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The Week in Review: 02.28.2020

February 28, 2020
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the-week-in-review

Between the Covers

Finished last week:

I first heard about AMERICAN DIRT by Jeanine Cummins at Book Expo last year.  Then, I heard the author speak at SIBA and was able to snag a copy.  I was excited to pick it up and was almost done with it when I started reading about all the controversy surrounding it.  Then, Oprah picked it for her latest book club selection.  It’s been a little while since I finished the book and I thought about not posting about it because I’m still mulling things around in my head.

The book is about Lydia, a young Mexican mother and her son Luca.  While they’re at a family celebration, the rest of their family is massacred by a Mexican drug cartel.  They escape and try to make their way to the US.  Along the way, they encounter other migrants who are making the journey for different reasons.

Cummins says she researched the book for four years to get things right and I get that she’s trying to show what it’s like to be a migrant.  I’m not sure it’s particularly well written but the story is fraught with tension and horror so it was a quick read for me.  I did wonder about some things as I read it, though – like why would Lydia think she’d be safe from drug cartel violence in the US?  How did she and her son adapt to the life of a migrant so quickly?

If you’ve read the book, what did you think?  Do you know of a migrant story written by a migrant?  (Review copy provided by Flatiron Books.)

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Raised in a Quaker family, Susan B. Anthony believed everyone is equal, regardless of sex or race.  She was against slavery and thought women should be able to vote.  At a time when women were discouraged from speaking out, Anthony worked hard to abolish slavery and to secure suffrage for women.

SUSAN B. ANTHONY by Kitson Jazynka is a wonderful book about a strong woman for early readers.  This is a National Geographic Kids Level 1 Book and inside the front cover are directions for reading it.  Parents and caregivers are to read the more difficult page on the left hand side and youngsters read the right hand side.  Harder words, like abolish and petition, are introduced on the left hand side.  There are lots of photographs and illustration as well as activities to enforce learning throughout the book.  I loved the format of this book and enjoyed reading it.  It would make a fine addition to any library.  (Review copy provided by Media Masters Publicity.)

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Several years ago, Hoda Kotb posted an inspirational post on Instagram and got a great response so she decided to post one daily.  She shares a year’s worth of those quotes in her book I REALLY NEEDED THIS TODAY.  After each quote, she explains why the quote has meaning to her or someone in her life.

I listened to this book and enjoyed it and Kotb’s narration of it.  There is background music as she reads the quote and none while she explains why it’s meaningful.  Many of the quotes hit home for me but, of course, I don’t remember them, so I do think this would be a nice book to own in print.  I think it would be fun to read a quote a day or dip in and out of it.  This would make a lovely gift for yourself or a friend.  (Review copy provided by Penguin Random House.)

Currently reading:

On the Screen

I watched the documentary Born Rich.  It was created by Jamie Johnson, an heir to the Johnson & Johnson fortune about what it’s like to grow up filthy rich and features people like Georgina Bloomberg (daughter of Michael Bloomberg), Christina Floyd (her father was golf great Raymond Floyd), Josiah Hornblower (Vanderbilt/Whitney heir), and Ivanka Trump.  I thought it was a fascinating peek into a life I’ll never know and I was struck at how differently the wealth they grew up affected these individuals.

Off the blog

  • I walked at least three miles every morning and averaged almost 16,500 Fitbit steps a day.

What’s going on in your corner of the world?

24 Comments leave one →
  1. February 28, 2020 6:14 am

    I follow Hoda Kotb on IG and enjoy the daily quotes. I agree, a book to page through would be great. For me audio is wonderful in the moment I’m listening but when I finish and move on to another book it fades.

  2. Beth F permalink
    February 28, 2020 7:46 am

    Hoda Kotb sounds like a nice one in print (or digital). I’m not sure I’d want to listen to all the quotes all in one go. Born Rich sounds sounds interesting. I’ll have to look for it. American Dirt . . . I still haven’t read it. Just not sure what to think with the controversy, although I understand the arguments against. Yet, if authors only ever wrote about their very own experiences, literature might not be so rich (???)

  3. February 28, 2020 7:47 am

    I started to read American Dirt, but had to laugh at what I was reading. The writing was mediocre at best and the story was one cliche after another. It was sensationalized and read like a suspense thriller, which is not bad ( I love those types of books ). However, the way everyone was talking about this book I expected great literature. Well, its definitely not. Also, as someone who is Latina, I don’t mind someone writing about Latino culture when they are not Latino, but I do mind when they do it in a stereotypical manner and act like its authentic. Also, the way the publishing company handled the book’s release party with dirt on the table and barbed-wire centerpieces was just completely inappropriate. I feel like there have been so many missteps with this book – its beyond ridiculous. I was definitely disappointed when Oprah chose it as her pick for her book club. This one is a definitely miss for me.

  4. February 28, 2020 8:19 am

    I tried to approach American Dirt with an open mind, since the controversy wouldn’t necessarily be something that would sway my thinking. No, it wasn’t great literature and there were definitely some issues. Like why would the characters think coming to the US would make them safe? The journey itself was fraught with danger, so it seems a bit like jumping from the frying pan into the fire.

    However, it was interesting enough…although I did feel like I was plodding along through most of it.

    Born Rich sounded interesting…until the Ivanka Trump mention. Oops, definitely a turn off for me. LOL.

    Enjoy our week and your books.

  5. February 28, 2020 9:14 am

    I like Hoda Kotb and it sounds like her book is worth reading!

  6. Lloyd Russell permalink
    February 28, 2020 9:17 am

    I got an ARC of American Dirt. I thought it was good. I don’t quite understand all the criticism of it. It seems to paint what seems to be a somewhat accurate picture of what immigrants face coming from Mexico to the U.S. At the same time, of course, how would I know if it’s accurate or not.

    Lloyd (408) 348-4849

    On Fri, Feb 28, 2020 at 1:01 AM Bermudaonion’s Weblog wrote:

    > BermudaOnion posted: ” Between the Covers Finished last week: I first > heard about AMERICAN DIRT by Jeanine Cummins at Book Expo last year. Then, > I heard the author speak at SIBA and was able to snag a copy. I was > excited to pick it up and was almost done with it when I ” >

  7. Diane permalink
    February 28, 2020 10:51 am

    I loved American Dirt but, yes, I’d like to read about the immigrant experience from someone who “walked the walk.” The Hoda book is one I’d like to read in print. Enjoy the weekend Kathy.

  8. Helen Murdoch permalink
    February 28, 2020 11:25 am

    I haven’t figured out if I want to read American Dirt yet or not. It’s good for me to read more reviews about it and I’m glad you thought about the issues surrounding it as you were finishing the book.

  9. February 28, 2020 5:30 pm

    Most of the people who I know who read American Dirt liked it, but I have no plan on reading it. Born Rich looks like a fascinating documentary. Did you stream it?

  10. February 28, 2020 6:28 pm

    I had American Dirt on my list to read but took it off. I’m not sure how many books Hoda Kotb has written, but I have 6 of them in my list at the library. I think Born Rich sounds interesting.

  11. February 28, 2020 9:07 pm

    Would love to read the Hoda Kotb book. I’ll have to see how to get my hands on it.

    I can’t speak much about the Latino reader/author response to American Dirt but I’ve had my struggles with reading books about India written by authors who aren’t Indian. It’s very difficult to get a culture right if you haven’t lived it. The big picture tends to look okay, but it’s those little details – the accents, the gestures, the way people get together, what they do with their free time, etc. I do agree that writing about cultures other than yours should not be criticized – it is up to the reader whether they want to read the book. But then that would be the right thing to say if only the reader did have more choices to choose from.

  12. February 29, 2020 4:58 am

    Nice fitbit score this week!

  13. Mae Sander permalink
    February 29, 2020 9:38 am

    The discussions of whether a writer can — or should — write about anyone whose experiences differ from their own seems to miss the point. A great writer who is sympathetic can bring many people’s experiences into focus, and the examples are numerous. This isn’t a great writer. This writer’s main qualification is that she’s white.

    SO the issue here is that mainstream publishing houses — overwhelmingly run by white men — favored a white writer, and paid her huge amounts for a sensationalistic and (generally agreed) not so great book. Meanwhile they ignore or underpay writers of color who arguably write better books. It’s not about literature, it’s about money and privilege.

    best… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

  14. February 29, 2020 10:24 am

    I don’t know if I want to read American Dirt yet or not, maybe if my library has it available I’ll borrow a copy. Born Rich sounds interesting. You’re doing great on the walking!

  15. February 29, 2020 3:22 pm

    American Dirt came in for me at the library, but I decided I wasn’t in the mood to read it. I’ve read several reviews that say it’s more of a thriller than literary fiction, and I am not a thriller reader. Maybe I will come back to it later, but for now I think I will pass.

    I just checked the library website and I was happy to see that I Really Needed This Today is at my library. It sounds like the perfect book for me.

    I should look for Born Rich. It sounds fascinating.

    Have a lovely week!

  16. S.G. Wright permalink
    February 29, 2020 8:58 pm

    I’m not burning up anymore to read American Dirt but if it comes in at the library, I am not opposed to reading it. I don’t like censoring who can or should write books, but I also like to read a diversity of peoples & nationalities. One Mexican writer I’ve heard of lately is Fernanda Melchor who has a book coming out at the end of March. I might check it out.

  17. March 1, 2020 9:21 am

    The controversy about American Dirt has been interesting to follow, I’m not particularly interested in reading it though.

    Wishing you a great reading week

  18. March 1, 2020 9:32 am

    Another point about American Dirt is that migrants don’t usually have the means and the “room of her own” to write about it. I’m sorry to hear that it’s not particularly well-written, though.

  19. March 1, 2020 5:09 pm

    I’m still not sure wha to make of the American Dirt controversy. My mother read it a few weeks ago… found it to be a quick, but very tense read. I’m still on the library hold list. We’ll see how I feel when it comes in.

  20. March 1, 2020 7:16 pm

    Kathy, thank you for your honest reviews. I Really Needed This Today sounds like my kind of book, and Born Rich sounds like a fascinating documentary. Have a great week ahead!

  21. Sarah Sammis permalink
    March 1, 2020 11:18 pm

    I’ve read several novels by immigrants about immigrants which is why I’ve decided not to spend my time on American Dirt. My weekly update

  22. March 2, 2020 10:49 am

    I really liked American Dirt and read it before the controversy. I saw a lot of stereotypes, but I also think the publisher did the book a disservice by marketing it how they did. This was not great literature or instant classic. I tend to ignore cover blurbs that seem like hyperbole. I would have marketed it as a suspense/thriller, which is what it felt like the whole time. I did learn a lot about La Bestia, and I loved the stories from the other immigrants in the book.

    I’m really looking forward to reading Reyna Grande’s memoir on her own migrant experience. She’ll be in discussion with Cummins in Gaithersburg this month about the immigrant/migrant experience. I’m looking forward to it. Grande has supported American Dirt from the beginning.

    I hope that the book leads other readers to authors of color and those with migrant experiences to learn what it is really like to leave your home, be displaced, and come to a country as unwelcoming as the United States has been.

  23. March 7, 2020 6:36 pm

    Bless Hoda. I won’t read Dirt because I just don’t usually like thrillers unless REALLY REALLY good and who knows that? I feel like I can skip it. The Born Rich movie? documentary? just the premise turns me off. What was the motivation for that?

  24. March 8, 2020 10:41 pm

    I’ll have to check out Born Rich. I love sneak peeks into the lifestyles of the rich and famous. One of the reasons why the Real Housewives is on of my guilty pleasures!

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