Archive for the ‘American Dirt’ Tag

Seeking Asylum   Leave a comment

This may not be a popular stance to take, but American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins doesn’t deserve all the negative hype surrounding its publication. Primarily, she’s accused of misappropriating the migrant stories of those from Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras because she isn’t Latina.

Not all stories about the Holocaust are written by those with a direct or indirect connection. That’s the beauty of imagination: it shouldn’t have limits.

Granted, Cummins’ novel isn’t perfect due to predictability, extraneous characters and the perceived need to translate Spanish words and phrases. Nonetheless, it’s a riveting story that’s difficult to put down and stop thinking about.

In her author’s notes/acknowledgements, Cummins describes the extent of her research, which is impressive. The narrative’s power lies in the truth of the ordeal her characters endure seeking a better life in el norte.

Sixteen members of Lydia’s family are killed by a cartel at her niece’s quiceanera. Lydia and her eight-year-old son are the sole survivors and know they need to run or face a similar end. The story’s rapid pace rarely slows down as mother and son attempt to elude the cartel first by bus to Mexico City where they discover it’s impossible for them to board a plane, then by train but not as comfortable passengers. Instead, they join other migrants trying to reach the United States and risk their lives by riding atop the railroad cars.

Their journey is fraught with obvious danger, surprise friendships, palpable fear, and self-discovery. It’s worth reading.

American Dirt
Four-and-a-half Bookmarks
Flatiron Books, 2020
383 pages