First, I would like to say that I decided to read American Dirt by because of the controversy about it early in the year. I tend not to like Oprah’s picks but try not to dismiss books just because of that. This book is a story about a mother and her son who, after witnessing a terrible massacre of her family run to el Norte. While this is a horrible story it does have a lot of courageous characters who’s strength leads them to success – getting out of Mexico, though at a high cost. I often felt that the author was telling me how to feel rather than showing me the action and letting me determine the emotional aspects of the story. At times the story fell flat. Perhaps by including the Spanish dialect in the story the author felt it gave it more credibility. But I did not feel it was necessary to get across the point.
One of the criticisms of this book had to do with the author being white and having never experienced the gangs and migration from Latin American countries. While this appears to be true the author has said that she consulted with others and researched this topic before writing. This is after all a work of fiction and it speaks well of the author that she did the research. I would not want to start critiquing fiction authors about whether they have experienced their stories first hand. Certainly Stephen King did not have experience with a rapid dog terrorizing the neighborhood when he wrote Cujo and he certainly did not travel back in time to save President Kennedy as he wrote about in 11/22/63. Fiction authors give us good stories; some from their own experiences and others from an idea that popped into their head. Either way they may add creative touches to their story. Some are light and fill a need to relax or reduce stress; others give us more to think about.
While I do not feel this is well written it has encouraged me to start a list of other books on the subject and learn more. If a book can do that then it has accomplished a lot.