Why I Read American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
I'm pretty sure...I'm 100% sure I don't have to summarize this book. If you watch daytime TV, read the Washington Post, or are on social media, you've heard about American Dirt. I came across this title, and the swirling controversy, when I was procrastinating editing my WIP and scrolling through Facebook. (Let's be honest. Isn't scrolling through Facebook where you find most of your daily dose of drama??)
And there it was. A single post by author Carolyn Turgeon who happened to be one of the fabulous professors at the University of Alaska Anchorage where I obtained my MFA in 2018. Just a tiny, ordinary post about Carolyn's friend, Jeanine, who'd written this novel in what Carolyn described as "a place of magic, ferocity and love." Immediately, I checked out the YouTube video Carolyn had shared (this is that video). And then, I kept going.
Everywhere I looked, there was Jeanine or an image of American Dirt. The controversy was (is still?) heated and the debates were intense. That's when it hit me -- how American Dirt is so much like JK Rowling's Harry Potter series.
I remember distinctly when the first Harry Potter book came out. My husband and I had only been married a year or so and we'd made our home in this lovely house on a cul-de-sac off a highway in Indiana, about halfway between Bedford, Indiana and Bloomington, Indiana. I was new to being a pastor's wife and completely oblivious to the "rules" of that game.
Rule #1 (that year) was: Do NOT read Harry Potter.
Seriously. I think that rule was added into the Ten Commandments. It might even have usurped one of the original commandments Moses had carved onto his stone tablet. Because in the world of preachers' wives, reading HP was a serious no-no.
So you know what I did, right?
Yeah...I ran out and bought a copy.
And then I read it. Cover to glorious cover.
It turned out, I didn't care for it. (Sorry JK!) Fantasy or wizardry or whatever it is just isn't my genre. I'm a very visual person and if the world isn't real Earth-like I can't picture it. Unless it's laid out like the Jetsons was. That I understood.
The point is, I read the first book in the Harry Potter series. And it didn't make me any less Christian or any less a pastor's wife. It didn't make me a bad person, nor did it turn me into a wizard. It's a work of art. A piece of fiction. An idea drawn out in words and paragraphs and pages.
Which brings me back to American Dirt. The same way all those people went on and on about how women married to men who preach the word of God shouldn't read Harry Potter, people were (are?) going on and on about how no one should read American Dirt. I kid you not, they were (are?) telling people to not buy the book, not read the book, not support the publisher by buying the book. It was a total circus.
In one Facebook group, someone casually asked if anyone else was going to read the book. That post garnered nearly 300 comments. I couldn't help but add mine to the mix. (Don't you just love my profile pic? LOL)
And don't get me started on how Lolita and HP were banned and this book isn't banned, so they're not comparable...because I might fight you on that one. Or at least match you comment for comment like I did this woman who eventually told me that I could 1) read American Dirt if I wanted to, and 2) could not compare AD to HP and Lolita.
Ummmm, ok. Thanks strange lady who thinks she's my mom.
Granted, I'd already purchased my copy of American Dirt. And, I stand by my word. Had it been warmer outside and working my 8-5 was optional, I would have stood at the post office waiting for my copy to get here.
Because I obviously don't like being told what to do. And I especially hate being told that I'm not allowed to read a book.
It took me about a week to read American Dirt (day job gets in the way of all the good stuff) and I took tons of notes as I read. I experienced a variety of emotions and kept Carolyn (thus Jeanine) up to date on which page I was on. This particular blog post was supposed to be my review of the book but I haven't yet found the words I want to use. One thing I do know is that I plan to review it as a writer and as a reader because I heard so many generalized opinions on both the writing style (e.g. "it's just bad writing") and the story line. The latter, if you've kept up with the controversy, is all intertwined with the color of one's skin, Spanish words, and money. Go figure.
Oh. The other thing I know? I often purchase books to read and then sell them in my literary boutique. I won't be selling this book. I'll explain why in a future post.
Have you read American Dirt? What did you think of it? If you haven't read it yet, do you plan on reading it? Why or why not?