American Dirt (Oprah's Book Club)

American Dirt (Oprah's Book Club) by Jeanine Cummins Book Summary

#1 New York Times Bestseller

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 readers utterly changed. It is a literary achievement filled with poignancy, drama, and humanity on every page. 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's 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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American Dirt (Oprah's Book Club) (Jeanine Cummins) Book Reviews

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- Gripping story!5 star

So well-written and had me from page 1. Very compelling characters and story line.

- Captivating story!5 star

Excellent book! I spent many nights not being able to put it down. It’s definitely on my top list of tops books I have ever read. Ignore all the negative reviews. You won’t regret reading this story. Even though it’s a work of fiction, it’s definitely given me a new perspective.

- Thief !1 star

This woman stole from prominent Hispanic authors, white washed it, and tried to call it an original piece.

- Why is this being sold still?1 star

Who is even buying this now?

- Amazing Insight5 star

Author Jeanine Cummings sheds a thorough spotlight on reasons why people leave the terror of the cartel and make their way North. After the massacre of her entire family there is nothing to do but take her child join the ranks of many seeking refuge in the USA.

- Like you are right therr5 star

This book was so vividly told. Eye opening and incredibly well written, I found myself sneaking an extra chapter before going to bed.

- Read it5 star

Great read. I could not put this book down. I was always worried about Lydia and Lucas’ next move. And If your going to worry about cultural appropriation then don’t read this book cause we don’t want to hear you whine about it and talk trash. There is a reason why this book falls in the fiction category.

- Great book!5 star

None stop exciting, riveting and heart pounding story. Compelling and heart wrenching as you share the destitution of a migrants life and journey.

- American Dirt1 star

A story created “a la Hollywood”, with a political agenda. It downplays the serious problem with illegal immigration.

- Culturally insensitive garbage1 star

That’s it. That’s the review.

- Great book5 star

Good read.

- Lydia!5 star

This is a NOVEL and keep that in mind! The criticism of any Mexican/Latino realism is unnecessary because this is one of the best books I’ve read in years. Yes it’s about fictional characters in a very real world. Beautifully written prose and kept me up reading til 3 am for a few nights til I was sure Lydia and Luca would escape the horrors of the opening shower stall horror. Read this book!

- American Dirt3 star

Ms Cummins story was not hers to tell. I found it most annoying that while appropriating someone’s else’s culture , she also peppered the book with Spanish words and phrases. The characters were primarily Mexican and Central American. The narrative was in English yet every now and then an italicized word or phrase would appear. Why? To remind us they were Spanish speakers? Finished reading it solely for my book club discussion. Not worth $15.99!


Stereotypes and a storyline that makes a cheap soap opera seem credible by comparison, written by a woman “brown-washing” her mainstream-white background and claiming familiarity with the “immigrant experience” of Latinx people due to her “immigrant” husband... who’s from Ireland. It’s shameful that the publisher, and Oprah, gave such publicity and promotion to this phony when there are authentic Latinx authors writing authentic novels and not getting published.

- Great5 star

Loved this book

- Must Read!5 star

Could not stop reading after those first 7 pages... hooked instantly!

- Terrible.1 star

The story was not hers to tell. She obviously did not even speak to any Mexicanos.

- Beautifully written!5 star

I couldn’t stop! It brought a ton of emotions!

- Messages4 star


- RIVETING5 star

You cannot read the first line of this book and not finish it. This book is crippling, terrifying, and empowering all in one. I think the author does a beautiful job of creating a platform of empathy on this subject and stories like this one. This was not a story of a Mexican immigrant coming to America for a “better” life. This was a story of a mother seeking refuge because she had no choice. While the story did bring to light the horrors of the cartel, it also embodied the quote it highlighted: “On this side, too, there are dreams. She painted their life in a way that was endearing and relatable. I became completely enraptured with each of the characters. Critics have said some of the characters were bland or “stereotypes,” but I disagree. The worst part of the book was the sickening reality that, in today’s America, this book would’ve ended with her son being taken from her and put in a cage at the border.

- This book is trash1 star

This book is trash hella trash don’t buy it!!! The author is not even Mexican 😂😂 and then proceeds to trash talk Mexican culture? Alright white cracker.

- American Dirt5 star

This book opened my eyes!

- Couldn’t Put It Down5 star

I loved every page.

- American Dirt1 star

classic cultural appropriation by a white woman

- Eye opening5 star

I don’t understand the bad reviews just because she isn’t Latina this book opens your eyes yes the situation in Mexico is bad and for those who say she is portraying a stereotype as sad as it sounds it’s true. What I love about this book is that yes horrible things happen it gives you an insight of why these brave immigrants take this painful journey in order to build a better life for themselves these immigrants aren’t bad people they are brave hardworking people who have no other choice and most lose their life on the way to freedom.

- Riveting!5 star

This was an amazing read! Well written and engaging. I couldn’t put it down, from the first page to the last. A real eye opener for this sheltered, naive reader. What an amazing book!

- I found this story very moving4 star

It’s a novel first and foremost, so people’s criticism that it wasn’t written by someone from Mexico doesn’t make sense to me. I found the story and the characters compelling and I struggled with them as they made their horrific journey.

- Great writing!!5 star

One of the best books I’ve read in a long time! I could not put it down! Highly recommend this book!

- Lack of understanding to write this book1 star

Romanticizes the immigrant and POC experience

- Read it!5 star

This is a beautiful smartly written book! From the first page you feel the emotions of the characters that are so real I felt I took this journey with them. Please don’t pay attention to the 1 star reviews which seem politically motivated to me. This book is now one of my favorites!

- American Dirt5 star

Beautifully written. A real page turner from the beginning. This is a true classic piece of literature

- I1 star


- Ughh1 star

Terrible. It enforces negative stereotypes about what Mexico is, enforced by a white woman who “tried her best”. Trying is not enough.

- Thanks5 star

RFMA was we dry

- bad1 star

i really don’t understand why she would want to write a book on this topic.she’s not hispanic whatsoever.

- Haters gonna hate4 star

But this book is a great work of fiction! Super enticing

- DH5 star

I don’t get all the negative reviews. While I’m sure the author makes mistakes in her portrayal of Latin people, she puts a serious topic in the front burner. It’s easy as Americans to ignore what Trump has done to immigrants on the border. After you read this book it’s a lot harder to ignore the plight of Latin people escaping oppressive situations. Look for the good this book does...not sure where the bad is.

- Extraordinary!5 star

Humanizes the plight of migrants in so many ways. And makes our treatment of them so much worse. I cannot imagine what they suffer.

- Bad, bad , bad1 star

A terrible, poorly written book by a woman who does not have the sensitivity, depth, or most basic common knowledge to write about the topic .

- American Trash1 star

Just like the author and her barbed-wire party.

- abosuletly disgusting1 star

my class is currently reading articles about this book and this is just humiliating. “my dad died so i’m gonna be racist” is what cummins basically said. cummins has no right to write a book like this. it’s also just a bad book in general lol

- Horrible1 star

A clueless privileged white woman has no business writing so many false negative stereotypes about a Mexican's reality.

- Suciedad Americana1 star

Very bad book, please stop making money with the disgrace of other people, this is just an array of damaging stereotypes making look Mexicans like a horde of brown savages. The prose is poor and the plot is as profound as any soap opera your tía would see on Telemundo. DO NOT BUY this book, there is a ton of books writing by latinx that describe the experiences that this writer will never understand #Dignidadliteraria

- Problematic at best, literary diarrhea at worst.1 star

“American Dirt” is the classic tale of a Mexican woman who witnesses the cartel execution of her family, as is common apparently, and proceeds to Google how to be Mexican all while describing how seeing dead people in the streets is just as common as stray dogs. It’s not enough that the author claims the book speaks on behalf of undocumented people, but that she got the most basic of things wrong. Our main character is somehow surprised by the beauty of the Mexican landscapes and buildings, and then calls the gorgeous color palettes “cartoonish”. Go to Guanajuato or Tepotzotlán and tell me with a straight face the city’s colors are cartoonish. Our character then proceeds to be shocked and delighted by the Mexicans she comes across in her journey, and by this point it’s been established that there’s simply no way this character is Mexican or even from Mexico, or that the place she’s living in is in no way really Mexico. It’s a trope of Mexico, it’s a stereotype. Jeanine Cummins’ trip to the border for her “research” only solidified her idea of what she thinks Mexico is, and then proceeded to write a story she acknowledged she had no place in writing, but decided to anyway. After amassing a 7-figure upfront pay from her publisher, lying about threats that her publisher had now said were non-existent, cancelling her book tour as a PR ploy, and then almost immediately selling the film rights for an undisclosed amount, Jeanine Cummins has sold neo-Liberal white people on the same trope the latest Rambo flick espouses: Mexico is a sepia-toned cartel infested hell hole that needs saving by white people. Flatiron could have published such works by notable authors like Valeria Luiselli or Marcello Hernandez Castillo, but instead decided on the white granddaughter of a Puerto Rican. We know the grandmother is Puerto Rican because until recently Jeanine Cummins had gone on record to say she is, in fact, a white woman, but then to push the sale of her toilet paper she says is a book suddenly the lady has a token ethnic person in her family and magically identifies as “Latinx”. And the publisher hid the fact that they’re also publishing Oprah’s memoir, so now it’s just a full blown plot of a white woman writing a mediocre tale for an audience who will continue to view Mexico as a stereotypical nation needing saving by the white faux-woke saviors of America, published by a house working closely with Oprah who then placed it on her “prestigious” bookclub, and amassed so much cash for an undeserving novel. The author, in her own words, said that she is not an authority on the topic but decided that she was to be the voice of the voiceless all while drumming up the tired and racist dialogue of Donald Trump but in a neat package for her painfully white readers to digest. American Dirt is irresponsible and only further disenfranchises writers of color in an industry sorely lacking in equality and justice. In summary, “American Dirt” is the literary equivalent of that white couple at a Trump rally holding signs that read “BLACKS FOR TRUMP”.

- Ridiculous story2 star

Want my money back

- Great work of fiction4 star

People are just mad because this is a work of fiction and they don’t understand that fiction isn’t non-fiction. There are better works of fiction within the Latinx community though, which are written by other Latinx authors. If you do end up liking the book, I highly, highly, highly recommend that you look into other Latinx authors as well—Latinx authors are severely underestimated as fantastic writers, so don’t be that person! Read the book and form your own opinion; it’s a good read, far from the scope of typical American trauma porn perpetuated by other actual white authors regarding people of color. The more I read the comments about this book that are negative, the more I realize it’s a matter of people not wanting a woman to be successful and less about the race baiting arguments. Again, the book is fiction, it doesn’t start off by saying, “this is how it really is and everyone should treat it as such...” those people are just projecting their own internal racism onto the world around them. I say all of this as a non-toxic member of society who is a person of color, politically independent, male who read the book and didn’t take it personally. Be kind people.

- Read it5 star

If you’re on the fence, read it. Quickly became one of my ALL time top five. Inspired me to go read more books, written by latinx authors. I am aware that Jeannine is not Latin. Her writing is so utterly captivating. Incredible, eye opening, read.

- American Dirt1 star

Terrible, boring, stereotypical characters , Obviously written by someone without a clue. I’ve tried two of her other books and found the author is just not worth reading!

- Relies on laughable tropes1 star

Badly written, and tropes that are just...tacky.

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- Guëra author writes guëro fiction.1 star

See subject.

- Great story.5 star

This was a great read.

- Captivating4 star

I read this book in one day into the early hours of the next day. The story was grief stricken enough to leave you as a reader horrified at the struggles migrants have to take. Amazing read.

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- Pass on this white authors trauma porn1 star

There are other wonderful books on this topic written by actual Latinx folks.

- Gorgeous and heartbreaking...ignore the naysayers!!!5 star

Read it for yourself and judge the book on its own merits. You won’t be sorry. It is smart, beautiful, timely...the characters are so real in all of their flaws and idiosyncrasies and individuality and simply was just a magical story in a way that only timeless and timely literature has the power to be.

- Mm omoplato4 star

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- Excellent5 star

I was rooting for the heroine from the very first page and cheering her on until the very last page. Violence exists, people. We can’t keep turning our backs to it.

- Terrible1 star

I really wanted to read this book. But, I couldn’t get past the 3rd page. This is terrible writing.

- American Dirt5 star

Loved it! Captivating, suspenseful, horrific, and I couldn’t put the book down! It’s fiction people! Yet I now have a way better understanding of the plight of immigrants and I’m Latin. I’m not offended, that Jeanine is not Latin. I HAVE read other accounts of immigrant stories by other authors, they were good also. Yes there were mistakes on how the book was rolled out. American Dirt is still a great book! Bravo Jeanine Cummins!! Stay away from the negative press... haters gonna hate. The death threats she has received are not fiction! Shame on you to pre-judge!

- Fantastic5 star

Not my normal kind of story or genre, but breathtaking. Every element of the story is perfectly balanced....its almost as if you are right there with luca and lydia. I have been reading consistently for about 15 years now...and this is the first review i have ever given. Well deserved novel and worth all 5 stars

- Yuck1 star

Shallow, poorly written, painful stereotypes.

- America the Dirt5 star

Wonderful book. Changed my thoughts on the border. People need to read cover to cover before criticizing. Could not put it down once I started reading it.

- One star is generous1 star

A horribly tone dead, stereotype enforcing, garbage book. The audacity of this woman to write a book about a culture she knows absolutely nothing about regardless of the “research” she conducted and “trying her best” to get this right. Next time... don’t. Not worth reading at all.

- Support freedom of expression5 star

Buy the book to support the author and freedom of speech. Also buy the book to poke a finger in the eye of the “nattering nabobs of negativism”. If you don’t like a book, don’t read it. If you haven’t read it, you have no business expressing an opinion. I dare say the outpouring of negative expression is only due to the author being white with a Anglo-Saxon surname rather than brown with a Latina surname.

- Stereotypes1 star


- Someone has to tell the story5 star

I couldn’t put this book down yet I couldn’t turn the page because you didn’t know what was going to happen nextZ This is a fiction book based on the real traumas + travels that immigrants crossing the Mexican/American border face. It’s told from a mother + woman’s perspective that I appreciate. So what if Cummins isn’t Latin- she did her research & she told a story we all need to read.

- Just sad1 star

An example of capitalism at its best. Why not make a non-fictional with real people’s voices like Ted-Talks.

- Excellent read!5 star

I finished this book within 3 days. It is very well written. As Oprah says, it gets you at the first sentence and the book is hard to put down!

- Hopeful, Factual, and Beautifully Written5 star

While I was reading American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, a Mormon mother and two of her children were killed by a drug cartel while riding in their van in Mexico and a headline in the Denver Post read, “Migrants are being thrust into the arms of the cartels”. These two real world occurrences only added to the immense power of American Dirt. Migrants either fleeing or trying to return to their lives in the US are subjected to the worst possible violence like kidnapping, rape, robbery, extortion, ruthless coyotes and even death. Yet as American Dirt so aptly points out, these people are not nameless hordes of criminals or vast numbers of homeless impoverished faces looking for a handout. There is the dialysis technician who has lived with her engineer husband and their teenage US citizen daughter trying to get back after being deported, or the deported PhD candidate wanting to get back to AZ to finish his studies. Then there are those fleeing unmistakeable cartel violence like the bookstore owner whose journalist husband writes an article about the leader of a cartel that results in retaliation and a mass execution of 16 family members at a family birthday celebration. The remaining mother and son are forced to abandon their home to escape the vast tentacles of the cartel. Two beautiful young girls pulled from school and forced into sexual slavery by the cartel, escape and their father is brutally killed in retaliation. These are people like our friends and neighbors that are forced to abandon all they know and love for a chance at freedom. American Dirt will make you gasp in terror then feel the power of immense love and hope all on the same page. Cummins writing is crisp, powerful and her characters will live long after the final page. From its striking cover with beautiful bluebirds caught in a barbed wire maze, American Dirt is simply outstanding and incredibly relevant in today’s world. I recently heard Michael Ondaatje speak and he said, “the book you finish should not be the book you started”. American Dirt along with powerful writing like Just Mercy, The Warmth of Other Suns and To Kill a Mockingbird is that kind of book.

- The5 star


- Awful1 star

Choose own voices authors over this book. It’s trauma porn that is riddled with tropes and stereotypes.

- Trash1 star

I rated low Just cause

- Absolute trash1 star

Don’t even waste your time

- Tragic1 star

This women does not deserve this praise. She really capitalized off of someone else’s struggle.

- American Dirt5 star

It’s called fiction. Faulkner wasn’t a mentally challenged man, but he wrote the hell out of an amazing book about one. People can write about things outside of their wheelhouse. That’s the beauty and artistry of writing.

- Its bad1 star

Trust me

- How did this get published?1 star

Why would anyone publish a novel about mexican migrants by a white woman when there are so many great Mexican American writers that could tell a better story.

- Belongs in the trash1 star

A white woman writing a story filled with stereotypes and cringe dialogue. Don’t waste your time

- Rita bfddu4 star


- Move aside and let actual people be heard1 star

There is no way in the world that someone who has not been a person looking for refuge can write a story that accurately depicts the experience. This is just a caricature of what she things happens. People with her audience and privilege should move aside and use their platform to let those voices be heard, not steal them and use them for profit.

- Could not have been worse1 star

I’m really sorry you decided to promote this

- very good book5 star

‘‘this book is amazing. Focuses on current social issues, but not to overwhelming. The plot is just right to keep the reader interested.”

- Writing my Latino novel...not like this!1 star

Caricatures of a culture does not make a novel. Shame on you O for supporting this suciedad aka dirt!

- Lift Migrant Voices Instead1 star

White woman (and yes, she is on the record calling herself white. Her “Latina” identity conveniently arose in tandem with this book pitch) writes from the perspective of a refugee family. Please, please read narratives by immigrants instead if this is a topic you’re interested in. I promise they are richer, more accurate, and contain actual depth.

- Dehumanizing!!!1 star

Of all the bs that spewed from her mouth, this books hits the nail on the head in dehumanizing civilians from México. If you want to read this, don't; it's that bad. Personally being in Ethnic studies, I can say that there Cummings does a poor job at representing the people and land. Please refrain from inducing yourself to such a poorly constructed ethnography.

- It’s fiction5 star

A story with lovable characters and engaging plot. It’s about a mother’s love, friendship, and determination. Educate yourself on the subject before you read this work of fiction.

- Badly written, incredibly stereotypical1 star

enough said.

- She not even Latina 1st of all1 star

One she’s not Mexican nor Latina to even begin claiming that she understand how we feel and what truly goes on. She suddenly claims she Latina ??

- Incredible read!5 star

Highly recommended book.

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5 star

@rimataz: どなたかのツイートで気になり、ちょうどその時にラテンアメリカ系コミュニティから批判があったというジャニーヌ・カミンズ著"American Dirt"を取り上げたApple TV+のOprah's Book Clubを見た後だった。タイミングが重なって購…

5 star

Thank you #oprah and Oprah's Book Club for "American Dirt" recommendation. I am 75 pages in and I am already a far…

5 star

@negrosubversive Yes, but that's not what happened to the writer of the American Dirt. What happened was that they…

5 star

@realsarahpolley For example, American Dirt was widely dragged, but is still part of Oprah’s book club and was on the NYT list, etc.

5 star

American Dirt (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel “This book is not simply the great Ameri...

5 star

Listened to 59% of American Dirt (Oprah's Book Club) by Jeanine Cummins on #Audible. I will definitely be recommend…

5 star

- DOWNLOAD PDF American Dirt (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel - También de este lado hay sueños…

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