American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
Now that some of the media coverage about the controversy around American Dirt has died down and been replaced with Pandemic news, let me tell you about this “social issues” thriller. You most likely heard the criticisms about the author telling a fictional Mexican migration story and not being Mexican. The recent #OwnVoices movement suggests that books about diverse characters should be written by authors of the same diverse group. American Dirt‘s publication launched this debate into the forefront, as well as the question of the lack of diversity in publishing. I wonder if one can read American Dirt simply as a “social issues thriller” without pondering this divisive #OwnVoices debate.
American Dirt is the story of a young Mexican family. There is Lydia, who owns a bookstore in Acapulco, her young son Luca, and her husband, a writer who publishes a tell-all about a drug cartel and its leader, Javier. Lydia and Javier met at the bookstore; Lydia didn’t initially realize just who Javier was and fell prey to his charm. When the tell-all is published, Javier and his men go to the family’s house during a big party and kill everyone, except Lydia and Luca who are able to hide. They know they must flee to stay alive, and begin their migration to America.
Strictly as a thriller, this is a great read. It is exciting, it is fast paced, the writing is excellent. I succumbed to the pre-publication publicity and had a copy of American Dirt in my hot little hands on pub day. I’ve talked and debated with anyone willing about the novel as a novel, and about the #OwnVoices movement. Fascinating discussions! I urge you to grab a copy, read, and discuss!