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Thread: American Dirt

  1. #1
    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    American Dirt

    Anyone know about the controversy of this new novel? https://apnews.com/971db8e2487ab58337218d2ddfdcce5e


    TLDR: new novel about a Mexican woman and her child gets great reviews and very strong pre-pub sales including selection as an Oprah Book Club novel. Promotes compassionate immigration ideals. Author is politically liberal. Should be A-ok.

    what’s the controversy? author is not Latino enough to write this story sez the screaming protestors. Her grandmother was Puerto Rican, but that is not good enough. Heckling and hatred ensue. Former supportors withdraw support. Book tour cancelled including author’s talk at our local leftie bookstore.

    She has St. Louis roots and her family was involved in what is probably the most high profile and horrific murder of the past 30 years here. She wrote a book about THAT as well, leaving out any race analysis because she just didnt wanna go there. Cant blame her for that. But never the less, she is now deep into the race doodoo.

  2. #2
    Simpleton Alan's Avatar
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  3. #3
    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    Wow, I was just reading about that. Apparently the book was really well-researched, but her last 13 cities on her book tour have been cancelled. Oprah added it to her book list but may be under pressure to take it off.

    Now I want to read it.

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  4. #4
    Senior Member iris lilies's Avatar
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    This controversy caused me to buy her previous book about the cruel and horrific murder of her cousins.

    I probably won’t buy American Dirt, tho.

  5. #5
    Senior Member razz's Avatar
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    I rarely quote a whole article but this has so many good points included on the topic plus some other Mexican writers to explore.

    Source: https://www.csmonitor.com/Books/Book...relevant-novel

    January 30, 2020

    By Joan Gaylord Correspondent
    “American Dirt” will likely be challenging to read, both for the tale it tells as well as for the controversy it has generated. (Read our story here.) Jeanine Cummins’ best-selling novel was first received with enormous praise, but then discussions surrounding it quickly devolved into fierce debates about appropriation and the marginalization of Latino writers. These debates are vital and overdue. Publishers have long overlooked Mexican women writers, especially, and the current discussion draws needed attention to that fact.

    In the days since its release, though, the headlines have threatened to overshadow the work as a piece of literature and what it does provide. With the topic of immigration dominating the news, we are bombarded with statistics but have little sense of the human beings involved. In situations like this, the arts can bring compassion and empathy that allows us to see our commonalities. Though flawed, this book adds to that discussion.

    The novel opens dramatically with a large, joyful family celebration of a quinceanera, a 15th birthday party, which is extinguished by a hail of bullets. Lydia and her young son, Luca, are the lone survivors. Lydia, a local bookseller, knows the devastation to be retribution for her journalist husband’s expose of a local drug cartel. She also knows that she and her son are not safe as long as they remain in Mexico. Their only hope of survival is escaping north to the border.

    What follows is a suspense tale, a life-and-death adventure story in which Lydia must discern which path to take and whom to trust. She does not have time to grieve the loss of her family, especially her husband. Every thought must remain focused on getting herself and her son safely through each day.

    Theirs is not a solo journey. Others facing similar desperate circumstances share resources and provide cover – even a measure of anonymity – as Lydia tries to outwit the cartel. She begins to realize that the usual labels designating who is “other” shift and sometimes disappear entirely. While she has always seen herself as educated and not one of “them,” such distinctions no longer apply. Each in his or her own way is trying to achieve a common goal – to escape the current precarious circumstances and hopefully find something better.

    Whether or not readers personally identify with the storyline about a frantic escape to another country, almost everyone will find glimpses of shared experiences, of the times when everyday life changed in a flash as the result of events beyond one’s control. Many people know the times of having to stay totally focused on a single goal, an effort that does not allow time to grieve, because emotions seem like a luxury in extreme situations. Recognizing this commonality might help to build bridges in a political debate that could desperately use civil conversations around immigration.

    Does the plot over-simplify some of the people and many of the situations, as critics argue? Yes. The Mexican writers and readers who have weighed in on the issue have said so and their voices offer valuable insights.

    But those arguments do not negate the merits of this book. Rather, they highlight the need for more books on the issue, ones written by Mexican and Central American writers. They are out there but they do require some conscientious digging to find. The North Star to help identify them is to search out the hashtag #OwnVoice.

    Here are a few suggestions:

    “Everyone Knows You Go Home” by Natalia Sylvester

    “The Devil’s Highway” by Luís Alberto Urrea

    “Crux” by Jean Guerrero

    “Children of the Land” by Marcelo Hernandez Castillo
    Gandhi: Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony .

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    Luca does seem off as a name for a male since it ends in an A. If I see the book in my library I will probably check it out though. People can write effectively about others. For example, Steinbeck was neither an Okie nor a cannery worker.

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    I have not read American Dirt and after reading a New York Times article about the book and its reception, I may never get around to it...

    But "the freedom to read is essential to our democracy." - American Library Association, 1953.

    Don't be afraid to go to your library and read every book, as long as any document does not offend your own ideas of decency.
    -- President Dwight D. Eisenhower, June 14, 1953

    The author can be considered a dangerous Communist (as in the McCarthy Era of the early 1950s), or criticized for being published because of "white privilege"... or attacked for being in league with one devil or some other.

    If you believe she wrote an inadequate story, write a better one. I agree with razz: bring on more books, not less.

  8. #8
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    Isn't the book a novel, a work of fiction?

    The more I read the more the controversy seems to be about money and access to money and less about the book itself.

  9. #9
    Senior Member catherine's Avatar
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    I don't think criticizing a author's background as qualification to write is valid at all--that seems obvious. If that were the case, Michener would have been crucified as an author. But it looks like it's not just about her background, it's her accuracy, according to this article in Slate

    Apparently, the characters misrepresent typical Mexicans. Most single Mexican Latinas don't own businesses. Drug lords aren't handsome like Al Pacino in The Godfather. So what? The author has the right to build characters any way she chooses. Maybe she didn't set out to codify a particular population. Is this book supposed to draw Mexican caricatures, or are they allowed to be drawn from the author's mind? Why can't the female victim be middle class? Why can't the "bad guy" be debonair? Is this prosaic world we live in transforming us into creatures of such shallow imagination?

    I don't understand the controversy. As others have said, if people want to tell a different story, they should tell it.
    "Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it--every, every minute?" Emily Webb, Our Town
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  10. #10
    Senior Member KayLR's Avatar
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    Catherine, +1. I don't really get it either.
    Years ago I read TC Boyle's "Tortilla Curtain," and found it riveting. I kinda doubt he's Latino with that name, but nonetheless, the book stood on its own.

    I think the whole controversy is righteousness porn.
    My therapist told me the way to achieve true inner peace is to finish what I start. So far today, I have finished two bags of M&Ms and a chocolate cake. I feel better already!

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