Friday, January 24, 2020

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

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5 Stars

Ooooooh this was so good I almost peed my pants . . . . .

No I didn’t. I said what I said.

American Dirt has been on my TBR for a minute. All I knew about the story before knowing I wanted to read it was it begins with the gunning down of nearly an entire family at a quinceañera by the cartel. That right there is what you call . . . .

By this point 99.999999% of you have already decided if you’re going to read this or not. I mean, not only did it make the internet explode (we’ll get to that later), but it has also been chosen by The Queen of All Things and Barnes and Noble as their book club selections. For the one person out there who doesn’t know anything about this book, from the jumping off point above survivor Lydia knows that her son’s life is in jeopardy and they must immediately escape Acapulco. The only place she can imagine being far enough away from the reaches of the cartel to disappear completely is the United States. Thus begins a fifty-three day, 2,645 mile journey detailing the lengths a mother will go to for her child. Basically . . . .

“Like in the movies?”

“Yes, mijo. Just like in the movies.”

Interspersed within that tale is the background of just how their family became targets to begin with as well as those of other migrants they meet along the way. It is a FICTIONAL depiction. There are a lot of instances of right place/right time, kindness of strangers, better them than me, thank god we had money, etc., etc., etc. that obviously make this dissimilar to most true accounts. But no one ever said it was based on a true story, so my rating has been driven by my investment in the characters and the page turnability factor.

Talk about a story that sucked me in until the last page! Well, nearly the last page. Per usual I could have lived without the Epilogue. This was a story of the migration itself, after all, and having a blip of an “after” without any details regarding the hows behind Lydia and Luca’s new life, school, etc. was unnecessary to me (and also left a lot of unanswered questions to those truly ignorant of the undocumented person’s experience when it comes to becoming a member of society without truly being allowed legally to be a member of society). I did not feel like this was ANYTHING resembling “tragiporn” until the very end (as I said, in reality I’m sure many more tragedies generally face those attempting to make this trek) and a fade-to-black approach was taken rather than graphic content being added to amp up the shock and awe factor. There were no “white saviors” to come rescue the characters. The story did not perpetuate negative stereotypes other than the cartel is not made up of good guys, which hopefully everyone can agree on. To me, it was simply brilliant.

Now it’s probably time to address the pink elephant in the room.

Once upon a time there was an author who showed up at a reviewer’s house and stalked her for not liking her book. I immediately went to the library so I could read it (and my husband was absolutely horrified by what a whackjob I obviously am). When asked if I was still going to read this, my response was simply . . . .

I had tried and failed to get an ARC, then begged the library to buy it for me, then waited an eternity for it to be released and got first dibs for my efforts . . . which just so happened to be the same day the poo really hit the fan on the intertubes. I couldn't wait to start this son-of-a-gun.

I want to make something real clear in that I believe everyone has a right to have an opinion as well as the right to express it. People should stand up for what they believe in. I thought the conversation was going to be that encouraging publishers/readers to experience more #ownvoices selections, which is great. What I didn’t expect was this attempt to keep authors from writing any character or story they have in their brain due to not be “brown” enough as the case was here (or gay enough or Muslim enough or any other type of “enough” in other cases). Censorship is something I will never get behind. We need as many voices as possible bringing real-life issues to the forefront. Not to mention the flat-out trolling of any reader/reviewer who dared to give American Dirt a chance.

I also encourage people to make sure they have their “own voice” before jumping onto the bandwagon of some of these social justice warriors. You will find people who have not even bothered to read the book themselves and are simply regurging what others have said, or who have an ulterior motive of attempting to sell their own wares, or who have gone viral by devolving into calling a complete stranger a bitch and a “white” person (despite her being of Puerto Rican descent). That is gross. But again, bottom line is opinions are like assholes and what people think about a book is 100% an opinion. My opinion just so happens to agree with the Instagrammer who renamed this release . . . . .

Maybe that’s my privilege showing. And speaking of . . . . do you see that blurb? DON WINSLOW??? A white dude who has made an entire career out of writing books about Mexicans. Yet no one seems to have a problem with him. Or even better, why weren’t people up this guy’s ass????

Dammmmmmmn, son. Talk about #hollywoodsowhite. Not to mention those two actually write stuff that perpetuates the falsity that MexicansSoBad.

But enough of this. Read the book if you want, don’t read it if you don’t. And now to quote my boys Ed Sheeran and Khalid . . . .

♪♫♪I could use some help
Gettin' out of this conversation, yeah♪♫♪

Let’s end this with some recommended selections for those who may be looking for #ownvoices stories:

Fruit of the Drunken Tree
Prayers for the Stolen
Darius the Great Is Not Okay
The Joy Luck Club
Inside Out and Back Again
Two Boys Kissing
Exit West
The God of Small Things
anything by Sherman Alexie
anything by Jason Reynolds

1 comment:

  1. This is a great review! I have been scared to read this book as a bunch of my fellow instagram book 'friends' are not about this book. And I agree - there are a lot of authors/directors/ACTORS that write or act as another race/culture. Not sure why this book got lit on fire and 'cancelled' by the bookstagram community. It is after all a work of Fiction.