Jeanine Cummins

Posted by Sue Leonard on Monday 30th March 2020

Jeanine lived in Belfast after college, “bar tending and writing terrible poetry.” After two years she moved to New York and worked at Penguin books for ten years.

“I was there when I published my memoir with them in 2004. It was a tragic story about the murder of my cousins and my brother, who was the only survivor of the crime. It became a best seller.”

Two novels followed, in 2010, and 2013 – both were set in Ireland, the first about a traveller girl, the second about the famine, but neither was published here.  American Dirt is her Irish and UK debut. Universally praised, it’s been optioned for a movie.

Who is Jeanine Cummings?

Date of birth: 1974 in Spain to an American mother and Irish, Puerta Rican father.

Education: School in Petersburg, Maryland. College in Baltimore, English with creative writing and mass communication.

Home: New York.

Family: Husband Joe, from Mayo. Two daughters,12 and 9.

The Day Job: Fulltime writer and mother since 2007.

In Another Life: “If I weren’t writing, I’d probably be an artist or a musician. My mum’s dad played in the big bands going on boats up the Mississippi river.”

Favourite Writers: W.B Yeats; Gabriel Garcia Marquez; Louise Erdrich; Elizabeth Strout; Sandro Cisneros; Ta-Nehisi Coates.

Next Novel: “I’ve started researching it.”

Top Tip: Be careful. Whatever it is you feel compelled to write, it’s very important to get it right and be sensitive to people’s culture and humanity.

Website:   Twitter: @jeaninecummins

The Debut: American Dirt.  €16.99.  Kindle: €8.97 

Lydia had a charmed life. Wife of a journalist, she owned a bookshop. But a tragic, violent crime leaves her with nothing, except for her eight-year-old son, Luca. To protect him, she’s prepared to flee across the Mexican border – facing constant danger  – sacrificing everything. For him, she’ll jump onto high speed trains, and find the strength to keep running.

“I felt compelled to write this novel. I wanted to re-explore the genre from the point of view of the victims. I wrote it out of anger for how much attention the perpetrators of crimes always seem to get, at the expense of the victims.

The Verdict: Unforgettable. A breathtakingly good book showing the human face of forced migration.


Published in The Irish Examiner on 25th January

© Sue J Leonard. 2020

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