Every once in awhile you come across a great read. That page turner that you just can not put down. Days after you devour the book it is still on your mind. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is that book for me. I have heard many stories from my students about their journeys to the US from Central America and Mexico. The stories they tell are reminiscent of some of what is in this novel. While this novel is a work of fiction some of the poignant moments will evoke real emotions and tell stories that have happened.
This story starts fairly quickly with the murder of sixteen family members by the local cartel. Lydia and her son Luca are the only two that were not killed. This murder takes place at a family quinceañera, a celebration of Lydia’s nieces 15th birthday. In the Mexican culture this is a formal transition from childhood to womanhood. This is a party where the young woman would likely wear a long formal dress. Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, Grandparents the entire family comes dressed up to celebrate. Jeanine Cummins has the ability to transport you to the scene in the book.
I was enthralled for the whole story. Beginning at the murder, through the journey Lydia and Luca embark upon to escape the cartel. They ride trains, cars, trucks, buses and hire a coyote to get them into the US on foot. Having heard stories from my students I know the stories are unbelievable to those of us that live in relative peace in our own country. While we may not like the party that is in leadership, we have an intact government. In some parts of the world this is not the case.
Imagine, right now you have two minutes to leave your house with only what you can carry. Times up you have to leave you can not think, you leave, you walk away to survive. You are not leaving for an appointment that you will return from. This is it you are gone, gone from your house, your school, your church, none of these places will see you again. It is not safe you run and hide. You are on the streets with your eight year old son. This is the story told so eloquently in this book.
I do not want to take away your experience in reading this book. I want it to make you think and ponder. To. Imagine and try to make sense of how and why someone would just leave their country. How bad would it have to be for you to leave? How awful and corrupt would the government need to be? What amount of lawlessness must exist? Just how close does the drug cartel have to be to your doorstep. Ponder these things and the plight of those coming into our country from our neighbors in the south; Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaraguan right down to Venezuela. These things you have pondered are not imaginative for many, they are reality! I continue to be touched by this book days after I finished it! Grab a copy and enjoy the read!