The author of “American Dirt,” a book about an American woman’s unexpected journey with illegal immigrants jumping the border from Mexico into the United States after her husband is killed by drug lords, is canceling her blockbuster book tour amid allegations that her woke tale is “racist” and that she engaged in “cultural appropriation.”
Jeanine Cummins has dropped out of scheduled appearances in support of “American Dirt” scheduled to begin this week, according to CNN. Cummins didn’t give a reason for suddenly clearing her calendar, but her publisher, Flatiron Books, told CNN that “based on specific threats to booksellers and the author, we believe there exists real peril to their safety.”
Flatiron Books CEO Bob Miller, however, added that the controversy surrounding “American Dirt” “exposed deep inadequacies” in how the publishing house handles issues of diversity and representation.
“American Dirt” was supposed to be a groundbreaking novel that would tug at the heartstrings of readers, pulling them into the plight of Central American and Mexican immigrants, and, many left-leaning critics of President Donald Trump hoped, engendering discomfort his immigration policy.
In her author’s note, Cummins even says, “At worst, we perceive [migrants] as an invading mob of resource-draining criminals, and, at best, a sort of helpless, impoverished, faceless brown mass, clamoring for help at our doorstep. We seldom think of them as our fellow human beings.” She initially claimed to be part Puerto Rican and said her husband was an “illegal immigrant.”
But Cummins’ woke tale just wasn’t woke enough. After a wave of inital, fawning reviews — and even the honor of being selected for Oprah’s book club — critics quickly found fault, noting that Cummins’ grasp of Spanish seemed forced, and her writing seemed to demonstrate a lack of knowledge and understanding of her subjects, particularly of Mexican migrants. Eventually, that criticism morphed into accusations of racism and cultural appropriation.
More than one hundred authors have now condemned Oprah Winfrey’s choice of “American Dirt,” and Winfrey herself has recalled her “Book Club” selection in a video posted to social media, noting that, “It’s clear that we need to have a different kind of conversation about American Dirt and we welcome everyone’s thoughts and opinions in our community.”
Cummins hasn’t issued an apology, but now says she’s “white” and admits that while her husband is an illegal immigrant, he’s from Ireland, not Mexico.
Miller, however, has apologized for letting the issues skate through the editorial process. “We can now see how insensitive those and other decisions were, and we regret them.”
Although Cummins won’t be going out on the road in support of her novel, she won’t be disappearing from public life altogether — at least, if Flatiron has anything to say about it. Instead of a traditional book tour, Cummins will now be part of conversations about race and culture, apparently at the behest of her embarrassed publishers.
‘Miller wrote that Flatiron would organize a series of town hall meetings with Cummins and those who raised concerns about the book in order to create a dialogue,” CNN reports.
“We believe that this provides an opportunity to come together and unearth difficult truths to help us move forward as a community,” he said.