Thank goodness all of our days are running together because I need to convince you that today is actually April 1 and we’re discussing this month’s book pick American Dirt at the beginning of the month as promised. Ha! Even though I have so much more time on my hands than I did a month ago, I still only read right before bed and apparently at a snail’s pace. But I did finish American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins and I’m so glad that I did.
When Oprah chose American Dirt for her book club, she set off a fury in the Twitter-verse. Her followers were upset that she endorsed the story of a migrant’s experience as told through the eyes of a woman who identified as white. Yet Cummins, the author, never claimed this book to be anything other than fiction. And while it was well researched, the story is made up.
Cummins opens her book by introducing us to Lydia Quixano Pérez who 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.
Even though she knows they’ll never sell, Lydia stocks some of her all-time favorite books in her store. And then one day a man enters the shop to browse and comes up to the register with a few books he would like to buy—two of them her favorites. Javier is erudite. He is charming. And, unbeknownst to Lydia, he is the jefe of the newest drug cartel that has gruesomely taken over the city. When Lydia’s husband’s tell-all profile of Javier is published, none of their lives will ever be the same.
Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia—trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something.
Regardless of the author’s personal experience, she wrote a compelling and amazingly well-told story. She opened my eyes to what some people do to get to our country. Even if this particular story wasn’t true, I am sure there are migrants who can relate to the experience Cummins describes where there is almost nothing people won’t do for a chance at freedom. Cummins hooked me from the first chapter and I know this story will be tucked inside of me for days to come. Without being political, she definitely elevated the immigration conversation for…it’s definitely not as black and white as some might want it to be. Controversy aside, this book is definitely worth reading.
I’m so curious to know what you guys thought of this book. I’ll post my thoughts in the comments below.
- What made you want to read American Dirt?
- Does knowing the author’s experience change how you feel about the story?
- Does it make you think about the journey of a migrant worker differently?
April’s Book Pick: And They Called It Camelot–A Novel of Jacqueline Kennedy Bouvier Onassis
I don’t know about you guys, but I need a light and breezy read for April. So when my pal Di Grumhaus (from the Lake Forest Book Store) gave Stephanie Marie Thornton’s new novel And They Called It Camelot: A Novel of Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy Onassis two giant thumbs up, I was all in! Here’s a tease of what it’s all about.
“Few of us can claim to be the authors of our fate. Jacqueline Bouvier Kennedy knows no other choice. With the eyes of the world watching, Jackie uses her effortless charm and keen intelligence to carve a place for herself among the men of history and weave a fairy tale for the American people, embodying a senator’s wife, a devoted mother, a First Lady—a queen in her own right.
But all reigns must come to an end. Once JFK travels to Dallas and the clock ticks down those thousand days of magic in Camelot, Jackie is forced to pick up the ruined fragments of her life and forge herself into a new identity that is all her own, that of an American legend.” (From goodreads.com)
It sounds soooo good! Let’s circle back on Friday, May 15, and we’ll discuss.