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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
  • 4.7 out of 5 stars (2,709 ratings)

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American Dirt (Oprah's Book Club)

Written by: Jeanine Cummins
Narrated by: Yareli Arizmendi
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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

Amazon.com Best Books of the Year - 2020

Boston Globe Best Books of the Year - 2020

©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 just gutted me, and I didn’t just read this book—I inhabited it.... Everything about this book was so extraordinary. It’s suspenseful, the language is beautiful, and the story really opened my heart. I highly recommend it, and you will not want to put it down. It is just a magnificent novel.” (Oprah) 

"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

What listeners say about American Dirt (Oprah's Book Club)

Average Customer Ratings
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  • Overall
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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.

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14 people found this helpful

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    2 out of 5 stars
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    2 out of 5 stars

Not "Grapes of Wrath for our times"

There are a lot of heated debates out there about whether this book accurately portrays the lives of migrants. My review is not about that (I am not qualified to have an opinion on that).

The comparison to Steinbeck's classic was one of the reasons the book attracted my attention. Alas, I don't believe this is a good comparison.... It is not even close! The characters have potential, but not well developed. Well, unless you consider being melodramatic good character development. I find the pose awkward and clumsy. And then there is this constant shift of point-of-view... making it sometimes disorienting. This is made worse when the author used adult language when you are supposed to be narrating from the point of view of an eight year old.

On the positive side, the book does move at a good pace and is generally easy listen. Just don't expect it to have the caliber to Gapes of Wrath.

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10 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

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!!!

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10 people found this helpful

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Superbly written

There is nothing I love more than a well written book about something that is a revelation to me. The way I felt about this book reminded me of the way I felt when I read my all time favourite book "A Fine Balance" - some paragraphs so impactful that you want to keep it open to the page and shine a light on it to remember it always or write it down in a journal that you can pull out and read over and over again. Both of these books brought me to people, places and situations that unknown to me before I read them - India in the 1970's when I was a teenager on the other side of the world not knowing what was going on there and now American Dirt a present day migrant journey that feels worlds away from me. I felt that I could see things, hear things and smell things along their journey, the descriptions where so good. As far as controversy goes - I do not buy into it as many authors have written wonderful books about places and times that they did not experience for themselves.
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7 people 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.

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6 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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wonderful read!

loved it! I could not put the book down! had me gasping at every turn.

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3 people found this helpful

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    5 out of 5 stars
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Mesmerizing story

Wasn't sure whether this was a story that I would really enjoy but wanted to give it a fair try. I have to say it gripped me right from the start and made me want to keep listening, partly to find out what happens to Lydia and Luca, but also to educate myself about what migrants really endure, trying to get to 'El Norte'. A truly inspiring read/listen!!

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2 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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Not what I expected.

Too much detail and time spent on the illegal train ride to America. character development was interesting.

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2 people found this helpful

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    4 out of 5 stars

beautifully enveloping story and performance

a great balance of a compelling page a great balance of a compelling page turner, well drawn characters, great prose , well drawn characters, great prose

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    5 out of 5 stars
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WOW

This is an incredible story. ignore the controversy and enjoy this amazing book. Beautiful writing.

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