“In another life, he could’ve been Bill Gates,” Lydia’s husband tells her, just as proto-Gates tries to seduce his wife with a box of chocolates from Jacques Genin, straight from the 7th arrondissement in Paris. It feels like years have gone by since Jeanine Cummins’s novel American Dirt was unleashed onto the book world. Its most profound achievement, though, is something I never could’ve been told… Given the title, I thought it was a book about agriculture. One editor who had advocated for her imprint to acquire the manuscript recalled reading the … American Dirt is a work of fiction, but it’s not fantasy; Cummins has a responsibility to accurately portray the context she places her characters in, especially since, as an author, she felt she had “the capacity to be a bridge.” About a week and a half ago American Dirt was still generating the kind of press notices most novelists could only dream of. The novel was acquired by Flatiron Books in 2018 in a reported seven-figure deal and has been talked about in the publishing world ever since. In reality, it’s been nine days. She knows Acapulco inside and out and could probably pinpoint the location of El Rollo Aquatic Park. They do not run bookshops with a hidden section of favorite authors, but work in the fields, often struggling to feed their families. In the center of the page is a blurb from author Don Winslow. But along the way they will also encounter people who have already had lives in the United States, or those who cross regularly to do seasonal work. It is not an everyday occurrence, contrary to what Cummins, in her demonization of the country (a useful but cynical narrative ploy to present Lydia as completely alone in a hellish world from the very first page, to get readers rooting for her to escape to the United States) would want the reader to believe. “American Dirt,” published last week, is a fast-paced novel about a mother-and-son pair of migrants on the run from murderous drug lords. Rather, they resemble people like Juan Ulises Laredo, known as “the Virus,” leader of one of the dominant gangs in the region that Cummins depicts. Knowing that the police will do little to help, and that many will already be in the pocket of those who commissioned the killings, Lydia has no choice but to take Luca,  grab what she can and run, knowing that it may be impossible to escape the long arm of the Mexican cartels. In the center of the page is a blurb from author Don Winslow. The book spins around two main characters: Lydia Quixano Pérez, the bereaved mother on the run, and Javier Crespo Fuentes, the drug lord who woos and pursues her. Slate relies on advertising to support our journalism. In response to this, Macmillan US, the American publisher of American Dirt has recently announced a commitment to hiring more Latin American staff and to publishing and promoting more Latin American stories by Latin American writers. Up until the tragedy, she has led a peaceful life, with a happy and stable marriage. Never less than tense, and completely compulsive, Cummins manages to both make her point and deliver an effective piece of fiction. that could be worthy of a great novel, much less a definitive one. Let’s see Don Winslow stick a blurb on that. American Dirt opens with a scene that is as shocking as it is gripping. But he is certainly not emblematic. Putting aside the furore (if you can), this is a thoroughly researched and in the end compassionate look at what has become a highly politicised subject. She knows her conchas, her fútbol, and her abuela. In a blurb for the book, Sandra Cisneros, the brilliant Mexican American novelist, called American Dirt “not simply the great American novel” but “the great novel of the Americas.” … They share Lydia’s devotion to their children, but not much else. Cummins clearly did her research on Mexico minutiae. Read 22,020 reviews from the world's largest community for readers. “American Dirt” has dramatized ongoing issues of diversity in publishing that mirror criticisms of Hollywood. In a blurb for the book, Sandra Cisneros, the brilliant Mexican American novelist, called American Dirt “not simply the great American novel” but “the great novel of the Americas.” (She has stood by her praise.) Neither one is even remotely representative of immigrant mothers nor Mexican criminals. He calls American Dirt, “A Grapes of Wrath for our time.” The novel tells the story of Lydia Quixano, a middle-class bookstore owner in Acapulco, Mexico. Romance Writers of America, a … From just being able to leave the cartel controlled state in which they live to jumping onto a moving train (La Bestia), to walking across the Sonoran Desert, the dangers are constant and real. Her antagonist is even less convincing. Oprah gave it her coveted seal of approval, and Stephen King wrote a blurb for it. Although I find the lack of diversity in America’s publishing industry appalling, I couldn’t care less if Cummins is white, not Mexican, or not a first-generation immigrant herself. Food & Cookbooks. The Great American Novel and the great novel of the Americas about violence, loss, and immigration is still waiting to be written. Children's Books. At least for now, not many in Mexico seem to really care that a woman named Jeanine Cummins has dared to write about us. A (mediocre) poet and a romantic, Cummins’ drug lord is sophisticated to the point of parody. They are escaping poverty, not financially stable family lives. You’ve run out of free articles. I wanted to like American Dirt, Jeanine Cummins’ much-debated novel about a young mother and her son who, after an act of brutality, find themselves in a desperate attempt to escape the clutches of a drug cartel in southern Mexico. It has been an enlightening experience. What Cummins does not do, though, is offer a depiction of immigrants (or drug lords, for that matter—who will speak for them?) Is that OK? Mexican drug lords are not aspiring poets who read Irish fiction or enjoy delicate French cocoa bites. The major audiences for American Dirt and Ten Thousand Sorrows are white women who are reading about brutalities (a child being crushed by a … Over the past decade I have interviewed hundreds of immigrant women for Univision and other media outlets. According to the blurb, Cummins’ book has stirred up a lot of controversy. As with many thriller protagonists, she is primarily characterised by her mission: an unswerving drive to protect and save her son, a mission that pushes her to extremes of behaviour she had never imagined. Already being hailed as "a Grapes of Wrath for our times" and "a new American classic," Jeanine Cummins's American Dirt is a rare exploration into the inner hearts of people willing to sacrifice everything for a glimmer of hope. It is notable that much of the initial criticism of American Dirt came from elsewhere and also that Cummins herself is a New Yorker. Cummins’s stated aim in American Dirt is to put a human face on the tide of refugees seeking sanctuary in the United States. The difference between American Dirt and The Unnamed Country is that Thomas knows the land and her people, and his characters, heroes and villains alike, are created with care and respect, and never regarded as mere faceless masses or grotesque stereotypes. She does this primarily through Lydia, who is a middle-class bookshop owner until her life is completely upended. Slate is published by The Slate Group, a Graham Holdings Company. This and over 450 more book reviews can be found on his website Pile By the Bed. In both literature and journalism, examples abound of brilliant authors who have illuminated countries and themes that were, initially, outside their familiar milieu. Print as You Go. Sell one copy at a time and let Blurb fulfill the orders or place a large order and sell in-person. Flatiron Books, the otherwise remarkable writers who offered blurbs, and those who have promoted the book as if Cummins truly were the reincarnation of John Steinbeck have all insisted American Dirt is a transformational work of art, aimed to inspire a deeper debate about violence, immigration, and American nativism. Through their odyssey, Lydia finds that the wave of refugees is much like herself. Cummins might have created an interesting drug lord, but Javier is pure fiction. She was talking about American Dirt, the first blockbuster novel of 2020 and her latest pick for her book club. “This has opened my eyes in ways that only books can do,” said Oprah, a popular American television personality. Join Slate Plus to continue reading, and you’ll get unlimited access to all our work—and support Slate’s independent journalism. The novel is also a perfectly adequate and suspenseful romance thriller. Yes, there are surely immigrant women like Lydia Quixano Pérez, but Lydia Quixano Pérez is far from a worthy emblem of immigrant women. Lydia is solidly middle class. Eight-year-old Luca is going to the toilet when a bullet fired from downstairs narrowly misses him. The next thing he knows he is cowering in the shower with his mother Lydia; below them, assassins systematically slaughter his whole family. American Dirt effectively uses thriller tropes and some melodramatic story beats to force readers to focus on the human dimension of this global movement. (How did so many people seemingly blurb/share this book without supposedly knowing what it was about?) What matters is that it'll happen again. If she wants to write about Mexico, so be it—Mexico and the Mexican immigrant experience are terrific subjects for a novel that deserves many outstanding books, perhaps even a definitive one that could surely be written from the United States by an American writer. American Dirt will fade into obscurity or it will go down as a very messed up bestseller. It doesn't matter now. “American Dirt” was the third novel picked by Winfrey since she began a partnership with Apple last year. All contents © 2021 The Slate Group LLC. Or Nemesio Oseguera, “El Mencho,” who runs the CJNG cartel, Mexico’s most dangerous and violent criminal organization. “American Dirt,” published Tuesday, tells of a bookstore owner in Acapulco, Mexico, who loses much of her family to a murderous drug cartel and flees north on a terrifying journey with her 8-year-old son. The problem is, American Dirt is none of those things. I have done so in Mexico and the United States; in shelters, places of worship, and on random corners across California. By Robert Goodman 10 months ago . New York seems a place that is often unwilling to examine its deep and ironic parochialism, and this is one of the results. Blurb, Cummins ’ s criminals in a slew of contentious controversies and in! 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