American Dirt is a rare exploration into the inner hearts of people willing to sacrifice everything for a glimmer of hope.
Lydia Quixano Perez 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 four 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.
American Dirt will leave readers utterly changed. It is a page-turner; it is a literary achievement; it is filled with poignancy, drama, and humanity on every page. It is one of the most important books for our times.
January 21st, 2020
*You can order a copy of American Dirt using my affiliate link HERE.
My Reading Experience with American Dirt
If you follow along about books online you most likely know that American Dirt is entering the world today with much acclaim and also a lot of questioning. I am one of the lucky ones when it comes to my reading experience of this book. One of the best parts about reviewing books is that I often get to experience a book before there becomes a lot of hype, whether it is positive or negative.
I read American Dirt this past fall, thanks to a friend who passed along her advanced reading copy. This meant I read it before there was a lot of fanfare which in turn, allowed me to take it in for what it was in that moment of time. American Dirt is one of the most powerful books I have ever read. Never before have I read a book that was as heartbreaking and fasted paced about such an important and timely subject.
While I wanted to know what happened, I also felt fully immersed in the journey of these fictional characters. It opened my eyes and humanized something that often feels so very far away from our life here.
So that brings me to who am I?
For those of you that might be newer around here, I am white women, born and raised in New England. We live in Vermont which borders with Canada and obviously, my experiences with immigration issues are few and far between. I am also the perfect person to read this, and maybe so are you.
Everyone has a different perspective which I think is what makes reading so wonderful. We can all read the same exact words and have a very different reading experience. This book was engrossing and also illuminating for me, and what it did for me is what I think the point was, it opened my eyes to issues that don’t enter my mind as frequently as they probably should.
Books like this are like are a starting point for many readers and if they can get people thinking about topics they weren’t before, I think they have succeeded.
Who is Jeanine Cummins?
Quoted from The Los Angele Times article HERE.
“What led Jeanine Cummins to finally decide to write “American Dirt” was her desire to change the public discourse around immigration in the United States — though, from the beginning, she wondered whether she could.
“I wished someone slightly browner than me would write it,” she wrote in an unusually long author’s note at the end of the novel. “But then I thought if you’re a person who has the capacity to be a bridge, why not be a bridge? So I began.”
(***updated on 1/23/20), I have received many messages about this part of my post so I thought I would post an update from another article from USA Today below…As always, I am open to dialogue and feedback and I appreciate those who took the time to respectfully share their feelings, even if they were very different from my own. Thank you.
“Lots of someones “slightly browner” than Cummins did write it. Just last year, Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli published the searingly smart “Lost Children Archive.” In 2018, there was the beautifully written “Fruit of the Drunken Tree” by Colombian writer Ingrid Rojas Contreras. Or there’s even 2004’s Pulitzer Prize finalist “The Devil’s Highway” by Mexican writer Luis Alberto Urrea.”***)
…Some have praised Cummins for humanizing the migrant tale, and for sending a timely and important message to the world about the United States’ failing immigration policies. Others have said the book is riddled with stereotypes and clichés, that it’s inaccurate and an act of appropriation. (In The Times, Rigoberto Gonzalez falls somewhere in between.) In sum, the book has raised divisive questions about censorship, representation, and the politics of fiction, homing in on a single dilemma: Who has the right to tell certain stories?
…For some critics of American Dirt, the problem is Cummins herself. Born in Spain and raised in a working-class family in Maryland, Cummins is not a Mexican national. She’s of mixed ethnicity and has family roots in Puerto Rico; she identifies as Latina and white. Critics have questioned whether she was able to accurately convey the experience of Mexican migrants”
Cummins has not lived the life of the story she is telling, and many people take issue with that. This pushback has brought up the idea of Own Voices, in which stories are told by the people who have lived it.
Reading this feedback a few months after finishing American Dirt myself was an interesting experience and as a white woman, I appreciated the opportunity to listen to the voices who HAVE experienced this journey. I don’t think I am the perfect person to review this book because I don’t have a lot of knowledge in this specific area, but I also wanted to share the WHY behind my positive reading experience a few months ago.
Helpful Resource & Own Voices Author Recommendation:
Los Angeles Times Article:
To read the entire LA Times article written by Dorany Pineda you can click on the link below…
Own Voices Author Yuri Herrara:
Signs Preceding the End of the World is one of the most arresting novels to be published in Spanish in the last ten years. Yuri Herrera does not simply write about the border between Mexico and the United States and those who cross it. He explores the crossings and translations people make in their minds and language as they move from one country to another, especially when there’s no going back.
Traversing this lonely territory is Makina, a young woman who knows only too well how to survive in a violent, macho world. Leaving behind her life in Mexico to search for her brother, she is smuggled into the USA carrying a pair of secret messages – one from her mother and one from the Mexican underworld.
My Final Thoughts…
While the online discourse was eye-opening and important in many ways, it does not change my opinion that this is an important and timely book. I do hope it increases awareness for those who need it (and there are many if you look at the current political climate of our country) and helps open the door to more immigrant voices becoming mainstream moving forward. I think you can read this book AND also look into the many other books on this important topic. I think getting this book into the hands of people who really need it will be invaluable. It might not be THE story, but it is a fiction story, that could be a wonderful entry point for so many.
I have seen and been a part of so many powerful conversations that have stemmed from this book which is probably the best takeaway there can be. Talking and connecting, even if our viewpoints are very different can and do make a difference. I know it did for me.
I would love to know your thoughts on this book and thank you for taking the time to read this review.
Disclosure: Some of the links above are affiliate links. This means if you click through and make a purchase, I receive a small commission that helps support this blog at no cost to you. Thank you!
Dominicana by Angie Cruz
“Fifteen-year-old Ana Cancion never dreamed of moving to America, the way the girls she grew up within the Dominican countryside did. But when Juan Ruiz proposes and promises to take her to New York City, she has to say yes. It doesn’t matter that he is twice her age, that there is no love between them. Their marriage is an opportunity for her entire close-knit family to eventually immigrate. So on New Year’s Day, 1965, Ana leaves behind everything she knows and becomes Ana Ruiz, a wife confined to a cold six-floor walk-up in Washington Heights. Lonely and miserable, Ana hatches a reckless plan to escape. But at the bus terminal, she is stopped by Cesar, Juan’s free-spirited younger brother, who convinces her to stay.
As the Dominican Republic slides into political turmoil, Juan returns to protect his family’s assets, leaving Cesar to take care of Ana. Suddenly, Ana is free to take English lessons at a local church, lie on the beach at Coney Island, see a movie at Radio City Music Hall, go dancing with Cesar, and imagine the possibility of a different kind of life in America. When Juan returns, Ana must decide once again between her heart and her duty to her family.
In bright, musical prose that reflects the energy of New York City, Angie Cruz’s Dominicana is a vital portrait of the immigrant experience and the timeless coming-of-age story of a young woman finding her voice in the world.”
September 3rd, 2019
(I bought my own hard copy from Book of The Month and as it was available early through their August 2019 book selections. You can get your first Book of the Month book for FREE by using my referral link HERE.)
Literary Fiction, Historical Fiction, Immigrant Fiction & Coming of Age Fiction
Dominicana is a coming of age story that is set in NYC in the turbulent and bustling 1960s. Angie Cruz shares a remarkable story about a young girl named Ana. At 15, Ana was forced to marry a man twice her age and move from the Dominican Republic to America…with her family’s hope, she could achieve the “American Dream”.
Upon her arrival, Ana ends up finding herself isolated from her family and at the mercy of a husband who neither seems to care for her or her needs. While this was a heartbreaking story in many ways, it was also a tale of strength, persistence, and resilience.
I loved that Cruz chose to share this story from the point of view of Ana. While it was very clear she was a teenager in many ways, she has this introspection that made her wise beyond her years. I loved watching her learn how to exert her own independence in difficult situations when the hits just kept on coming. The connection between Ana and her doll Dominicana was just so beautiful and heartbreaking and added so much to the story for me.
This book follows her as blooms both literally and figuratively into the self-assured women she was meant to become. She is able to find joy in the darkest times and I loved the feeling of lightness she was able to find when she spent time with her brother in law. Ana was able to just be without the constraints of other’s expectations or the brutal reality of her marriage to Juan.
This was one of those books that I enjoyed reading but found it even more thought-provoking and powerful once I finished and reflected upon it. I think it would make a wonderful book club selection and I look forward to following more of Angie Cruz’ writing in the future.
Thank you to NetGalley and Flatiron Books for an advanced ebook copy of this book.
2019 Summer Reading!
Transitioning to “summer mode”
Today is our first (unofficial) day of summer. Our boys finished school on Friday and today we are starting off on our new summer routine. I get a lot of apprehension before big transitions but then usually do just fine once we are in the swing of things. Does this happen to anyone else?
I love summer so much but there is a lack of routines and consistency that as a someone who thrives offs that stuff, well…it can be a bit of struggle. I know I am not alone in this feeling which helps, and whenever I start feeling this way I think about all the wonderful things about summer, like all the new books!!!
ALL the books
I don’t know if I am just noticing it more this year but this spring/summer has the most unbelievable amount of new releases from so many of my favorite authors! Every week another great book is released, and I have met some new to me authors along the way too.
Organizing when life feels chaotic…
Last week I was organizing all the things. In between my last week of solo working and the end of the year school activities, I decided I should work on getting my life together, ha! I have done this since I was a child, and I find it incredibly calming. Amidst the chaos, finding peace through organizing can be quite helpful when you get to worrying.
Summer Book Stack
On our last official day of “freedom” (AKA the last half day of school), I decided to find all our favorite spring and summer reads that Kristy and I have collected together and photograph them. I am sure this was a super great use of my time, but it did pay off for sharing on here!
Between the two of us, we have read all of these and thought they would make great summer reading recommendations stack! We read a lot of the same books and while we don’t always agree with our love for something, we agreed about these!
Life and Other Inconveniences by Kristan Higgins
I am starting off with a book that won’t be released until the beginning of August but it is worth the wait. Kristan Higgins is one of the best summer reading authors in my opinion. Her books are unique, the characters are layered and they are always page turners and totally satisfying. You can read my full review of Life and Other Inconveniences HERE.
In the meantime, if you are looking to read some of her writing now, check these out.
On Second Thought, Good Luck with That & If You Only Knew (which also is a Kindle Deal right now!)
The Friends We Keep by Jane Green
There are certain authors I associate with summer and Jane Green is one of them. Green’s newest release brings us a book about complicated relationships in a completely engaging storyline. I love books that bring in current issues and that seems to be a great theme of 2019 reading. The Friends We Keep brings us betrayal, forgiveness, coming back “home” and a second chance at happiness.
Mrs. Everything by Jennifer Weiner
I know, I need to stop talking about Mrs. Everything…but I can’t! Books affect everyone differently, which is one of my favorite parts fo reading. I just connected so much this book and it made me think, long after I had finished it. You can read my full review HERE. And if you have read Mrs. Everything already, did this touch your reading heart too?
Montauk by Nicola Harrison
There is nothing like finding a new author to love and Montauk did that for me! Nicola Harrison’s writing is beautiful and captivating and she drew me right in from the very first page of Montauk. The storyline was layered and the ending totally caught me off guard! You can read my full review HERE.
The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
Another new to me author is Beth O’Leary! There are a million reasons why I love being a part of Bookstagram, but one of my very favorite things is learning about books I might not have otherwise. The Flatshare came highly recommended to me by some of my favorite book reviewing friends on Instagram. I am easily persuaded by other peoples suggestions and was not disappointed by this charming and relatable novel. You can read my full review HERE.
And finally, the queen of summer reading, Elin Hilderbrand takes us back to the Summer of ’69 in her first historical novel. I am reading this right now and am just loving it. Her books rarely disappoint me and her ability to transport us back in time while still keeping her beach book vibe alive is amazing. I have never been to Nantucket but almost feel like I have been of her incredibly detailed writing. I always love her alternating narrations and storylines and I can’t wait to share my full review of this book soon.
I grabbed my copy a little early through my Book of The Month subscription but this will be released TOMORROW if you hoping to pick it up at your local book store or at your favorite online book retailer.
I hope you have enjoyed this list of recommendations and I would love to know if you have any that you would add! <3
The Flatshare by Beth O’Leary
“Tiffy and Leon share an apartment. Tiffy and Leon have never met.
After a bad breakup, Tiffy Moore needs a place to live. Fast. And cheap. But the apartments in her budget have her wondering if astonishingly colored mold on the walls counts as art.
Desperation makes her open-minded, so she answers an ad for a flatshare. Leon, a night shift worker, will take the apartment during the day, and Tiffy can have it nights and weekends. He’ll only ever be there when she’s at the office. In fact, they’ll never even have to meet.
Tiffy and Leon start writing each other notes – first about what day is garbage day, and politely establishing what leftovers are up for grabs, and the evergreen question of whether the toilet seat should stay up or down. Even though they are opposites, they soon become friends. And then maybe more.
But falling in love with your roommate is probably a terrible idea…especially if you’ve never met.”
May 28th, 2019
The Flatshare is the debut novel by Beth O’Leary and came highly recommended from some of my book reviewing friends. I was excited to check it out as I was looking for something that was both light-hearted and engaging. The flatshare fit the bill and I was pleasantly surprised how well it balanced being a “romantic comedy” while also having enough depth. I was pleased to see that the author was able to incorporate some tougher issues in such a meaningful and powerful manner…this included both abusive relationships and prioritizing mental health. This book made me laugh and also get teary-eyed which was a great balance as a reader.
The Flatshare is told in a dual point of view, alternating between each chapter. I found the characters endearing and I enjoyed that the relationship grew slowly over time. This felt more realistic and allowed the relationship to come together in a more natural way than a lot of books seem to do in this kind of “accidental love story” situation. I loved the friendships in the Flatshare and this eccentric book is definitely one I would recommend adding to your summer reading list! I look forward to reading more of Beth O’Leary’s writing in the future.
Thank you to NetGalley and Flatiron Books for a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
I am a big fan of Jane Harper’s books and was super excited for this newest release. Her books are my favorite kind of thrillers…slow burners with always a totally surprising ending. They aren’t gory but they are suspenseful and always have amazingly detailed characters and scenes that suck you right in. The way she presented the rural Australian property was just amazing and totally helped set the scene for this family drama thriller.
Over the course of the story, family history and secrets were revealed. I connected with Nathan, the main character and enjoyed slowly taking in the family members that were also a part of this complex mystery. There had been tension in this family that has been simmering under the surface for many years and Cameron’s death brought it all to the surface. I was kept guessing to what exactly happened to Cameron in the extremely dangerous Australian outback until the very end where it all came together in such fulfilling way.
Thank you to NetGalley and Flatiron Books for a copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.