American Dirt Alternatives

The heavily-marketed publication of American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins has caused quite a stir.  Promoted as one of the best books of the season by its publisher, it was also picked as an Oprah’s Book Club selection setting it up to be a big hit.  Soon after publication, though, many critics questioned its literary merit, accusing it of dealing in stereotypes about the migrant experience and having cardboard characters.  As is often the case, the controversy has been an agent for popularity, and American Dirt currently has many holds on it.  Whether you’re waiting for your hold to be filled so you can judge for yourself, or would like to read a title that has been more well-received by the literary community, check out one of the books below.   

Boy Kings of Texas

Brownsville, Texas features in Martinez’ memoir of life in the 1980s in that border town.  A life that centers around poverty, violence, and the tension between two cultures.  National Book Award finalist. 

The Devil’s Highway: A True Story

Even attempting to cross the border with a group is no guarantee of safe passage.  A finalist for the 2005 Pulitzer Prize, Urrea’s work is the true story of a group of men who attempted a border crossing through the Devil’s Highway, a region in southern Arizona that is so dangerous that even U.S. Border Control is reluctant to travel through it. 26 men started the journey, only 12 survived. You can also check out this title as eAudiobook on Overdrive/Libby and as eBook on Overdrive/Libby.

Gringo Champion

The fictional tale of Liborio, a young man who illegally immigrates to the U.S. in search of a better life, is a then and now look at the immigrant experience. Featuring flashbacks of his troubled life in Mexico, Liborio contrasts those with moments of his present life in the city trying to reinvent himself. 

Lost Children Archive

Transforming her U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services experience into fiction, Luiselli weaves together the story of a family from New York that are on a road trip through Apacheria, the regions of the U.S. that used to be Mexico, and the children that have independently traveled thousands of miles from Central American and Mexico to reach the United States. Longlisted for the 2019 Women’s Prize for Fiction. 

Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in 40 Questions

Mexican writer Valeria Luiselli worked as a translator for the U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services in New York from 2014 to 2015. Her job was to ask unaccompanied and undocumented minors who had fled Central America for United States a 40-question survey. Their answers to these questions would impact their ability to seek asylum in the United States. You can also check out this title as eBook on Hoopla, as eAudiobook on Overdrive/Libby, and as eBook on Overdrive/Libby.


Javier Zamora was nine years old when he traveled 4,000 miles unaccompanied from El Salvador to the United States to be reunited with his parents. Zamora’s poetry collection is an unwavering look at the border, the politics of the border, and those that are left behind never to be seen again. You can also check out this title as eBook on Hoopla and as eBook on Overdrive/Libby.

Where We Came From

The tension of border agents, migrants, and residents sharing space is everyday life in a border town. Casares’ Where We Came From, features one family, and two young boys. Orly, a 12-year-old from Houston who is not much in touch with his Hispanic roots, is forced to summer in Brownsville, TX with his Aunt Nina when his mother suddenly dies. Unbeknownst to him, Aunt Nina is sheltering a young migrant boy named Daniel who has narrowly escaped border agents, and is anxiously and hopefully awaiting the arrival of his father. This novel, told in third person, not only follows the family, but relays the thoughts of many residents and guests of the border town.