"She's this middle-class, bookstore-owning woman who left Mexico with a small fortune in her pocket, like she was going to go to France or something. With inheritance money. With an ATM to her mom's life savings. And why did she leave? Because she was flirting with a drug lord who's now trying to kill her. This is a wonderful, melodramatic telenovela, something I would love watching for cheap entertainment, like a narco-thriller on Netflix. But this should not be called by anyone 'the great immigrant novel, the story of our time, The Grapes of Wrath.' Why? How did we get to a point in our industry, in the book industry, in society, that this is the low standard that we have?"
Writer Myriam Gurba, another critic of the book, pointed out a particular inauthenticity: "There is a scene where the main character encounters an ice rink. And she's utterly shocked at the existence of this ice rink, as if she's unaware that winter sports are played in Mexico. And I was laughing," Gurba says. "I laughed out loud when I got to that section because I learned to ice skate in Mexico. I learned to ice skate at age 9 in Guadalajara."
Bermudez, like many others speaking out against the book, says that despite the author's intentions, it doesn't reflect the truth of the migrant experience. "My grandfather, my aunt, my uncle were killed in El Salvador at a time of death squads. Death squads sponsored by the U.S. I was separated from my mom, I didn't meet her until I was five because of all this violence. I wanted to see myself reflected in this book. It's painful that not only did I not see myself, but I found all these things that constantly make us feel small."
She says she understands that Americans who aren't migrants themselves or come from migrant families may walk away from this book with a completely different feeling. "This book has left a lot of white readers with this very fuzzy feeling, like, 'Oh my God' about immigrants. And my skin is crawling. My skin is crawling."