The new novel, American Dirt, by American author Jeanine Cummins, has been received with a mix of praise and vitriol. The book tells the story of Lydia Quixano Pèrez, a young middle-class owner of a Mexican bookstore who is forced to flee her hometown of Acapulco with her eight-year-old son, after her husband (a journalist) is killed by a local drug cartel. She escapes to the safety of the United States, enduring a treacherous journey aboard a freight train, during which time she becomes friends with migrants also fleeing the country. On face value, it would appear there is little to court controversy, so why did it? And why in particular did this book stir up considerable anger for some Mexican-American migrants?
One review which encapsulates the views of many Mexican-Americans and other migrants to the United States, by David Bowles, a writer, professor, and translator, written for the New York Times express the view that American Dirt "is a pastiche of stereotypes and melodramatic tropes of the sort one might expect from an author who did not grow up within Mexican culture, from a massacre at a quinceañera to the inexplicable choice of a relatively wealthy woman to leap onto La Bestia, a gang-controlled train - rather than just take a plane to Canada".
The author, rather than trying to cause offence, was endeavouring to expose the dangers and emotional and physical trauma endured by migrants who are forced from their own homes. The publisher's own note at the start of the book explains how Cummins had told her "migrants at the Mexican border were being portrayed as 'a faceless brown mass'" and that she wanted to give these people a face". This isn't, however, how American Dirt has been received by all. Some have expressed the view that the book wasn't for her to write, a point she herself acknowledge in the afterword; "I was worried that, as a non-immigrant and non-Mexican, I had no business writing a book set almost entirely in Mexico, set entirely among immigrants."
Some Latin-American voices have stated that they feel deeply misrepresented by American Dirt. Mexican writer Myriam Gurba wrote scathingly about the book, "Unlike the narcos she vilifies, Cummins exudes neither grace nor flair. Instead, she bumbles with Trumpian tackiness, and a careful look at chronology reveals how she operates: opportunistically, selfishly, and parasitically. Cummins identified the gringo appetite for Mexican pain and found a way to exploit it. With her ambition in place, she shoved the "faceless" out of her way, ran for the microphone and ripped it out of our hands, deciding that her incompetent voice merited amplification. By her own admission, Cummins lacked the qualifications to write Dirt. And she did it anyways. For a seven-figure sum". Gurba says that the book only serves to make Americans pity those of Mexican heritage, and in her words "look down their noses" at them. And that many Americans have a "sweet tooth" for Mexican pain and have a preference for "trauma porn that wears a social justice fig leaf".
Mexican-American author Reyna Grande in her review of American Dirt in the New York Times believes positives may come from the controversy. She explains how her own novel about a Mexican immigrant girl was rejected 26 times, and on the 27th attempt was successful in gaining a $20,000 book deal. While she is grateful for her success, she calls this challenge of Latino authors the "publishing border", one which many are never able to cross. Crucially, she firmly believes that the controversy was the fault of the publishers more than the author; "I had seen Ms. Cummins as a writer who could speak with us, not for us. Instead, the publishing machine decided to put her book on a pedestal".
In making this point, Grande reminds us that the cultural heritage of the writer should be less important than the quality of the writing and the accuracy of what it portrays. Books such as 'Small Island' by Andrea Levy about the Windrush Generation have been received with widespread critical acclaim.
It is also imperative that migrants of all backgrounds have an equal opportunity and reward for telling their stories. Doing so serves a vital purpose in explaining what really happens when people are forced to flee their war-torn homes, violent drug cartels, political or religious persecution, or any other form of inhumane behaviour.
As Reyna Grande concludes, American Dirt at least shows that publishers "are willing to pay top dollar and use the full strength of their marketing machine to promote the immigrant experience". But stories written by migrants themselves should not be the subject of discrimination when it comes to amounts paid by publishers and their willingness to promote them. Whether it is the stories of those escaping war-ravaged countries in the Middle East, those seeking new homes as a result of climate change, or those who are facing daily political persecution in Russia or China, migrant tales need to be told. In a period when some countries appear to be turning their back on migrants, reading about their real plight has the power to engender empathy and a desire to push for a fairer and more considerate approach to those in desperate need. The truth is that many politicians and media outlets are keen to portray migrants in a less positive light to serve their own interests. American Dirt should be a wakeup call to publishers that accurate portrayals of migrant experiences, whether in the form of a novel or non-fiction, are of great value to our society. The opportunity to tell those stories should be open to everyone in equal measure.
It's a shame that you dont have an 'Excellent' star rating on here, as my experience with Reiss Edwards is nothing short of an excellent rating. They handled my application for an Indefinite Leave to remain in April 2014 and did my husband's one very recently including my daughter. Every time i have approached them, they have continued to treat me with courtesy, respect and patience. Amar was indeed a very thorough and professional gentleman. He is very knowledgeable, corporative and engaging. He responded to my emails, calls and enquiries promptly. He was always reassuring. I could not have asked for a better Immigration service. I would recommend them over and over again for anyone looking for an immigration advice. They gave me a free immigration advice when i called them, and the quality of the advice was something other charge thousands for. If you need a particular, name, Amar would be it. He exemplifies, for me, the true, professional gentleman. He is a valuable asset to Reiss Edwards.
I am glad that i instructed Reiss Edwards on my visa matter. It started with a 20 minutes free immigration advice. I met with Amar to discuss my ILR refusal. He gave me a great deal of quality advice and decided to take on my messy case. I had doubts on the merits of my case by he was relatively convinced he could win it. That made me quite secure. To be honest, things did not start as quick as I would have wanted, but they kept on communicating the process and state of things to me.A big thank you to Verusha and Foram. They were also very helpful. Brilliant and informative. Their fee was fair and reasonable, especially if you compare them to other law firms and immigration law firms in London; some of whom even told me that i would not be able to get an indefinte leave to remain in this country. The process was long but was worth it. In the end, a big thank you to Reiss Edwards.
Investing over 2 million pounds is defintely not a routine decision. We had to make sure that the Tier 1 investor immigration lawyers that we'd be picking has to be one of the best within the Tier 1 investor category. We contacted Reiss Edwards and they were able to get us not only the Tier 1 investor visa but also suggested profitable investment portfolios in addition to what we already had in mind.
TI have just had British Citizenship application approved. Prior to making the application, i was not sure which law firm i should hire to facilitate the paperwork. After a few hours of research, i decided to go with Reiss Edwards and i must confess that i wasnt disappointed. The immigration lawyers at Reiss Edwards handled my case well and they really knew what they were doing. They were fully aware of what documents I needed and it was easy for them to tell if my case was going to be easy or not. At the end of the day, I have not received my British citizenship within 3 months. If anyone is looking for a good immigration lawyer to handle thier case, contact Reiss Edwards.
My wife's spouse visa extension application was refused by the Home Office and they gave her 14 days to leave the country. We contacted Reiss Edwards and they said "OK don't worry we will sort this out". They put together the list of documents for me to obtain and they prepared a bundle which was as thick as the printer it came out from.We followed everything they asked us to do and in the end we won our appeal and got our spouse visa. We can't recommend them enough and we have promised ourselves never to make any more UK visa applications without them.
The team of lawyers at Reiss Edwards are very professional and friendly people. Their experience in and around UK immigration law is quite extensive; be sure that you application is in safe and competent hands. My immigration matter was an indefinite leave to remain application based on Tier 1 on a self-employment basis. The immigration lawyers at Reiss Edwards made sure that the application was perfect and ready to be accepted. I got a positive decision and I recommend them highly for anyone who needs a UK immigration help.
I contacted Reiss Edwards to help me with my wife's UK settlement visa. They acted with utmost professionalism throughout the entire application. I spoke with Joe Dinh, he is an immigration solicitor and he is one of the best solicitors out there. He ensured that there was little to no room for error. At some point I thought he was over cautious. He remained calmed and continued to assure us on our immigration matter. Most people in his position would have panicked but he was calmed and continued to assure us. We received out positive outcome very quickly.
I have been using Reiss Edwards for three years now for my family's immigration application. Both for my initial application and extension. They are really affordable. The team of solicitors at this firm are probably one of the most efficient and economical in terms of cost. They offered free advice over the phone and spent good time with us before inviting us for consultation.
Reiss Edwards is a top notch immigration service company. The way they handled our documentation and also the list of documents they sent was efficient and top quality. They helped us professionally throughout the process. We are very happy with the immigration advice we received from the team. We highly recommend them.
I used Reiss Edwards immigration lawyers to assist with my immigration matter and that of my family. It was an EX1 application. They dealt with the matter properly and even when complications were coming up from the Home Office, they helped resolve the issue properly. They are very professional and are very popular in London. I am happy to have worked with them.
This is the only firm that i spoke with that didn't ask for money before listening to me, will be using them again.
I used Reiss Edwards for my Tier 2 visa application and it was successful. The team was ever present and happy to answer my question. The caseworker that dealing with my case went on holiday yet by case did not suffer one bit. Another lawyer stepped and took over the case without any hassle.
My Tier 1 Investor Visa was dealt with quickly and without issue. Would recommend Reiss Edwards as an Immigration law firm in London. Thank you to the team.
530 ReviewsREAD ALL REVIEWS