The Kindness — and Evil — of Strangers
Coyote: “I don’t like leaving people behind. I don’t like people dying in the desert. So I choose people who won’t die.
Migrant: “I have no intention of dying.”
Coyote: “No one intends to die.”
Migrant: “Yes, but I intend not to die.”
–“American Dirt”; p. 281.
What makes the exchange (above) especially potent: the steely, determined-to-live migrant . . . is an eight-year old boy!
“American Dirt,” Jeanine Cummins’ gripping tale of migrants fleeing Latin American violence and cartels to get to the United States (“el Norte”) is full of moments like that.
Which leads to my twin reactions to the book, and the controversy surrounding its provenance: 1) what a harrowing(!) story; and 2) assuming its depiction of immigrants’ experience is reasonably accurate — and it certainly appears to be — I don’t care if Donald Duck wrote it.
Cummins paints a vivid tableau of sicarios (cartel hitmen), coyotes and their clients (“pollitos”), Le Bestia (Mexico’s network of freight trains), la migra (border patrol), and — most of all — traumatized, vulnerable migrants.
According to Cummins, the fictional story is based on over five years of research.
All of which is why her vilification (at least in some quarters) as an inauthentic, “cultural appropriator” seems like a red herring.
I don’t believe in karma or reincarnation.
But if I did, I’d wish for Donald Trump to return as a teenage girl in Guatemala or Honduras fleeing abuse and violence, with no money, family, or anything but the clothes on her back.
In other words, the exact opposite of the life he was born into . . .