One of our recommended audiobooks is American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins

AMERICAN DIRT (AUDIOBOOK)


También de este lado hay sueños. On this side, too, there are dreams.

Lydia Quixano Pérez 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 a few books he would like to buy –

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También de este lado hay sueños. On this side, too, there are dreams.

Lydia Quixano Pérez 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 a few 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.

Forced to flee, Lydia and eight-year-old Luca soon find themselves miles and worlds away from their comfortable middle-class existence. Instantly transformed into migrants, Lydia and Luca ride la bestia – trains that make their way north toward the United States, which is the only place Javier’s reach doesn’t extend. As they join the countless people trying to reach el norte, Lydia soon sees that everyone is running from something. But what exactly are they running to?

American Dirt will leave listeners utterly changed. It is a literary achievement filled with poignancy, drama, and humanity. It is one of the most important books for our times.

Already being hailed as “a Grapes of Wrath for our times” and “a new American classic”, Jeanine Cummins’ American Dirt is a rare exploration into the inner hearts of people willing to sacrifice everything for a glimmer of hope.

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  • Macmillan Audio
  • Paperback
  • January 2020
  • 9781250260604

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$32.99

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About Jeanine Cummins

Jeanine Cummins is the author of American Dirt, credit Joe KennedyJeanine Cummins is the author of the novels The Outside Boy and The Crooked Branch and the bestselling memoir A Rip in Heaven. She lives in New York with her husband and two children.

Author Website

Praise

#1 New York Times best seller
Oprah’s Book Club Pick

“Narrator Yareli Arizmendi illuminates the humanity and individuality of Latin American migrants as they flee toward refuge in the North…. The account of Lydia and Luca’s travails, including terrifying rides atop Mexico’s freight trains, is utterly compelling. But it is Arizmendi’s voicing of Lydia, so full of fierce tenderness, that will stay with listeners after the story’s close.”  AudioFile Magazine

“Extraordinary.” – Stephen King

“This book is not simply the great American novel; it’s the great novel of las Americas. It’s the great world novel! This is the international story of our times. Masterful.” – Sandra Cisneros

 

Discussion Questions

1. Throughout the novel, Lydia thinks back on how, when she was living a middle-class existence, she viewed migrants with pity: “All her life she’s pitied those poor people. She’s donated money. She’s wondered with the sort of detached fascination of the comfortable elite how dire the conditions of their lives must be wherever they come from, that this is the better option. 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” (chapter 10, page 94). Do you think the author chose to make Lydia a middle-class woman as her protagonist for a reason? Do you think the reader would have had a different entry point to the novel if Lydia started out as a poor migrant? Would you have viewed Lydia differently if she had come from poor origins? How much do you identify with Lydia?

2. Sebastián persists in running his story on Javier even though he knows it will put him and his family in grave danger. Do you admire what he did? Was he a good journalist or a bad husband and father? Is it possible he was both? What would you have done if you were him?

3. Lydia looks at Luca and thinks to herself: “Migrante. She can’t make the word fit him. But that’s what they are now. This is how it happens” (chapter 10, page 94). Lydia refers to her and Luca becoming migrants as something that happened to them rather than something they did. Do you think the author intentionally made this sentence passive? Do you think language allows us to label things as “other” that is, in a way, tantamount to self-preservation? Does it allow us to compartmentalize things that are too difficult to comprehend?

4. When Lydia is at the Casa del Migrante, she learns the term cuerpomático—“human ATM machine”—and what it means. Were you surprised to learn how dangerous the passage is, and for female migrants in particular?

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

6. When Luca finally crosses over to the United States, he’s disappointed: “The road below is nothing like the roads Luca imagined he’d encounter in the USA. He thought every road here would be broad as a boulevard, paved to perfection, and lined with fluorescent shopfronts. This road is like the crappiest Mexican road he’s ever seen. Dirt, dirt, and more dirt” (chapter 31, page 329). Discuss the significance of the title, American Dirt. What do you think the author means by it?

7. “I heard if your life is in danger wherever you come from, they’re not allowed to send you back there.” To Lydia it sounds like mythology, but she can’t help asking anyway, “You have to be Central American? To apply for asylum?” Beto shrugs. “Why? Your life in danger?” Lydia sighs. “Isn’t everyone’s?” (chapter 26, page 277) If you were writing the rules for asylum eligibility, what would they be?

8. Why do you think there are birds on the cover of the novel?

Excerpt