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American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins | March Book of the Month

It's not often a book comes along that changes my perception of the world or my views, but when i now think of the plight of migrants, i will think of American Dirt.

American Dirt follows the journey of Lydia and Luca, a mum and her young son, as they flee Mexico following the slaughtering of her entire family at the hands of one of the many local cartels.

Through their grief they must propel themselves forward, closer and closer to the Mexican border and into the United States.

Along the way they meet many others who are on the same journey, for whatever reasons, including two young sisters who they have an immediate bond with. The sisters atrocious suffering throughout their journey will stay with me forever, it is truly haunting hoever the relationship they create with the mother and son is heartwarming and speaks to the true importance of friendship.

American Dirt does not sugar coat and it rarely prepares you for what you are about to read, but i believe the author has created a great book that will provide an insight and an education into the plight of migrants in the United States of America.

I give this book a definite 10/10 and even thought he book has come under scrutiny, i recommend you give it a read!

Book Club Questions

1. How did American Dirt make you feel?

2. Would you have felt differently if Lydia had been from a different background or social class?

3. Would you have done anything differently to Lydia?

4. What do you think would have happened to Lydia and Luca had the cartel caught them? Do you think Javier would have saved them?

5. Has this book changed your perceptions on the plight of migrants across the world?

6. In the author’s note, Cummins writes: “I was worried that, as a non immigrant and non-Mexican, I had no business writing a book set almost entirely in Mexico, set entirely among immigrants. I wished someone slightly browner than me would write it.” She now says she used “clumsy” wording. What do you feel that the author should have done differently? 

I also found these great reading questions from The Reading Agency!

1. Before Lydia and Luca set out on their journey, she is a middle-class woman living an almost perfect life for herself, running her own bookshop in Acapulco. How did this affect the way you related to Lydia’s character? Did this make for a different reading experience than if Jeanine had told the story from a different point of view?

2. What did Lydia’s friendship with Javier add to your experience of reading the novel? Did you guess his real identity? Were you surprised by this?

3. Sebastián persists in running his story on Javier even though he knows it will put himself, and his family, in danger. How did you feel about this decision?

4. What did the character of Meredith bring to the novel? Could you empathise with her reservations about helping Lydia and Luca?

5. Were you surprised to encounter Rebeca and Soledad, fending for themselves on La Bestia? What did their story add to the novel?

6. At the Casa del Migrante, the priest warns Lydia, Luca, Rebeca and Soledad to turn back ‘If it’s only a better life you seek, seek it elsewhere… This path is only for people who have no choice, no other option, only violence and misery behind you?’ Did this dire warning surprise you, from a religious man?

7. Were you surprised by Marisol’s story, and her motivation for crossing the border?

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

9. When Luca 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… this road is like the crappiest Mexican road he’s ever seen. Dirt, dirt and more dirt’. Why do you think the author entitled this book American Dirt?

10. How did the ending of the book make you feel? Are you inclined to judge Lydia, or to sympathise with her?

Happy Reading!


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