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American Dirt


"American Dirt is a Grapes of Wrath for our times."
—Don Winslow
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Discuss American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins:
The term American only appears once in the novel. Did you notice? Why do you think the author made this choice?

Created: 02/06/20

Replies: 14

Posted Feb. 06, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
davinamw

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 2225

The term American only appears once in the novel. Did you notice? Why do you think the author made this choice?

The term "American" only appears once in the novel. Did you notice? Why do you think the author made this choice?


Posted Feb. 08, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
ABeman

Join Date: 01/14/15

Posts: 47

RE: The term American only appears once in the novel. Did you notice? Why do you think the author made this choice?

"American" is a term we in the U.S. like to think is ours alone, when Mexico is part of North America, and Central and South America also claim the term. Every character and place and cultural practice in this book is American in that sense. I think the author used it so sparingly to give the term that much more weight, that much more gravity.

It's actually used twice: once to refer to the flag and once more, in the place that holds the most prime real estate in a novel.

This is a very good question. I'm interested to see what other people have to say.


Posted Feb. 08, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
dawng

Join Date: 02/08/20

Posts: 7

RE: The term American only appears once in the novel. Did you notice? Why do you think the author made this choice?

I did not notice that at all, however, I, too, am interested in other people's thoughts on this. I agree with the previous post that we here in the U.S. tend to "own" the term American, but, yes, we in fact share that word with Mexico, Canada, Central and South America.


Posted Feb. 09, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
melanieb

Join Date: 08/30/14

Posts: 203

RE: The term American only appears once in the novel. Did you notice? Why do you think the author made this choice?

The word “American” includes North and South America. I think the word American is only used once because it all relates to the America’s, it’s not necessarily a Mexican story or a United States story.


Posted Feb. 09, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
peggyt

Join Date: 08/10/17

Posts: 143

RE: The term American only appears once in the novel. Did you notice? Why do you think the author made this choice?

Everyone from the top of North America to the bottom of South America is an American. Let’s not forget what unites us.


Posted Feb. 10, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
laurap

Join Date: 06/19/12

Posts: 290

RE: The term American only appears once in the novel. Did you notice? Why do you think the author made this choice?

Like others, I would note that the term "American" refers to inhabitants of North, Central, and South America -- so in the case of this book, would have referred to everyone. It is also true that inhabitants of the United States tend to think of the identifiers as "theirs." The absence of the term in this book serves, in its own way, to emphasize both of these points.


Posted Feb. 10, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
katherinep

Join Date: 07/16/14

Posts: 235

RE: The term American only appears once in the novel. Did you notice? Why do you think the author made this choice?

Because, as she points out, people from South and Central America as well as Mexicans and Canadians don't like the fact that we in the US have pre-empted the term as though we are the only Americans when the continents are all American.


Posted Feb. 10, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Navy Mom

Join Date: 04/12/12

Posts: 221

RE: The term American only appears once in the novel. Did you notice? Why do you think the author made this choice?

I thought the author discussed that America refers to the whole Western Hemisphere and that many people refer to themselves as American. We seem to think it is ours alone, but it is not. Perhaps she wanted us to see that people are people with the same needs, wants, hopes, loves.


Posted Feb. 10, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Andrea

Join Date: 08/31/18

Posts: 22

RE: The term American only appears once in the novel. Did you notice? Why do you think the author made this choice?

As the author mentions in her note, "One thing I had to learn while doing research for this book was to strangle the word American out of my own vocabulary. Elsewhere in the Western Hemisphere there's some exasperation that the United States has co-opted that word, when in fact the American continents contain multitude of cultures and peoples who consider themselves American, without the hijacked cultural connotations."


Posted Feb. 12, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
christine

Join Date: 05/30/11

Posts: 9

RE: The term American only appears once in the novel. Did you notice? Why do you think the author made this choice?

If you use the word America(n), it should include all of the countries (and people) in North America, Central America, and South America. I feel that the author was sensitive to this fact, and so she used United States and Mexico as parts of North America.. After all, American Dirt took place in both countries.


Posted Feb. 16, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
Carol Rainer

Join Date: 09/03/15

Posts: 89

RE: The term American only appears once in the novel. Did you notice? Why do you think the author made this choice?

Yes - putting her foot on American Dirt was so important to her and what her successful migration was all about.


Posted Feb. 22, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
windellh

Join Date: 11/05/17

Posts: 36

RE: The term American only appears once in the novel. Did you notice? Why do you think the author made this choice?

We in North America tend to think we are the only people worthy of this title. We are bombarded daily with what it means to be an American . It is a state of mind not a place.


Posted Mar. 05, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
gerrieb

Join Date: 09/03/19

Posts: 46

RE: The term American only appears once in the novel. Did you notice? Why do you think the author made this choice?

As Andrea mentioned Ms. Cummins explains her rationale for using the word American sparingly. As many have mentioned she states that others in the Western Hemisphere are somewhat exasperated that the United States seems to think that word only describes them. In fact, as others have pointed out the American contents are home to a multitude of cultures and people who are in fact also Americans. She goes on to mention that Mexican people usually refer to United States "Americans" as a word that roughly translates into "United States-ian". Cummins may also have wanted to make it more obvious that we are all Americans - all those who made that perilous journey into the United States were American as well and that the dirt they were traveling through was all American dirt. There is another passage in the author's note section of the book that discusses a piece of graffiti on the border wall in Tijuana that she found profoundly moving. It says in Spanish " On this side, too, there are dreams." She mentions this as another reminder that the term "American dream" is a theme that the USA has claimed as belonging only to them.


Posted Mar. 18, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
beckyh

Join Date: 05/08/11

Posts: 98

RE: The term American only appears once in the novel. Did you notice? Why do you think the author made this choice?

Because they are ALL Americans! Central and Southern Americans fell very strongly that United States citizens have co-opted their identification as Americans.


Posted Mar. 25, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
taking.mytime's Gravatar
taking.mytime

Join Date: 03/29/16

Posts: 169

RE: The term American only appears once in the novel. Did you notice? Why do you think the author made this choice?

Not having noticed myself when I read this book, I appreciate reading all the views of others.


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