It's come to the attention of many a John Grisham fan that there is a rather large mistake in his novel The Guardians about Morehouse College.
Jeanine Cummins’ American Dirt has been deemed one of the most anticipated novels of 2020, included in Oprah Winfrey’s book club, and praised by Stephen King and John Grisham. Today, it’s being slated on twitter by literary fans and critics alike. This dichotomy of its reception puts the novel in a precarious position, with one foot on the side of success and the other in very hot water. When it comes to writing about race, sensitivity is one of the most important factors and Cummins’ latest novel is about Mexican immigrant experience, while Jeanine herself is not Mexican. This has set off alarm bells for a lot of people and raised questions about cultural appropriation and “trauma porn”.
In a piece in the New York Times, Jeanine identifies herself as white, before going on to pen this novel about a Mexican mother and daughter and their tragic loss of family at the hands of a cartel. The pair must then escape to America. In the novel’s afterword, Cummins describes her motivation to write the novel as an effort to give a story to the “faceless brown mass” that immigrant communities are often seen as. This comment is, in itself, problematic as it raises the question of why Jeanine felt the need to individualize a “mass” of which she is not a part – the notion of the “white savior” comes to mind.
image via slate
Fellow writers have shared their own opinions about the novel, either praising Cummins for her work or, more recently, slating it. Writer David Bowles, in a piece on Medium, stipulates that “Latina or no, Cummins certainly isn’t Mexican or Chicana. That’s a problem,”. What this suggests, is that the novel may well be “extraordinary” and well-written but its topic is still controversial and problematic.
I am an immigrant. My family fled El Salvador with death pounding on our door. The terror, the loss, the injustice of this experience shaped everything about me. I see no part of myself reflected in #AmericanDirt, a book white critics are hailing as the great immigrant novel.
— Esmeralda Bermudez (@LATBermudez) January 20, 2020
Others have been critical of the plethora of errors and misrepresentations in Cummins’ descriptions of Mexico. This should come as no surprise when an author writes about a group with which they cannot personally or culturally resonate. In an interview with Shelf Awareness, Cummins spoke about her own hesitation to write American Dirt because of this. “I was resistant, initially, to writing from the point of view of a Mexican migrant because, no matter how much research I did, regardless of the fact that I’m Latinx, I didn’t feel qualified to write in that voice,”
If nothing else, this novel has already managed to fully divide readers and critics alike. Plus, the conversation around race and its misrepresentation in literature is one that certainly cannot be contained to American Dirt alone.
Featured image via Bookbub
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Each week, Bookstr gives you a look at some of the best novels in a particular genre for your continued reading list.
Today, we’ll be recommending five of the best fear-inducing Crime and Thrillers that’ll get you in the true October spirit with their scariest horrors, from haunted houses to serial killers.
5-The Secret of Cold Hill by Peter James
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To start off this week’s top picks we are going to talk about the author of bestsellers such as the Roy Grace Books and Match Up, Peter James, who is bringing us a sequel to his spine-chilling The Secret of Cold Hill September 9th.
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The infamous Cold Hill House has been demolished to make way for a new housing estate, and now an elderly couple has moved into the new estate. But no one who moves into Cold Hill reaches their fortieth birthday, and this couple’s days are numbered.
Publisher’s Weekly notes that “[a]fter an opening scene of gore, the novel takes time to build to its final unavoidable and understated tragedies” and we here at Bookstr warn you that this novel builds and builds and you’ll forget the chilling conclusion, even though you may want to.
4-The Other End of the Line by Andrea Camilleri
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A September 19th release from Andrea Camilleri, this Italian author has written, among many others, the infamous Montalbano mystery series. The Montalbano series, set in nineteenth-century Sicily, has been made into the critical darling Italian TV series.
Image Via Amazon
His newest book follows Inspector Montalbano who, among many others, assist the wave of refugees coming in along the Sicilian coast, but while on duty, traged strikes the docks when Elena Biasini, a charming master seamstress, is found brutally slain.
Now Inspector Montalbano delves into the world of garments, discovering how to weave the loose threads of this case together.
As usual, Camilleri delivers an excellent mystery with a rich plot, made all the more intense by the fact that the aging Montalbano growing age is starting to show. A deeply satisfying police procedural, as well as a feast of satire and playful nonsense, this novel is not only a commentary of our times, but also an astounding feat considering Camilleri was blind when he wrote this book with his assistant.
Image Via Book Riot
Leigh Bardugo is the creator of the Grishaverse—a literary universe that consists of the Shadow and Bone Trilogy, the Six of Crows Duology, The Language of Thorns, and King of Scars—and is the author of Wonder Woman: Warbringer.
Her newest novel is much anticipated and, thanks to the wonder of time (it came out October 8th!), is already out!
But what’s the book about?
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Raised in Los Angeles by a hippie mom, Galaxy “Alex” Stern dropped out of school early and entered a world of shady drug-dealer boyfriends, dead-end jobs, and much, much worse.
By age twenty, Alex is the sole survivor of a horrific, unsolved multiple homicide. Now on her hospital bed, Alex is offered a second chance to rebuild her life and attend one of the world’s most prestigious universities on a full ride.
What’s the catch?
Well, Alex is tasked by her mysterious benefactors with monitoring the activities of Yale’s secret societies and she finds herself in a world of occult magic and…death!
A thrilling ride, this novel has gotten praises from the King of Horror himself, Stephen King, who said that, “Ninth House is the best fantasy novel I’ve read in years, because it’s about real people. Bardugo’s imaginative reach is brilliant, and this story―full of shocks and twists―is impossible to put down.”
2-The Guardians by John Grisham
Image Via NPR
A lawyer for years, John Grisham became an author and his name has become synonymous with the modern legal thriller. So how is this October 15th release different from his other novels? Well…
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Twenty-two years ago Quincy Miller, a young black man, was arrested for the shooting of young lawyer Keith Russo. For the two decades, Quincy has maintained his innocence. Desperate, he writes a letter to Guardian Ministries, a small nonprofit run by Cullen Post, a lawyer who is also an Episcopal minister.
Cullen Post takes the case but soon discovers there are people who do not want Quincy exonerated. They killed one lawyer twenty-two years ago, and they will kill another without a second thought.
Gripping, exciting, this book may prove to be one of Grisham’s most thrilling, most heart-pounding novel.
1-Curious Toys by Elizabeth Hand
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A regular contributor to the Washington Post Book World and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Elizabeth Hand has written Winterlong, Waking the Moon (Tiptree and Mythopoeic Award-Winner), and, among many others, Glimmering. An astounding writer, Elizabeth Hand brings us this October 15th release.
Image Via Amazon
In the summer of 1915, Pin, the fourteen-year-old daughter of a carnival fortune-teller, dresses as a boy and joins a teenage gang that roams the Chicago’s Riverview amusement park, looking for trouble.
She finds it, discovering a ruthless killer who uses the shadows of the dark carnival attractions to conduct his crimes. Witnessing him enter the Hell Gate ride with a young girl, and emerging alone, Pin will be led to iconic outsider artist Henry Darger, a brilliant but seemingly mad man. She’ll have to work with this lunatic to navigate the seedy underbelly of a changing city to uncover a murderer who lurks in the shadow.
Beyond your run-of-the-mill thriller, Kirkus Reviews perfectly notes how “Pin is an engaging, courageous heroine, and her musings on gender identity are both poignant and relevant,” and the novel itself is “Richly imaginative and psychologically complex.”
Featured Image Via Wmra, Book Riot, and Amazon
As one of the world’s richest authors, John Grisham is most well-known for his electrifying legal thrillers. In October, he will be returning to his best-known genre and releasing The Rooster Bar.
When The Amazon Book Review inquired what Grisham has been reading lately, he gave these recommendations and explained why you should to read them.
Captions courtesy of Amazon editorial
“A fascinating and tragic story of yet another chapter in our country’s history of the mistreatment of native peoples.”
In the 1920s, the Osage found themselves in a unique position among Native American tribes. As other tribal lands were parceled out in an effort by the government to encourage dissolution and assimilation of both lands and culture, the Osage negotiated to maintain the mineral rights for their corner of Oklahoma, creating a kind of “underground reservation.” It proved a savvy move; soon countless oil rigs punctured the dusty landscape, making the Osage very rich. And that’s when they started dying.
“A wonderful adventure and tragically compelling story into America’s greatest sin.
Cora is a slave on a cotton plantation in Georgia. Life is hell for all the slaves, but especially bad for Cora; an outcast even among her fellow Africans, she is coming into womanhood—where even greater pain awaits. When Caesar, a recent arrival from Virginia, tells her about the Underground Railroad, they decide to take a terrifying risk and escape. Matters do not go as planned—Cora kills a young white boy who tries to capture her. Though they manage to find a station and head north, they are being hunted.
“A true crime story about a murder in Mississippi in 1932 that captivated the country.”
Strange, fascinating, and sobering, Goat Castle tells the story of this local feud, killing, investigation, and trial, showing how a true crime tale of fallen southern grandeur and murder obscured an all too familiar story of racial injustice. This book will be released on October 9, 2017.
Feature image courtesy of Madison