American Dirt (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel

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Book Rating (1171)

Narrator Rating (268)

Written By: Jeanine Cummins

Narrated By: Yareli Arizmendi

Date: January 2020

Duration: 16 hours 45 minutes


#1 New York Times Bestseller

“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's 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


  • Jessica G.

    I love this book! This is a must read for anyone who has an opinion on illegal immigration. It does not matter if you are for or against it, this book will educate the reader to learning about a life that most can only imagine. The strength of these characters, the story line and life that most are completely ignorant of are introduced to the reader almost immediately. Most people cannot comprehend what atrocities are going on in the world, and this book uncovers it. I can say, that after reading this book, it made me appreciate the many blessings I have and appreciate that I was born a United States citizen.

    9 of 9 people found this review helpful.

  • Ulrike H.

    Loved this book! This story is truly moving and a great way to open our eyes to the other side of immigration

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful.

  • Anonymous

    I wasn't sure I'd like this book--but I was wrong. The more I listened, the more it pulled me in. I can't believe what the characters went through. Yet, I'm hearing that this is all too factual, not fiction. A lady I know has an aunt living in Mexico, and is experiencing the actions of the drug cartels. While at times I found it a stretch of logic to hear what an 8, 14 and 15 year old were going through, it kept me involved, wanting to know how they were able to do those things. Seeing their focus at getting to "el norte" , made me realize how fortunate I am to live where I do.

    4 of 4 people found this review helpful.

  • Anonymous

    A palatable approach to a sickening crisis. Griping book. Likeable characters that are adequately developed. Although I do understand the controversy surrounding the book, I also comprehend that a book written with more authenticity, many would not read. This novel might break the ice for many to further want to become more enlightened

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful.

  • Anonymous

    What a tremendous book; hugely emotional with a lot to teach us. This is a story of those faceless statistic we read about in the paper, the statistics being used by our politicians to achieve a political gain. Now that I have listened to this story, I will never see those statistic without a face.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful.

  • Trish25

    This is a great book!!! Paints a picture in your mind of everything in this book!! A must read

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful.

  • Barbi N.

    Wonderfully written book about the realities of undocumented immigrants and their desperation to get to freedom and safety.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful.

  • Lucinda D.

    Great read! I recommend it!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful.

  • Anonymous

    This was a great novel! I finished a few days ago, but can’t stop thinking about it. It definitely will make me think differently about immigration for the rest of my life!! The characters were amazing and strong and reading it you just knew this is what people are going through everyday just to get here!

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful.

  • Anonymous

    Great story. Kept you wanting to know how it all turned out.

  • Anonymous

    Wow…. Astounding. Bleak and beautiful all rolled up in a story of courage, love, heartbreak and survival. There isn’t a story more relevant today that speaks to the life of immigrants and the corrupt immigration system. The reading by Yareli Arizmend was as captivating as the book itself.

  • Lisa H.

    Excellent read or listen

  • Anonymous

    Fantastic, thought provoking and well written.

  • Kim P.

    Amazing Book. Lens into why people come to America and the struggles/trauma they face.

  • C M.

    Thought this book should be a movie. Had my attention from the beginning.

  • Aaron H.

    Book is very contrived and the authors naivety shows through frequently. The use of Spanglish throughout is a failed attempt to mask the book major flaws. It is extremely unauthentic and lacks grit.

  • Anonymous

    Changed some of my views. Beautifully narrated.

  • Anonymous

    This is a must read book to appreciate the life of an immigrant. It is well written and kept me engaged as the journey exposed the reality and possibility of many people who have lived anything like these characters. I also found that it helped me appreciate so many of the freedoms I take for granted. I want my friends and family to read/listen to this book - its tough in parts - but honestly life changing if you are willing to hear between the lines. Its human - its timely and its a valuable use of your time.

  • Anonymous

    Heroic and heartbreaking! Love this story. Living in Texas we don’t realize how hard life is for others. This book opened my heart.

  • Rachel K.

    This book had me hooked from the first paragraph on.

  • Elizabeth M.

    Enjoyable and very interesting

  • BJ H.

    excellent ✔

  • Laura Z.

    Amazing book!

  • Sweet Momma J


  • Jeanelle V.

    Fabulous !!!!

  • Robin B.

    a fabulous book made even better by an excellent narrator! i highly recommend enmersing yourself in this story.

  • Marty M.

    A heartbreaking story so raw and believable. Every one should read it, there is not enough understanding and empathy towards immigrants in this country. The narration was absolutely perfect as well.

  • Suzanne M.

    A bit long but very educational,interesting,suspensful. .

  • Anonymous

    This is a necessary book. Should we not be careful by valuing our democracy and respecting one another-we migration could be reversed. The circumstances of the characters is through no fault of their own-fate. I truly enjoyed the characters -likeable and relatable.

  • Anonymous

    Most enjoyable. Could hardly wait to pick up where I left off. Educational.....realizing parts were embellished for literary purposes.

  • Sandra G.

    Phenomenal listen! It was spectacular, and for the first time, I think this book is better heard rather than read. The narrators descriptions makes you feel as if you are present. Just gave me shivers. Excellent and highly recommended.

  • Anonymous

    Eye opening...

  • Pamela F.

    The book and narrator are SO SO GOOD! I’m not as eloquent as Cummins, so I can’t adequately express just how much I loved it. She painted a beautiful story with her words.

  • Leanne T.

    Excellent novel and reader

  • Kenny M.

    Best book I have listened to so far

  • hagistharris

    Great book. Takes you into a world we, America born Americans, spend little time thinking of and provides a gritty, heart-wrenching and heart-stopping account of a woman driven to flee to America to save herself and her son. I loved them and was fascinated by the antagonist.

  • Anonymous

    Shockingly realistic

  • Anonymous

    This book may be a good drama/mystery, but it flies in the face of most immigrant accounts I have read, taking a little from each and making it into one unbelievable and stereotypical piece of fiction. It is for good reason that it is so controversial and condemned by many in the Latin community.

  • Marilyn V.

    Awesome story. So wonderfully written

  • Anonymous

    Really good read.

  • Anonymous

    absolutely love this book! It pulls you in from the very beginning. You really care about the characters. bad things happen but not overly explicit.

  • Dena P.

    Cried multiple times. This is so well written.

  • Carol C.

    I second everything Jessica G. said about this book!

  • Fritz M.

    Overall, a good read. I would have liked more detail of the vigilantes and US Customs.

  • Kirsten E.

    One of the best books I’ve listened to in ages.

  • Karen Larson

    Thought provoking and gripping, a wonderful novel. w

  • Smadar K.

    Excellent book and narrator.

  • Teresa Z.

    I really enjoyed this book and the narrator was excellent. She gave the story so much realism as if the main character was reading it. It’s a sad story but one I’m sure has happened to so many loving families in many different circumstances. It has happy moments both for the mother and her son. Moments when he learns his own abilities in ways he would never have had to learn if his life had gone on without the sudden horrible circumstances that life suddenly put him through. I will listen to the story again some day, and will no doubt enjoy it as much or more than I just did. It is a story that has stayed with me in ways I want to visit again. I don’t believe I would have enjoyed reading it as much as listening, as the narrator brought it to life in so deeply.

  • Latoya L.

    American Dirt, the title had me thinking something totally different but after reading the entire book, it means so much. Lydia and her son Luka, were fleeing from a man her who was part of the cartel. They traveled the road, that many migrants take, by bus, train, and by feet. They met 2 other girls Rebecca and Soledad, who were also fleeing too, from another man who was controlling and tried to kill their father. American dirt us about making it to American soil, for a better life and all the roadblocks they encounter. Overall good story, definitely gives me a better outlook on those seeking asylum, undocumented familes, and immigration. #Book27of2020 #bookworm #whatsnext

  • Shelley B.

    I thoroughly enjoyed this book, it kept me on the edge of my seat the entire time. Highly recommend!

  • Ellen C.

    liked the book

  • Anonymous

    Very interesting and very frightening for those who seek freedom.

  • Patty M.

    Really enjoyed the book

  • Anonymous

    I couldn't put the book down. I really enjoyed this. Narrator was very good

  • Gillian W.

    Not my kind of book. To someone else it would be a good book

  • Paula D.

    Narrator is a pleasure the listen to. The story can be hard at times specially knowing how frequent this takes place.

  • Julie B.

    Loved this book!

  • Belinda M.

    Good book and the narrator did a great job. I wish it hadn’t ended so abruptly. Their journey to America was well detailed but once they arrived it ended. Maybe there will be a second book. ??

  • Wonderful. Well written. Gripping

  • Anonymous

    This book was riveting!! The words painted such vivid pictures of the sites and sounds and were rich in detail. I have a deeper appreciation and empathy of the immigrants’ struggle.

  • Karissa K.

    A book everyone should read!

  • Emily B.

    So topical

  • Hannah G.

    Excellent story.

  • Anonymous

    Well done. I have to remember it is a novel, however. It has me interested in reading more documentary accounts of the same topic. I felt the language was beautiful; so descriptive and emotional. The narrator did a fine job. I have recommended this book to many of my reader friends. Thank you.

  • Jeff M.

    This book will stick with me for a long time.

  • Effie P.

    Incredible story. Highly descriptive of the characters interior and exterior experiences. A universal story of resilience and transcendence despite hate and trauma sustained. Through the lives and struggles of these human beings making their journey to the US, we get an in depth look at what each of them is escaping from and what it’s truly like to be a migrant on the run from Latin America seeking asylum up North. This story gives them a voice and a face and in the process enlightens and elicits empathy. The author (regardless of her background) is an incredible storyteller and deserving of every accolade for this masterpiece. Her background and ethnicity should not be held against her in any way; she has used her own insight and imagination to craft a masterful tale, a feat not many can accomplish regardless of background and ethnicity. If people would like to pick a fight, then they should target the publishing world at large so that they can further expand publication opportunities for Latin American authors. That would be the rightful battle to wage instead of targeting an exceptional author who has every right to offer this beautiful book to the world.

  • Nickie W.

    I enjoyed the story. Heart wrenching journey. Highly recommend this book.

  • Rebecca L.

    Easy to listen to, descriptive, especially if the multiple tragedies that happen to the main characters and people they meet along the way. Decent character development.

  • Elizabeth R.

    If I could give more stars for this book, I would. I only recently re-read The Grapes of Wrath and the comparisons are apt. Jeanine Cummins' masterpiece is such an eye opener to the atrocities migrants endure as they trek north, attempting to escape the worst of mankind. The death grip the drug cartels have on the peoples of Mexico and South American countries was something I understood only peripherally. The stark reality is much, much worse than most people who have not read this book or studied the situation can know. This book is heartbreaking, riveting and truly a must-read. I am so fortunate to be a Canadian.

  • Elvira L.

    I enjoyed this book and could not wait to get back to listening to it. I liked the voice of our narrator, which matched the descriptive feelings, places, even things like the intensity of heat, cold, and smells. The author takes you there without being there. You could put the book down when you needed to. It is difficult to witness the pain and suffering of people in our world, but we have to know that these kinds of things happen. The author could have told a full story from any one of these characters, and she chose to tell Lydia's story, but you have just enough information to empathise with the other characters. The storyline is heart heavy; it is a beautifully written story. Personally, my orphaned father was only 10 when he and his brother walked back and forth across the Texas border with no problem. I used to think, did I remember my father's story right - just ten years old? It can't be, but I think so. My father passed into his forever home and is no longer around to ask how it was to cross the border. Thank you for this story.

  • Elena L.

    This book was excellent. It captured the real great and suspicion of people in this position along with the Desiree to connect with others in this situation. I lived that it showed the empathy of others they meet along the way. I wish it would simulate readers to consider sponsoring some of the migrants in these situations, it would help with the illegal immigration problem we have in this country

  • Hannah C.

    Despite the controversy, this work of fiction invokes raw emotion and compassion around immigration that many Americans are blind to. A very powerful read.

  • Sharilyn O.

    Research the book before listing it. This author does not authenticate her work. She has not experienced the devastation to humanity portrayed, nor does she show evidence of interviews.

  • Kimberly C.

    Soooooo boring!!!

  • Trini N.

    The book is well written, enough detail to transport you there, but not too much to bore you.

  • Denise H.

    Outstanding! I’m glad I read it!

  • Mary F.

    Loved every minute of it!

  • Virginia Ibarra

    Loved this book! Very captivating and provided a true and raw insight of what it’s like to immigrate into America.

  • Molly B

    I loved the pace of the book until the end. It became very arduous and slow. It was challenging to witness the liberal slat that was painfully obvious. The authors voice was quite nice otherwise. I understand there is quite a lot of controversy surrounding the details of this novel. I think we all need to respect the creative license of all authors to create a work of fiction. If this author wanted to write non-fiction she’s smart enough to categorize it as such.

  • Jennifer C.

    I loved every minute of this book and was completely captivated. And the two friends to whom I have recommended American Dirt agree. The style of writing lends itself particularly well to audio, so that you can enjoy Cummins wonderful descriptive powers with ease. I bought it so I could fall asleep listening, but it had the opposite effect and kept me awake until the wee small hours .. even though I didn’t want it to end.

  • Anonymous

    If you want a book that keeps you interested & engaged the whole time, this does. I am not sure about how true to the people it describes it is, though & am uncomfortable that the writer is not a central American & didn't actually experience this herself

  • Carol S.

    An incredibly well written book that I couldn’t wait to listen over and over. You will be on the edge of your seat because of the care you feel for the characters. Could be a true story and would Make an awesome movie.

  • Anonymous

    I loved this story. It changed me forever. I come form immigrants who did not experience the horrific journey that the characters in the book suffered. It is a perspective that I could never experience without the words. I do not care about the controversy because I think this is a book that shows lends to the main characters and provokes compassion and concern. I think this should be required reading.

  • Phyllis S.

    Amazing story of survival and endurance. I was drawn into this story and could almost feel the pain of Lydia’s and Luca’s dangerous quest for freedom and life. I know that today there are 100’s more seeking refuge and the right to a life free from such torment and pain.

  • Betty O.

    I loved this book and very proud to support a fellow Boriqua! I do understand the controversy with the book but after listening to the author explain why she wrote this book, I get it. The controversy is that the book portrays a medium class Mexican woman who becomes friendly with a cartel boss and makes a comment that in another life this Cartel boss could had been Bill Gates is offensive and untrue. There other statements made that many people were offended with. However, I loved the book and was able to connect with many of the stories since I worked with undocumented families for over 15 years and their stories of crossing to America was similar to American Dirt.

  • Hannah V.

    A very well written novel. The book never slowed down and continuously became more interesting. Read the entire book in two sittings. Will be recommending to my friends.

  • Mara S.

    This is a wonderful book. I am confused about the controversy as it seems very well researched. It should be required reading for all high school students. You have to have no heart not to feel empathy for the Central American and Mexican migrants.

  • Nancy K.

    Controversy aside, this was a great read! And narrator was incredible!

  • Anonymous

    Controversy or not, this piece of fiction is awesome! Literally could not stop myself from listening. Highly recommend!

  • Cathy J.

    I was truly surprised, excellent book and narration. Couldnt put it down. This book details the struggles of people trying to find a better life and what they go thru. Excellent job!

American Dirt (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel

by Jeanine Cummins

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American Dirt (Oprah's Book Club): A Novel, Jeanine Cummins
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This title is due for release on January 21, 2020
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