Review of the book ‘American Dirt’ by Jeanine Cummins (a novel about migration)

Cover art

I just came across this book review I drafted in early March of this year, which I was going to publish in a local NYC literary journal — and then the pandemic hit with a vengeance, and it didn’t seem that relevant anymore, so I put it aside. I also felt a little bad about piling on criticism against the author, who already suffered more than her fair share of criticism, some of which was deserved, but much of which was really less about her than it was about the U.S. book publishing industry, and its penchant for paying multi-million dollar advances to white authors while barely giving authors of color a platform for their work.

Then Trump told lie after lie about immigration in last week’s debate — including his assertion that the U.S. government is doing everything possible to reunite separated children with the parents from whom the government snatched them, which we know simply isn’t true. Since I wrote this review, the Trump administration has managed to use the COVID-19 pandemic to virtually shut down the U.S.-Mexico border, even to refugees suffering terrible harm while being forced to wait on the Mexican side of the border for months while awaiting a chance to plead their case before a U.S. immigration judge.  

So when I stumbled upon a draft of this review when doing some household decluttering this weekend, I decided it was worth dusting it off and putting it out into the world. 

The story of the journey Mexican and Central American asylum seekers have been making (and are still making, despite the dangers facing them at the border) in search of safety still needs to be told. This particular book is a flawed vehicle for telling this story, but it did raise the profile of the migrant’s journey among some Americans who might not have been inclined to learn about it otherwise.

Read my review and decide for yourself:

American Dirt: The Right Story Told the Wrong Way by the Wrong Author


Image (and text below) courtesy of the Immigration Justice Campaign and the American Immigration Council


What’s happening: Nearly a hundred families are held by ICE in detention facilities in Texas and Pennsylvania, simply because they came to the US seeking safety and a better life. After COVID-19 was confirmed in family detention, a federal judge ordered ICE to release all children in its custody. But the problem is, the judge can’t order the parents’ release too. As it responds to this court order, ICE can act on its legal authority to release the families together, as it has historically done. Or…ICE can choose to keep parents locked up indefinitely while releasing their children, or ask parents to choose to stay together as a family in detention—an awful, no-win situation for migrant families. We can’t stay silent as this happens. ICE has the choice to do the right thing.

Action: Collectively throughout the day on Thursday, August 6, we will barrage the social media accounts of ICE and DHS leadership with hundreds if not thousands of comments from our movement demanding ICE and DHS to #FreeTheFamilies. They will only release families together if they feel the cost of sustained outrage and activist pressure.


Leave (several!) comments on the most recent post across these accounts:

Sample messaging (but do personalize your comments too!):

EnglishEspañolKreyòl AyisyenFrançais
#FreeTheFamilies from detention so they can be #SafeAndTogether#LiberenALasFamilias en detención para que puedan estar #SegurosYJuntos#LageFanmiYo retire yo nan detansyon pou yo ka an #SekiriteEpiReteAnsanm#LibérezLesFamilles en détention pour qu’elles puissent être #EnsembleEtEnSécurité 
Staying detained in danger with your child or separating from them indefinitely all during a pandemic…that’s a situation no parent should have to face #FreeTheFamilies #SafeAndTogetherPermanecer detenidos en peligro con sus hijos o separados de ellos indefinidamente durante una pandemia…es una situación que ningún padre ni madre debería enfrentar #LiberenALasFamilias #SegurosYJuntosRete fèmen nan kacho ak ak pitit ou oswa an danje ou ka separe ak yo pou toutan pandan yon pandemi … se yon sitiyasyon okenn paran pa ta dwe retwouve l ladan #LageFanmiYo #SekiriteEpiReteAnsanmÊtre détenu avec votre enfant ou être séparé de lui indéfiniment pendant une pandémie…c’est une situation qu’aucun parent ne devrait avoir à affronter #LibérezLesFamilles #EnsembleEtEnSécurité 
The fate of families in detention rests in your hands. To ask parents to separate from their kids or stay detained indefinitely is no choice at all. #FreeTheFamilies #SafeAndTogetherEl destino de las familias descansa en tus manos. Pedirle a los padres que se separen de sus hijos o permanezcan detenidos no es una opción. #LiberenALasFamilias #SegurosYJuntosSò fanmi ki nan detansyon yo chita nan de pla men w. Mande yon paran swa pou l separe ak pitit li, oswa li rete fèmen nan kacho pou toutan gen tan, ni youn ni lòt pa w chwa serye. #LibereFanmiYo #SekiriteEpiReteAnsanmLe sort des familles en détention est entre vos mains. Demander aux parents de se séparer de leurs enfants ou de rester en détention indéfiniment, ce n’est pas un choix. #LibérezLesFamilles #EnsembleEtEnSécurité 
Families can’t remain detained any longer as COVID-19 spreads like wildfire. Nor should parents be left behind in detention without their children. #FreeTheFamilies #SafeAndTogetherLas familias no pueden permanecer detenidas por más tiempo mientras que COVID-19 se propaga como un fuego descontrolado. Los padres no pueden ser dejados atrás en detención sin sus hijos. #LiberenALasFamilias #SegurosYJuntosFanmi yo pa dwe rete fèmen nan detansyon lè COVID-19 ap vale teren potre dife nan chan kann. Ni paran yo pa dwe rete dèyè nan detansyon san pitit yo. #LibereFanmiYo #SekiriteEpiReteAnsanmLes familles ne peuvent plus être détenues tant que la COVID-19 se répand comme une traînée de poudre. Les parents ne devraient pas non plus être détenus sans leurs enfants.#LibérezLesFamilles #EnsembleEtEnSécurité 

Link to this toolkit: 

Graphics to promote action–download here

Disclaimer: Commenting on these public accounts may catch the attention of internet trolls. Be sure to adjust your account settings to protect your privacy and safety.