names. And finally they thought they were not at the house so they left the place and 16 innocent victims behind.

Now mother and her son have to leave the country for staying alive because one of the powerful men is chasing
Kate ☀️ Olson
DNF the audiobook (free review copy from at 15% for various reasons including overly dramatic writing that doesn’t fit my reading preferences, major representation issues and perpetuation of racist stereotypes.

ETA: I encourage readers to find books about this issue that more accurately depict Mexico and the immigrant experience. One excellent option would be this one:

The Devil's Highway: A True Story


ETA 3:
Oct 31, 2019 rated it it was amazing
No doubt this will be THE book of 2020.

The Where The Crawdads Sing book of 2020.

I've never read Crawdads and I wouldn't have read American Dirt if not so kindly offered the opportunity by the publisher.

This is so far from my usual genre.

Give me a thriller any day.

I want to feel compelled to flip the pages while balancing on the edge of my seat.

I want to lose sleep because I can't put a book down, a heart racing, just one more chapter type of story.


Anne Bogel
UPDATE: I read this book in early fall 2019, before important critiques and interviews were published. Some commenters have helpfully linked those in comments so you can see some of what I'm referencing. I've cleared my star rating. I'm listening, I'm learning, I'm asking questions. I considered deleting my original review; for now I'm leaving it below.

I thought this was absolutely fantastic and I can't wait for everyone I know to read it so we can talk about it together. If you follow me, you
Jun 30, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is a timely and powerful portrayal of the plight of the migrant. An innocent mother and her young son desperately and illegally attempt to enter the US from Mexico while fleeing from a cartel. The beginning is brutal and the tension never ceases. The cartel’s savagery is not the focus of the novel but it is the impetus. At its heart, this is a novel about victims and there are victims aplenty. No one is to be trusted. Although, amid much cold-blooded barbarity and those out to make quick ...more

4.5 Stars

Beginning at the end, or perhaps more accurately – after the end of the story, for a change. In the Author’s Note at the end of the story, Cummins writes:

”As I traveled and researched, even the notion of the American dream began to feel proprietary. There’s a wonderful piece of graffiti on the border wall in Tijuana that became, for me, the engine of this whole endeavor. I photographed it and made it my computer wallpaper. Anytime I faltered or felt discouraged, I
“If there’s one good thing about terror, Lydia now understands, it’s that it’s more immediate than grief.”

She has an eight-year-old boy, Luca, and is running for her life, so she will have to set her grief aside until finding safety doesn’t consume her every thought. It is beyond my ken how people are able to lock away such powerful feelings into mental “boxes”.

I remember seeing a mother interviewed (much later) after her father had murdered all her children (as I recall), and she told how she
Sep 16, 2019 rated it did not like it
***Goodreads Giveaway Win***

I need to update my review after getting educated by Myriam Gurba

After reading this article ( ) . I learned to look at the book through a non-gringa point of view. Everything she said made me re-think my take on this book. Please read Myriam Gurba's review.

Here's Original Review:
This is going down as one of the best books I have ever read. I loved every single word, sentence, paragraph and chapter. Jeanine Cummins told the
Diane S ☔
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
3.5 Due to the controversy surrounding this book, Angela, Esil and I decided to make this our monthly read. Nice to bounce thoughts off of my trusted reading buddies. I was concerned I wouldn't be able to give this a fair and unbiased reading, so I tried not to look into this further, not read any other reviews, until finishing.

I found it to be surprisingly well done and on an important subject. I truly liked these characters and felt for what they had gone through and the effort it took for
Nov 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written and timely story that is suspenseful, compelling and deeply affecting.

In a pleasant Acapulco neighborhood, gunmen slaughter 16 people at a family barbecue. From a grandmother, to the young girl who was celebrating her quinceañera, they are all dead. The only survivors were Lydia, a young mother and her eight-year-old son, Luca. Lydia knew they must run as fast and as far as possible.

Among the dead is Sebastian, Lydia‘s husband, a well-known journalist who had just
Jan 09, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2020
5 full-blown amazing stars

This will be in my top reads for 2020. Amazing book. I don’t think I’ve read many books set in Mexico so at first this one didn’t jump out at me, then I started seeing all the hype and I was able to get the book through BookBrowse. Let me just say, this is SO worth it and I highly recommend this one. My review will not give away many details because I think it’s best to go into it blind.

The main character in this tale is Lydia, a bookstore owner in Acapulco, married to
Jan 26, 2020 rated it really liked it
What is there left to say about American Dirt? This novel was barely published a week ago and it has already generated such polarized reactions. I’m going to try to wave a white flag and give my own reaction to the novel divorced from the controversy...

This is a harrowing story. It starts with the murder of Lydia’s whole family, except her son Luca, in Acapulco, and continues on as their perilous journey through Mexico to the United States. On their journey, they meet many people. It’s never
Dec 23, 2019 added it
Shelves: women, fiction
The Hook - Rumors that it would be the book at Book Expo 2019.

The Line - One of the very first bullets comes in through the open window above the toilet where Luca is standing.”

The Sinker - Have you ever experienced a horrible trip or had a bad experience visiting another country, one that made you promise to kiss American soil and be happy to be on solid American ground if you made it home? We take our freedom and homeland for granted. Imagine living in village in Mexico. You are a bookstore
Jan 21, 2020 marked it as nope
Well, I'm NEVER reading this.

These articles explain why:

This tweet explains why this author is a no-no:

If you would like to read better books, I suggest you start at Mean then work your way on to I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican Daughter, or just read Steinbeck.
Jan 01, 2020 rated it it was amazing
American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

“También de este lado hay sueños”. On this side, too, there are dreams.

Lydia Quixano Pérez runs a bookstore in Acapulco, Mexico, where she lives with her husband, Sebastián, who is a journalist, and their eight year old son, Luca.

Her husband writes about Javier the new head of the drug cartel in Acapulco. Javier had his entire family killed during a family party, a quincenera where 16 people died. Lydia and her son Luca miraculously survives and flees Acapulco to
Aga Durka
Dec 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
5 Brilliant Stars!!!

This book is a MUST-READ for everyone!

Jeanine Cummins wrote a suspenseful and a heartbreaking story, a story that will stay with me for a very long time. This book had my heart pounding and tears rolling down my face, and I am so very impressed with the author’s ability to write such a timely novel with so much grace and honesty.

American Dirt is a powerful and an important story and it is easily one of my favorite books of all time.

So yes, the hype is real! Now do yourself
Liz Barnsley
Aug 19, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Oh this book.
I wasn’t going to review for a while given that this is a 2020 publication but American Dirt is one of those books you finish and immediately need to talk about. So a short sharp review now then when next year rolls around trust me, I’ll be back. Annoying y’all until you read it.
American Dirt is impeccably researched which gives it full flavour but the beauty and the horror of it all comes across because the writing, the sense of it, is stunningly authentic. It hits you right in the
Renee (itsbooktalk)
Dec 05, 2019 rated it it was amazing
What do I say about a book that I want everyone to read but the less you know about the plot the better? How about- read this because once you start you won’t be able to stop! The opening scene, set in the Mexican city of Acapulco is terrifying, heart-stopping and introduces us to one mother, Lydia, and her 8-year-old son Luca, whose lives are forever changed in the span of 60 sec. by cartel violence and murder.

Lydia’s once normal life as a married mom and owner of a bookstore is gone and to
Nicky Nicholson-Klingerman
Dec 13, 2019 rated it did not like it
horribly racist book abt mexico written by a white lady. sooooooooooooooooo tired of yts pretending like they understand. stop telling our stories through your horribly racist oppressive lenses. please read a real review:
Basic B's Guide
Dec 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
***I’ve edited this post more than a dozen times and I will continue to do so as I further educate myself on the issues surrounding it.***

Clear your calendars because once you start this book you will not have time to do anything else. It will consume you and destroy you and you will never ever be the same.

So, yes, the hype is absolutely real with this 2020 release and I urge you to get those preorders and library holds in NOW. I alternated between the audio (thank you for the ALC) and
Jan 16, 2020 rated it did not like it
I wish I could give this book negative stars because it is, as its title attests, dirt.

It is also profoundly racist.

Here is my essay about the dissent surrounding this book, dissent that is being erased, disappeared and silenced:
Melissa Crytzer Fry
Dec 15, 2019 rated it it was amazing
I am SO fortunate to have gotten my hands on this book in advance of publication (thanks to my book angel). It was THE way to wind down the reading year: to be totally absorbed in a gut-punch of a book that had me on the edge of my seat, feeling worried, scared, hopeful, despairing; feeling love, seeing the kindness and unkindness of humanity. I was so totally rapt and IN the minds of every single character. This is third-omniscient point of view rendered flawlessly.

As the publisher's personal
Nov 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing
How do I even begin to do justice to a book that is so brilliantly-written, harrowing, poignant, thought-provoking, strongly-plotted and heart-stopping?

Perhaps with this: American Dirt is one of those rare books that will not only galvanize readers with its story and with its characters, but also change the way we think about our human condition. At this sad juncture in American history where desperate people who are fleeing for their lives are portrayed as a homogeneous brown mass clamoring for
Jamie beauty_andthebook_
I’m revising my initial thoughts after the discussion surrounding Own Voices and I’d like to pick up some other novels by diverse voices to fully flesh out my thoughts on this one.
Update: I am so disgusted right now. In light of all the debate and controversy swirling around this book Ms. Cummins and her publisher decided to market the book in the following manner:

Yes I bought into the story. As a mother I identified with Lydia's plight. I gave Cummins the benefit of the doubt when she said that she was telling a human story about grief and trauma. But this behavior tells me that she is not empathetic to migrant pain. Barbed wire chic is not a fashion statement for us to
Nov 16, 2019 rated it liked it
Shelves: 2019, netgalley
[Edited to add: if I could, I would give this novel a five-star/one-star split. Since I can't, I'm changing my rating to a 3. I found it engrossing as I read it, but it hasn't sat comfortably with me since then. Given our current political/international moment, when we have so much access to first-hand accounts by people who have made this journey as a matter of life and death, and not as a matter of literary exploration, Cummins isn't the voice I would start with. If you don't know what other ...more
Jessica Jeffers
I found this to be a thoroughly engaging thriller but having read some of the criticisms of the portrayal of Mexico and Mexican people, I am hesitant to recommend this one. It's not my place to argue that this book's representation is anything other than what those of Mexican heritage say it is.
Nov 17, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: netgalley, favorites
I was nine years old when I concluded that being a writer was the most important career in the world because books could make us cry and laugh and dream and envision another reality. The idea of being an art teacher or a music teacher or someone dedicated to God dropped by the wayside. I wanted to be a writer because of the great power of the pen, the way books change lives.

A book like American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins exemplifies the wisdom of the nine-year-old me. For in telling the riveting
Never Without a Book
Sigh I have thoughts and it’s stressing me and conflicting. Ugh!

First off let me say, this is one of the hardest books I had to review, because my feelings in the end were conflicting, so I had to handle this with care.

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is gripping, dramatic, and intense. Opening with the murder of 16 people at a family gathering in Acapulco, Mexico, the only survivors are Lydia, a young mother and her eight year-old son, Luca. This massacre was orchestrated by local cartel, Los
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Play Book Tag: American Dirt - Jeanine Cummins 3/5 7 42 Jan 26, 2020 07:18AM  
Reccomendations 2 18 Jan 21, 2020 01:37PM  
Goodreads Librari...: Combine Editions - "American Dirt" by Jeanine Cummins 2 27 Nov 16, 2019 02:56AM  
Jeanine Cummins is the author of 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 with her husband and two children.

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“That these people would leave their homes, their cultures, their families, even their languages, and venture into tremendous peril, risking their very lives, all for the chance to get to the dream of some faraway country that doesn’t even want them.” 0 likes
“There’s a blessing in the moments after terror and before confirmation.” 0 likes
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