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American Dirt (Oprah's Book Club)

A Novel
Written by: Jeanine Cummins
Narrated by: Yareli Arizmendi
Length: 16 hrs and 43 mins
4.5 out of 5 stars (77 ratings)

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Publisher's Summary

Number-one New York Times best seller

Oprah’s Book Club Pick

"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)

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. 

"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)

©2020 Jeanine Cummins (P)2020 Macmillan Audio

What the critics say

"I strive to write page-turners because I love to read them, and it’s been a long time since I turned pages as fast as I did with American Dirt. Its plot is tight, smart, and unpredictable. Its message is important and timely, but not political. Its characters are violent, compassionate, sadistic, fragile, and heroic. It is rich in authenticity. Its journey is a testament to the power of fear and hope and belief that there are more good people than bad." (John Grisham)

"American Dirt is both a moral compass and a riveting read. I couldn’t put it down. I’ll never stop thinking about it." (Ann Patchett, number-one New York Times best-selling author of The Dutch House and Commonwealth)

"Relevant, powerful, extraordinary. It is a remarkable combination of joy and terror, infused always with the restorative power of a mother's love and the endless human capacity for hope. I hope everyone reads it and is as moved by it as I was." (Kristin Hannah, number one New York Times best-selling author of The Nightingale and The Great Alone)

What members say

Average Customer Ratings

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AMAZING!!!

This book gripped me from the moment I started listening to it. I was completely blown away by the imagery and the details. The language was just incredible. The author really outdid herself in portraying the world through the migrant view. I loved the narrator as well. I will listen to this book again and again. Definitely changed my perspective from passive acceptance to really seeing the struggles these people face. I wish I could do something to help. It will tear at your heart strings. Make you cry a bit and laugh too. I resonated with all of the characters. It was awe-inspiring. Perfect!!!

1 person found this helpful

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Thank you

A great story that all should read. Very eye opening. Very well researched. Thank you for writing the story.

1 person found this helpful

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Gut wrenching to listen to...

This story though beautifully written is not for the faint of heart. However no matter how hard the story was to listen to at times I couldn’t turn it off.

1 person found this helpful

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A compelling story that needs to be heard

Just after I downloaded this story, I heard the author was receiving death threats. People apparently were angry she was from Puerto Rico and had the audacity to tell a story of a tragedy from Mexico or Central America...except it is her story to tell and it is a world-wide issue. It is all of our issue. People are being persecuted in their home countries and in their adopted countries both. The author advised she is married to a person who strived to become a legal immigrant for years.

The story was compelling and sad and made me angry at the wrongs perpetrated in the name of power or sex or money or racism or nationalistic protectionism or whatever other excuse for evil. It also spoke to resiliency and superhuman strength to understand we are all in this together in our drive to make a better life for ones self and our families.

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Fantastic!

This was an amazing listen! The story was compelling and I did not ever want to turn it off! The story telling was absolutely fantastic! Loved and recommended to everyone!

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Resilience and Courage, a Story for our Times

Loved the rawness of this story, kept me on the edge all the way through! Do not miss this one!

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A Masterpiece

Despite what some reviews may say, Jeanine Cummins was born to write this book. The book is a masterpiece and definitely in my top 10 books of all-time.
This is a story about people seeking a life that so many of us take for granted. A life free of constant terror. A life where we can expect to see our loved ones arrive home safe and sound at the end of every day.
Thank you to the author for having the courage to write this book.
And thank you to the narrator who brought these characters to life. Excellence all around.

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Fantastic! A must read for all to open your eyes and heart!

One of the best books I’ve read this year; heart wrenching yet hopeful! This story will educate your belief of immigrants and better your understanding. We may think we understand; but truly we do not. Thank you for opening my eyes and heart wider than ever before!

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Plot is compelling, albeit predictable ...

... pace is slowwww, POV authorial/confusing/too convenient, characters cliche/superficial/predictable/flat, writing is lazy/uninspired/way too much telling

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Gripping Story

I rarely review books. A book must be extraordinary for me to do this.
This story is extraordinary. On so many occasions, I found myself gripping the side of my chair or gasping with my hand over my mouth. It is very well written and very well narrated. It is an unbelievable story that I had never taken much time to think about. I recommend it highly.

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  • Nat Smith
  • 2020-01-27

Stereotypes and melodrama

Endless, endless melodrama yawn inducing, and without any nuance in characters. Also without any suspense. Just a dreary slog. And this is a “great” book? Twain must be rolling in his grave.

75 people found this helpful

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  • Jess Tarr
  • 2020-01-22

Gripping, Heartbreaking, Beautiful & Eye-Opening!

This was a difficult book to read because it is SO well-written and so vividly and accurately describes the treacherous decisions and journeys of migrants attempting to cross the border into the USA. I felt as if I was there with them as they experienced the horrors and beautiful glimpses of humanity on their incredible escape. I could not stop listening, even though I really wanted to close my heart off to their pain at moments. Not only was it an excellently written book, it is an important reminder of the hardships and suffering that many humans in the world must deal with daily. It will leave you feeling grateful for your life and hopefully full of empathy for the lives of people less fortunate.

I am a picky reader but truly cannot find a single flaw with this book or the narration. I'm going to look up more books by this author as soon as I post this review!

57 people found this helpful

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  • R. Rodriguez
  • 2020-01-31

Sappy and unrealistic - an insult to intelligence

I know there's a bunch of controversies, but that's not even the point. As I read this book everything just seemed like a telenovela version of reality. Really overblown, sappy and uneven. Stereotypical, one-dimensional. It goes from unrealistic depictions of gang activities in Mexico, with the most ridiculous scenarios of power to a (I don't even know what word to use) innocent romance between a murderous gang leader who wears spectacles and happens also to have a soft heart and loves bad poetry. And he is just is "so misunderstood". REALLY! What a waste of time and money, after 14 slogging chapters trying to find out what I am missing, I gave up. I would bet this will become a bad movie with the typical cast of Hollywood Hispanic characters. The performer reads the book as if she's on Prozac. How irritating.

45 people found this helpful

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  • Melinda
  • 2020-01-31

A very mediocre book.

I bought this title before the negative criticisms arose. When my daughter expressed shock at my purchasing it I was dismayed because i thought it was too mundane to be controversial. I think it’s lack of excellence is what becomes so offensive as you proceed through it. The plot line isn’t terrible. It is contrived and improbable ,but it is fiction. The author uses way, way too much repetitive reflection as padding. The reading probably propels the book more than it deserves because it is very good. It is just such a trite, Lifetime Movie perspective on the gut wrenching tragedy suffered by those forced into migration, It steers so vehemently away from the disastrous political and racist elements involved. It poses no questions whatsoever, just runs it’s dull, repetitive, derivative narrative down the track. It turns an epic historical tragedy into a dull novel. Now that’s tricky. If Oprah hadn’t endorsed it the book would have disappeared like so many bad efforts do.

33 people found this helpful

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  • Joy
  • 2020-01-24

A must read

While the characters in this story eluded to and endured many unpleasant and life changing events, I feel that this story was maybe a little sugar coated. No - not the sticky sweet sort, just not digging into the nasty underbelly of some of the events. Not that I think that was a bad thing or maybe even necessary. There was a lot of information that needed to be touched on and the author did an excellent job in covering so many reasons, possibilities and realities. I appreciated following characters who were good people but needed to leave, I appreciated reading about the bad apple sort who were part of the story and I appreciated the people who opened up their hearts, food and shelter to those in need.
I think this is a must read for everyone and especially to those who think we should close our borders to all. We should remember that our nation is a nation built on immigrants and no matter the race, color or religion, you and your forefathers came from somewhere else and undoubtedly suffered their share of discrimination and hardship. My guess is most of them were not criminals just people looking for a better life.
My thoughts are getting political so I'm going to stop now. In the end, this is a good heart warming story.

31 people found this helpful

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  • Shane
  • 2020-01-28

Get ready to rethink your opinion!<br /><br />

I don't write a lot of reviews because I listen to a couple of audiobooks a week. Sometimes they all run together but hold on to your hat with this one! I've always had pretty strong opinions about migrants but this really pushed me outside of my comfort zone and made me rethink. Put yourself in the lives of these people and think how you might react. What would you?? No spoilers here, I'll just say read this with an open mind...

28 people found this helpful

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 2020-01-31

Amazing!

I’m Mexican-American, but my parents were from Mexico. They both came to the US as illegals, but eventually received their green cards. They became US citizens many years later (in their 60s/70s). This book touched my heart and opened my eyes to the atrocities that the migrants go thru. The controversy about this book that is out there is insane. I not once thought that this book added to a Latino stereotype. I have never written a review for any of the many books I have read or listened to, but felt compelled to write one for this book. Jeanine, you are an amazing author. Please continue to write more books that impact our society and don’t let the naysayers affect your writing. God bless you from San Diego...

24 people found this helpful

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  • Deb
  • 2020-01-25

Amazing!

This book is great, for so many reasons. Yes, you have to get over the fact that Jeanine Cummins is not Mexican, and that she is not an immigrant, but she is human and therefore able to make connections and move you with her words. The amount of details, is shocking. All her characters are relatable, and throughout the book their pain becomes our pain, their joy, our joy. It’s a book filled with raw emotions, and you can’t help but keep listing, and cheering those characters on.

20 people found this helpful

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  • Anonymous User
  • 2020-01-25

SHOULD BE REQUIRED READING FOR EVERY AMERICAN...<br />

This novel is an incredible journey...If you are a skeptic about what's going on in our world today regarding immigration, please read this novel...It will change your whole perspective on freedom and the fight for human dignity...

17 people found this helpful

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  • valerie
  • 2020-01-23

Humbling

This is s book that was highly anticipated by many. I began reading it the day it was released. IT is long and at time slow. But it was interesting. Definitely gives you a different view of immigrants. Although I don’t speak Spanish, I was able to understand the passages spoken in Spanish.

Recommendation: Read It

14 people found this helpful