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.

Review: OCHOCO REACH by Jim Stewart

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The nice folks at MindBuck Media recently asked me if I’d like to read and review OCHOCO REACH by Jim Stewart. Here’s what they had to say about it:

Description-

Mike’s usual strategy was to gently stir the pot and wait for patterns to emerge, but this case was boiling over from the day Willimina showed up at his office…

Freelance investigator Mike Ironwood doesn’t hesitate for a moment when a lovely stranger asks him to help her get to the bottom of suspicious happenings on her family’s cattle ranch. The case is intriguing, and Willimina even more so.
Six days in, the case has turned up two dead bodies, an alphabet soup of secretive federal investigators, and a client who just might be The One. That’s when things get complicated.
When a greedy DEA agent and his complex and deadly triggerman kidnap Willy, Mike enlists help from his brother and sets out to rescue her from the conflicted jefe of a major drug cartel. The trail takes them on a surreal tour that extends deep into Mexico, but they come home with unfinished business.
Ochoco Reach introduces Mike Ironwood, his special ops brother Daniel, and Bucket, a Catahoula leopard dog who is equally at home herding cattle and pinning bad guys to the floor. They have each others’ backs, and they have unexpected allies in the natural world, who appear in surprising ways. But they also attract trouble at every turn.

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I have to say that I really enjoyed this book. When I first started reading, the descriptions of the characters, the slight wackiness, the humor, it all caught me off guard. I worried that it might be too much for me – a little too “Mike Hammer” – but the thing that was great was this novel can be outrageous and unique and sarcastic and flippant without being over the top (and believe me – there’s a fine line). Stewart creates the characters of Mike and Willy and makes them believable. Mike has a Native American half-brother, Daniel, and a super smart dog to boot. There is no dearth of action and the story is well-plotted. I had a hard time putting it down.

I’d love to think that this is the first in a series!

Thank you for my opportunity to read and review OCHOCO REACH!

Here’s a bit about the author (who looks like a friendly guy):

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About the Author

A professional writer for over 25 years, Jim has published dozens of stories and essays, technical manuals, and poetry. After starting his journey in the Midwest and spending formative years in New England, he made it to the West Coast just in time to try and figure out what was happening in Vietnam. Music and writing kept him mostly sane. He lives in Portland, Oregon with his wife Laura.

 

YA Review: DREAM THINGS TRUE by Marie Marquardt

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I first heard about DREAM THINGS TRUE at BEA last spring. It was listed as one of the best upcoming YA books. I was able to get it through Net Galley and recently read it.

Here’s the description from Net Galley:

Evan and Alma have spent fifteen years living in the same town, connected in a dozen different ways but also living worlds apart — until the day he jumps into her dad’s truck and slams on the brakes.
The nephew of a senator, Evan seems to have it all – except a functional family. Alma has lived in Georgia since she was two, surrounded by a large (sometimes smothering) Mexican family. They both want out of this town. His one-way ticket is soccer; hers is academic success.

When they fall in love, they fall hard, trying to ignore their differences. Then Immigration and Customs Enforcement begins raids in their town, and Alma knows that she needs to share her secret. But how will she tell her country-club boyfriend that she and almost everyone she’s close to are undocumented immigrants?

What follows is a beautiful, nuanced exploration of the complications of immigration, young love, defying one’s family, and facing a tangled bureaucracy that threatens to completely upend two young lives. This page-turning debut asks tough questions, reminding us that love is more powerful than fear.

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So – I have to say I just loved this book. Even though it takes place in Georgia, I could relate to the story, having grown up in California. This novel does a great job sensitively portraying the challenges of undocumented immigrants, especially those who have spent the majority of their lives here in the US and have been positive contributors to their community. Alma and Evan’s story will draw teens in, and I appreciated that the ending was not a “quick fix”.

DREAM THINGS TRUE published in September, and is available at an indie near you (or at your library!).