For My Ears: American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins and narrated by Yareli Arizmendi

(from Amazon):

También de este lado hay sueños. On this side, too, there are dreams.

Lydia Quixano Pérez 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. But what exactly are they running to?

American Dirt will leave readers utterly changed. It is a literary achievement filled with poignancy, drama, and humanity on every page. It is one of the most important books for our times.

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.

I had heard a lot about this book, an Oprah pick so everybody was reading it, so at first I stayed away. However, I wanted something compelling for my commute this fall, so I purchased it through Audible.

I have to say – I was hooked into this story from the first page. Lydia and Luca’s story kept me coming back for more and I so wanted them to succeed. I did find the drug cartel story a little extreme – I’m no expert, but I have known numerous people who came from Mexico to California and the ones I knew (both legal and illegal) came for a better life and opportunities (as my own grandparents and great-grandparents came from Europe for the same reasons) and weren’t running because someone was trying to murder them.

Now I know that this novel has been controversial. The author is not from Mexico and this is not her story. Also, some people have pointed out that she is making a lot of money telling this story when there are many Latinx authors who could tell the story with authenticity.

Regardless, I have to say that if someone reads this book (or listens to it, as I did) and it causes them to have some empathy, some understanding, some compassion, then I think that’s a good thing.

At school, we often read La Linea by Ann Jamarillo with the middle school kids – a story of two siblings coming to the US with many similarities (except they aren’t running from a drug cartel). If you are looking for a book for younger readers to tell the story of why some people come to America for a better life, I recommend it.

This is a long listen. While I liked the narration, I didn’t love it. The Spanish words jumped out at me, reminding me of when I watch Giada on television and she mentions Italian dishes.

Have you read American Dirt? If so, let me know what you think.

Let me know what you think!

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