Posted on 01/22/2020 at 08:49 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek

Jeanine Cummins’s new novel, American Dirt, had been declared one of the most anticipated books of 2020.

And now that it’s out, the buzz around it continues to swirl — sometimes for better, but also for worse.

The novel tells the story of Lydia and Luca, a mother-son duo fleeing Mexico for the United States after cartel violence upends their lives.

Some reviewers, like NPR’s Maureen Corrigan, have been captivated by how American Dirt combines the character development and descriptive language of literary fiction with the anxiety and pulse-pounding plot of a thriller.

And Oprah Winfrey has joined the ranks of its fans, announcing it as her latest book club choice.

Other voices, however, question whether the tale of migrants fleeing violence is truly Cummins’s story to tell.

Two writers for the Los Angeles Times are among those publicly criticizing Cummins — who, according to the paper, “was born in Spain, is of mixed ethnicity and identifies as Latina and white” — over the book.

Read more about the controversy in the LA Times; listen to Cummins address the situation in the Guardian’s books podcast; and read NPR’s review of American Dirt.

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