Sunday, February 23, 2020

American Dirt - A must read!

There are all kinds of controversy about this novel of fiction.  Then, when Oprah named it her choice to read with her Book Club, all heck broke loose.  After reading many of the comments, it seemed to
me that the only way I would know if the comments were valid was to read it.

American Dirt was ordered at the same time that I ordered "Stable Genius".  No two books could
be farther apart in subject matter.  The first was about a narcissistic person who has put our country in jeopardy.

The second book, American Dirt is about the American dream and people's hope and desire along with their courage and bravery to get to the USA. To get away from violence and certain death.

I must admit at the beginning it was difficult to read due to the violence but determination made me continue.  So glad that I did.  The research done to write this book was evident to those of us who have lived and traveled in Mexico for a long period of time.  For those of us who have seen the people riding the trains.  For those of us who care and work to help the immigrants attempting to get to the USA for a better life.

It was difficult to read it as a book of fiction because so much of it was factual.  The development of the people in this book was touching and scary and, at some times, hard to believe.  But, many of us have known these people!

If everyone in the USA read this book, hopefully there would be less resentment and anger and way more understanding of the asylum seekers.

Reading it, it is apparent to me that I would never, could never be brave enough to do what the mother of Luca did to save him.

Back to the criticism of the fact that this author is not bi-racial and therefore should not have written this book.  To me, that is an absurd criticism.  So, then, why don't those critics write this story?
Where was the criticsm when Theroux wrote "Plain of Snakes" which, to me, was so critical of Mexico and not helpful in any way to the understanding of the people.

There are so many books out there written by others who definitely did not do the research that was done for this book.  I read them, scoff, and do finish them in hopes that there is some redemption somewhere in the book.  Sadly, usually, there is not.

Read this book, please.  Now I understand why Oprah put it on her reading list.  Lots of people will get an education of the harrowing story of bravery, empathy, and courage of the people from South of the Border.


norm said...

If there is one small thing I've learned in my years, it is that people love to complain. With the advent of the internet and its autonomy, it has gotten worse.

It is funny the way the average conservative is against immigration but is in favor of economic growth. Most of us are, even the liberals, the thing is: the fastest, easiest way to real GNP growth is through immigration of working age adults. You don't have to feed them, cloth them or house them for the twenty years while they are growing up, they are ready made working unites. They may speak a different language, a different tent on skin color but they are real humans who came to work-plug them in and enjoy the growth.
You can have your soap box back Babs.

Babs said...

Thanks Norm! The point I always think is lost unless you intimately know the people South of the Border, is that FAMILY comes first! They often go to the states so they can send home money for their parents and all their family. In addition, if the "evangelicals and religious right" really took time to know the culture, they would realize how religious they are, in a good way. Think back to the 1950's. That is a lot of where the attitudes are.......It is a win-win for anywhere to have these people living.
Whew, Norm, I could go on and on and on........

Caddie said...

Reading the story at this very moment. Always enjoy books recommended by Oprah -always talented writers. This one chronicles the horrors happening this very moment. What has become of compassion in our world? Yet I'm also aware of the horrors frequently are happening in America and other countries, perpetrated by ones who coming into the country with an agenda that is unwelcome here. Of course, the agenda is spread worldwide. What is the solution to stop our world's chaos?

Caddie said...
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Babs said...

Thanks for your comment Caddie. The percentage of "horrors perpetrated by asylum seekers" is minimal as far as the stats show. They are coming not to cause trouble but to survive. The solution to stop the world's chaos, IMHO, is love and the end of greed. Doubtful that, in my lifetime, that will happen, sadly.

living.boondockingmexico said...

Although I have traveled extensively throughout Central and South American, I can speak only for Mexico.

As a teacher here for 35 years in the public and private system, education and hard work are in order. There is no reason for anyone in Mexico not to study and there is plenty of work.

What has happened is that the world has been sold a bad bill of goods with the so called "American Dream" that has been instilled in cultures the world over.

The "Dream" is exactly that, a dream. It's no longer real. We have many friends stuck in the U.S. as illegals and for more than 20 years that continue to watch their backs, use illegal documents and pay taxes like everyone else but will never see their benefits. There is a social security account worth $250 billion just sitting there as illegals have paid under auspiciuos SS numbers and names.

What will happen to them as this current wave or those that came 20 years ago that will hit the age of 62? They won't collect anything from the U.S. and when they return to Mexico they will have nothing creating even more poverty and dispair. What has the U.S. done to discourage illegals from crossing the border? Absolutely nothing because they will never accept the fact that the "dream" no longer exists. That would devastate the U.S. economy.

Mexico has the capability, the educational system, the jobs, to maintain all Mexicans. The current Mexican president brags about the "remesas" or remittances that are being sent home from the states. It's shameful for a Mexican president to even say that. It is a statement of deception to say that when Mexico could and should take care of its own. If most people only knew the truth about that "40%" of Mexicans who claim they can't excel in their own country.

Sorry for the long post but there are two sides to every story at least in Mexico. I am a long-time fan of Oprah BTW.

Babs said...

I totally agree with your comments. In fact, if I had the opportunity to be heard by those heading north, I would plead with them not to go and to see the opportunities, the beauty and compassion of this country just to name a few things
I came to Mexico in 1974 and felt as though I had come home. I mourn for the situation in the USA and how the people of Mexico are used by the USA and the country of Mexico as well. Thanks for sharing your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

A migrants story written through the eyes of a gringa. Highly criticized by Mexican writers and intellectuals for its highly stereotypical portrayal of a Mexican migrant. Aside from the stereotyping, the narrative is way out of touch with reality.

Babs said...

I heartily disagree with the critics. I was astonished at how detailed and specific the portrayals were. I saw no stereotyping and the narrative was certainly, unfortunately, not out of touch with reality.

Thanks for your comment Anonymous

alcuban said...

I just began reading, and I must confess the first pages were pretty rough stuff, and I stopped. I'll go back to it when I'm done with a book about the Amish (!). What caught my attention is the blowback that the author received from the liberal Thought Police, because the book didn't reflect the "reality" of Mexico, or because she is white, and I guess white people are not allowed to write about Mexico. Total nonsense.\

Babs said...

Exactly Al! Racism against a white woman! Amazing and I agree nonsense. If she had not done so much research, if she had not put in such details that only people who have seen the trains, seen the people, talked to the people and have experienced life in Mexico, then I would gripe.

I was not prepared to like the book. I certainly did not like several others that I read about the "border" and the "cartels"........they were written, IMHO, for sensationalism and served no purpose.

I think this book serves a purpose, if people look at it that way. I hope they will.
I hope it brings out compassion and more understanding of the journey to freedom that these people endure rather then turn around and go back to certain death.

There was a part in the book, where the two girls talk about where they left. A village in the cloud forest of either Honduras or El Salvador. I've been to villages in the cloud forests of Mexico and they are so exquisitely beautiful that my heart was broken for anyone who would HAVE TO leave such a place for fear of death.

Again, I hope people read this book who would not have if there was not so much controversy.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the critics completely. In the first place, there is absolutely no way a Mexican woman of her means would be riding "la bestia" to the border. That is ridiculous. Why subject yourself to its horrors when she could have simply traveled by either bus or plane to a border city, hassle free?

And I also disagree that this is a matter of "thought police" censorship. They are not trying to tell any "white" person they cannot write about Mexico. They are saying that a gringa such as the author cannot truly give an accurate portayal of the señora and therefore relied upon stereotypes. And these stereotypes wander very far from reality.

Babs said...

Anonymous, if you read the book you will understand why she rode La Bestia. If she was terrified of riding in a private car from Acapulco to CDMX, then imagine being on a public conveyance.

I thought the author, who spent four years researching this book did portray the senora accurately. I don't know what was stereotypes. Having lived or done business in Mexico since 1974, I was quite astonished at how "right on" many, many tiny details were so accurate. Tell me which stereotypes wander very far from reality.

Anonymous said...

Of course you see it from the author's point of view, you are basically one and the same.

Check out the articles limked below:

SR Gomez said...

The USA has been importing cheap labor for decades. The Robber Barons figured this out long ago.
Not only Hispanics but, Asians, Europeans and Africans, to work the fields,mines,ranches and factories of the Elites.

"the fastest, easiest way to real GNP growth is through immigration of working age adults"

What about wage growth? When do the workers get their due, their "American Dream"?

Not as long as we have tens of thousands pouring in willing to work for less.

Babs said...

Sr. Gomez, it is a very sad situation and you speak the truth.
The other side of it is that Mexico is dependent on the remittances
of the workers in EUA to send money home to help the economy of Mexico
and the destitute families that the government does not help.

It is a tragic fact.

Thank you for commenting.

Judyvineyard said...

I agree. I loved this book. The first time that I saw the big black Policia trucks in Hermosillo with a manned machine gun mounted on the cab and men dressed in black with half masks and rifles in the back, I thought something big must be happening. I was told it was to intimidate Mexicans. Who knows? I got used to it. I liked that the author represented diversity in the coyote group. I would suggest first reading the book and then forming opinions. The Mexicans I met seem to have the values we used to have and lost.

Babs said...

Hi Judyvineyard! Thanks for your comments. Yes, if people don't read the book but just read the criticisms or reviews, they don't get it.

Glad you loved the book. For me it was not an easy read.....scary in parts and sad. But, I hope against hope that reading this book will make people understand the plight of hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers and what they go through to get to the USA.

I agree that the culture in Mexico is one that we used to have as far as values and somehow, in some ways have lost, sadly.

Anonymous said...

I may be mistaken but I don't believe Mexicans can seek asylum except in extreme cases. Persecution by criminals won't get them asylum. And the plight of the woman in the book is, unfortunately, a very common one.

And, believe me, I get it. I personally number far too many victims of the cartel violence. Some were involved in the drug trade, others were addicts or petty criminals that the cartels eliminated in their role self-annointed role as vigilantes. Others were given warnings in the form of a "tableada", a severe beating with a "tabla" (wooden board). If that doesn't suffice and they continue to rob or steal they are disappeared.

My niece's husband, in a case similar to the woman in the book, was on the periphery through association (in his case a childhood friend), fled to another part of the country where he has been able to resume a normal life. The friend was never seen again.

Babs said...

Anonymous, thanks for commenting but you are mistaken. Mexicans or anyone from any country can ask for asylum in the USA.

I personally, when I lived in the USA, sponsored two asylum seekers for the ability to enter the country by providing financial as well as physical assistance. It is a simple process to sponsor someone. Both were from Mexico.

Anonymous said...

I should have worded it differently. People can ask but few are granted asylum. In the article I quote from, just 6% of Mexican asylum requests are granted vs 20% of other countries. And in the case of the novel, the woman would have been denied. They can't get it for fear of drug cartel threats. Another false premise in the book.

"At one time, the most commonly granted asylum petitions from Mexico were based on fear of persecution and violence from drug cartels and drug traffickers based on social group or political opinion. Applicants claimed that the government of Mexico was unwilling or unable to protect them. However, in 2018, then-Attorney General Jeff Sessions reversed years of immigration rulings and legal precedent to declare that immigrants fleeing gang-related violence in their home countries were in most cases ineligible for asylum. See Matter of A-B-, 27 I&N Dec. 316 (A.G. 2018). Although federal court litigation has made inroads into this blanket prohibition, winning such a claim will definitely be harder than it once was."

Babs said...

The author started the research for this book in 2013 or 2014 before the current administration. This book is a work of fiction with a whole lot of facts in it.

Thank you for sharing the information concerning the 2018 unlawful ruling.

Anonymous said...

Sometimes authors write things as factual when they are actually subjective opinions. And many of their readers, through ignorance, do not know the difference.

I can recall two popular novels by highly acclaimed authors that turned me off completely to their writings.

James Michener wrote a book of fiction called The Drifters. In the book he deals extensively with drug abuse by young world travelers during the late 60s. When he wrote that one of them went into a coma by taking LSD, that was the end of his credibilty. His anti-drug agenda ruined his objectivity to the point he published something far from the truth.

The Old Patagonia Express by Paul Theroux was a true story. Published in the 70s, he started his trip in Mexico and right off the bat stated something completely false about this country. How could anything further into the book be believed if in the very first country he visited he wrote something completely false?

Again, there is really no way the woman in American Dirt would hop aboard La Bestia. Anyone that really knows Mexico would know that.

CopperQueenie said...
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CopperQueenie said...

Last year before the virus, I organized a campaign to make gift bags for the children stuck at the border. My friends joined in with donations and we were able to make hundreds of our bags to distribute to some very grateful kids. We included personal hygiene items, but also toys, books, cards, snacks like trail mix and granola bars (and some candy),and stuffed animals to cuddle.It was one of the most rewarding things I've ever done. We also got to help prepare meals at Chef Jose Andrés World Kitchen that got delivered to the various shelters. These people do amazing work and supporting their efforts is a great way to really make a difference. Thoughts and prayers are nice but they don't fill an empty stomach!

Babs said...

How cool that you were able to be involved in helping the asylum seekers. There is a place in Celaya called ABBA House that helps the migrants traveling from Central America to USA. Interestingly many get to the border, see the danger and return to Celaya on their way back to their homes.

Ehef Jose Andres should head up a department in the federal government to focus on food insecurity in the USA. It is always ongoing and it should not be part of FEMA!