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American Dirt

"American Dirt is a Grapes of Wrath for our times."
—Don Winslow
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Controversy over this book

Created: 02/08/20

Replies: 47

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

Join Date: 06/25/14

Posts: 62

RE: Controversy over this book

I was shocked that there was controversy re: this well written and timely novel. I don't agree with the naysayers at all and agree with most of the Book Browse readers that have stated their dismay about the criticisms. I could repeat all of their excellent points however it would only be repetitious. Let me only say that I hope the criticism will sell A LOT of books for Jeanine Cummins! Her novel was interesting and it deserves a wide readership.

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

Join Date: 01/05/20

Posts: 5

RE: Controversy over this book

I thought this book was phenomenal when i read it and recommended it to all of my favorite readers. No one needs to have any particular experience of a subject to write a novel. If it has the ring of authenticity for at least a large portion of readers that' s the important thing. If it speaks to the reader , that is what is important , at least to me . And this book flowed well, told a story, developed rich characters and told a story. Everything that novel is meant to do. And it had the extra bonus of having a message that fits well in todays cultural and political in environment. I think that all of the criticisms are bogus especially the plagiarism one; and I was shocked to hear that the author was threatened in any way. I think that it should be read and talked about. Yes, if interested in immigration there are other books by Latino writers, there are other non-fiction and fiction books that can be found . A reader can read more that one book on the subject.

Posted Feb. 19, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert

Join Date: 03/26/18

Posts: 21

RE: Controversy over this book

I will come right out of the gate and tell you that I am a forty-something white woman from the Mid-Atlantic region who has never in her wildest nightmares had to face the struggles and atrocities featured in this book. But I'm going to be 100% real with you in my thoughts here.

Now that that's out of the way, let me tell you my reflection on the controversy: From the outset, when I first heard just the smallest bit about the author, I was desperate to get my hands on this book. At that time, it was for one reason only: she is from my home state. She went to college where many of my friends and family went to school. My thought was, "Wow! A local girl wrote this book. I've GOT to read it." Then, I read a brief synopsis and my want wavered slightly. "Oh, I cannot relate personally. Am I even going to be able to get into this book?" Then, I started reading. And there were times when I wanted to put it down. Not because I didn't like it, but because I was feeling for Lydia so much that it was upsetting. She is a mother who will move heaven and earth to protect her child. THAT I understand fully.

On one hand, I want to defend the author. No, she didn't live this first-hand. But that's what makes it fiction. And she did her research (as much as a person outside looking in can). So, as an outsider, of course there will be mistakes. As the person I describe I am in the first line of my post, I don't feel as though I am in any position to comment or speculate on such errors.

Similarly, I am also not a member of the publishing industry. So, I can't say why one person gets a seven-figure deal and massive publicity boosts and another doesn't. I don't know what makes one person's story more "valuable" than another's. Is it fair? Absolutely not.

Which leads me to my final thought: "I am only one person who has no dog in this fight. What can I do?" As a consumer of books, my answer is educate myself. I went into this book blind. I had no ideas about migrants outside of things I had heard in passing through the media. I live smack-dab in the middle of the eastern seaboard. There are no "borders" near me that I've ever paid any mind. And you know what? That's my own fault. I never paid attention because "it has nothing to do with me". But Lydia taught me differently. These are families. These are children. These are someone's loved ones, fighting for their lives. Reading this book, albeit a fictionalized version, gave a fictional face for me to a very real plight I had willfully ignored. So, what will I do? I'll do what I do best. I will read. I will read anything I can get my hands on about this matter. Because if there was anything my father taught me, it was that you can have any opinion you want. But you better be able to logically and articulately defend it. And I can't do that without arming myself with the proper information. And for me, that means researching the people who so vehemently oppose this book and its author to understand WHY they feel the way they do. I will search out the works of those authors and read as much as I can to try to understand THEIR experience. Then, if it sheds light on why American Dirt is so wrong, then I'll be all the better for knowing. If I can do my very small part by boosting sales of those Latinx authors, then that's my own tiny step forward. If I can educate myself, if I can peer outside of my insulated little middle-aged, white suburban mother bubble, and learn more about what is going on in the world, I will be a better person for it. I believe that education is the key to widespread change. And my own change must start with me. I will keep learning until I can go from "I am only one person. What can I do?" to "I am one person. Look what I can do!" I realize that these thoughts may come off as privileged and self-serving. I acknowledge that. But all we can do is recognize our personal downfalls, work to correct them, try to raise the next generation a bit better when we were, and do our best to help those who may not be as fortunate as ourselves. And exposure to differing points of view, especially through controversy, is one step toward breaking down previously held barriers and more empathy for our fellow human beings.

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

Join Date: 11/05/17

Posts: 72

RE: Controversy over this book

I don’t the author matters as much as the story. It is a matter of perception. I choose to review my books as impress me, not what the majority perceive.

Posted Feb. 23, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert

Join Date: 03/14/19

Posts: 184

RE: Controversy over this book

The controversy over American Dirt has certainly brought a great deal more attention to the problems immigrants face in trying to get into the US and after their arrival. The current climate of keeping others out of the US is brought to light. While the book is being criticized, it is creating a larger discussion.

Posted Feb. 28, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert

Join Date: 09/11/11

Posts: 132

RE: Controversy over this book

I loved this book and tried to absorb the controversy from different angles. I decided that when we try to tell authors what they can and can't write, it becomes a slippery slope towards censorship. Should men not write from a female's perspective? Should William Styron not have written Sophie's Choice because he is not Jewish and the book is in a woman's voice? I say 'NO'. Creativity should open doors, not close them. I believe that a lot of this anger about Cummins being a white woman who wrote a Latinx book stems from jealousy and envy. Her book is a hit and a lot of the nay-sayers are just bitter about her success.

Posted Mar. 03, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert
patty claire

Join Date: 04/05/19

Posts: 34

RE: Controversy over this book

I am very disturbed about the controversy. This is a wonderful book that creates characters we care about, it is suspenseful and about an important subject. I have read other books by Mexican or Latino authors that have been very good but I don't think that that should take anything away from what this author has accomplished. You don't have to live something to write about it. The author spent years doing research for this novel if being endorsed by a celebrity helps her sell more books I am very happy for her success.

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

Join Date: 09/03/19

Posts: 154

RE: Controversy over this book

I was angered by the often hateful and ferocious attacks on the author. I read articles about the controversy in the NYT and the WP. I understand that many of the complaints were due to the lack of publishing opportunities given to Latinx authors. That seems a fair complaint to make, but then make it to the publishing houses themselves. While the roll out of this book may not have been as thoughtfully conceived as it could have been, to then harass an author of a fiction novel to the level of having to cancel book tours is repugnant behavior. To attack an author of FICTION because she is deemed an unreliable source because she has no first hand knowledge of her story, and therefore should never be permitted to write it, is a poor excuse for an argument.The author writes in her author's note about building bridges and I am amazed at the length some have gone to blow this bridge up. If this book can reach someone who otherwise would remain ignorant of the issue and can cause them to engage and to become an agent for compassion why would anyone want to shut it down? If the argument is that no Latinx author had their book published then make that claim, and garner support for your case, but do you really need to attack some one who did get published? Also, realize that because I bought this book doesn't mean I won't buy a Latinx author's when its published, in fact, the publishing and popularity of American Dirt may cause any book on immigration to then have a broader audience. I am left wondering - what is the more important issue here? Is it the someone else got published and made money and someone else didn't? Or is that many, many people who never knew much about immigration nor considered the horrifying plight of these immigrants now have some concept of the issues and now care more than they did yesterday and now have some compassion and interest in demanding their elected officials change the system for the better. As an aside, men have been writing pregnancy, labor and delivery books and scenes for years and many are labeled as NONFICTION and I have yet to see one actually gestate and push out a baby.

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

Join Date: 10/17/12

Posts: 10

RE: Controversy over this book

I just finished this novel. I thought it was very well written. I am recommending it to all. Controversy just made sales go up.

Posted Mar. 07, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert

Join Date: 04/15/19

Posts: 19

RE: Controversy over this book

I received an ARC of this book from Flatiron books back in May 2019. I loved the book, the beginning was so shocking and sad. One of the best openings for a novel I have read in awhile! I was hooked. I felt the pain and I felt sympathy and empathy for the immigrants coming across our borders. I couldn't wait for the release in January so everyone could experience this novel and maybe just maybe have a better understanding of why immigrants cross our borders in such numbers. I was devastated to read so many negative reviews and spent allot of time with my online book friends discussing this turn of events. My local Independent Bookstore cancelled her appearance and I'm still angry but understand that the retaliation may have harmed the author and/or the bookstore. This is a novel and the fact that critics commented that only Latinx could write this story bothered me very much. Are we going to scrutinize every author of fiction to confirm that they have the right to tell this story? That they experienced the subject matter or someone in their family did? This is fiction not a memoir!!!!

Posted Mar. 13, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert

Join Date: 06/18/17

Posts: 2

RE: Controversy over this book

Does anyone know if this book has been translated into Spanish or if there are any plans to do so?

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

Join Date: 03/29/16

Posts: 324

RE: Controversy over this book

I truly believe that the controversy was started by a jealous-no-name author that did not have the ability to write such a good book. I mentioned in another post that a good author - regardless of nationality, does a tremendous amount of research and therefor puts out a good book. I have read a number of migration based books and unless it was a memoir, most are not written by a member of the migrating population. The fact that a Caucasian woman wrote a FICTION novel about Mexican migration - that I might say was well researched and written superbly - should have no baring on the book. It is shameful that a fellow author would start such rabid and unnecessary controversy and slander such a good book and young developing author.

Posted Mar. 25, 2020 Go to Top | Go to bottom | link | alert

Join Date: 10/15/10

Posts: 3058

RE: Controversy over this book

Two of BookBrowse's editors recently published a blog post on the topic, including half a dozen recommendations by Latinx authors which you may find of interest:

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