“That these people would leave their homes, their cultures, their families, even their languages, and venture into tremendous peril, risking their very lives, all for the chance to get to the dream of some faraway country that doesn’t even want them.” -Jeanine Cummins, American Dirt
“American Dirt” by Jeanine Cummins was one of the most anticipated books of the year. Let me tell you, this book lived up to the hype. From the first chapter you are gripped by the horror of the Mexican drug cartels, the evil prospect of someone looking not just to kill you, but looking to kill everyone in your family and everyone you care about.
The book is both a cautionary tale but also revelatory of the evil that unchecked power can produce and the lengths that it would go to track you down, hunt you, and seek to destroy you when you get on an evil person’s bad side.
Don Winslow calls “American Dirt,” the Grapes of Wrath of our times. I feel like the parallels between this book and John Steinbeck’s classic historical fiction of times during the dust bowl in Oklahoma in the 1930s is an excellent comparison. I think where to the diverge is that the dust bowl lasted less than a decade and the way that drug cartels have situated themselves in places like Acapulco and numerous other cities in Mexico and South America, the violence, the murders, the drug, sex, and people trafficking look to continue unchecked for a long time to come.
The book grabs you from the start and doesn’t let go until the epilogue. The perils of the life of a migrant seem to be continuous and endless. From the threats of being robbed, raped, arrested, abducted to the threats of exposure in the hot desert landscape to the dangers of travel by freight train or by box truck or on any other number of means of transportation not suitable for use by humans, every twist and turn of this book catches your breath in your throat.
This book is one of the top fictional novels I’ve read this year, and even the past few years. I loved how Cummins incorporated in colloquial Spanish throughout. It was something I appreciated as I used to be fluent in Spanish, mostly Spanglish from years working with Latinos and taking more than five years of Spanish in high school and college.
I really recommend you go read this book soon, or at a minimum add it to your “to-read” list.
Get your copy of “American Dirt” from Amazon.