The hotly anticipated immigration tale, “American Dirt,” is in deep trouble after its celebrity backers suddenly turned on the book and its author, Jeanine Cummins, calling it racist — and worse.
“American Dirt,” Vox reports, is the fictional account of a a woman forced to travel with illegal immigrants after escaping from drug lords in Mexico: ‘It tells the story of a mother and son, Lydia and Luca, fleeing their home in Acapulco, Mexico, for the US after the rest of their family is murdered by a drug cartel. Lydia is a bookstore owner who never thought of herself as having anything in common with the migrants she sees on the news, but after she comes up with the plan of disguising herself by posing as a migrant, she realizes that it won’t really be a disguise: It’s who she is now.”
The book’s author, Cummins, earned a seven figure advance to write the novel, and publishers were so convinced it would be a bestseller that they ordered a first printing of more than half a million copies. Celebrities endorsed it and Oprah Winfrey made it her “Book Club” pick for the month of January, thus ensuring it would be a best-seller.
The woke narrative — an accessible description of the hardships faced by those who try to immigrate to the United States illegally — was supposed to make Americans stop and think about the Trump administration’s immigration policies. The authors note encourages people moved by the book to take action to confront their privilege and bias.
“At worst, we perceive [illegal immigrants] 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,” Cummins writes in her note. “We seldom think of them as our fellow human beings.”
But this week, everything changed for Cummins and “American Dirt,” after a review accused Cummins of penning “trauma porn” and of a form of “cultural appropriation” — telling the story of Mexican immigrants while being white.
Cummins says she is at least partly Puerto Rican but, for the most part, identifies as white. Her husband is an illegal immigrant, but from Ireland, not Mexico. And she defended her decision to write a book about illegal immigration by positioning herself as a “white savior,” according to her critics.
“I worried that, as a nonmigrant and non-Mexican, I had no business writing a book set almost entirely in Mexico, set entirely among migrants. I wished someone slightly browner than me would write it,” Cummins said in an interview. “But then, I thought, If you’re a person who has the capacity to be a bridge, why not be a bridge?”
She claims to have spent hundreds of hours traveling with migrants and studying them, but that’s not enough for her woke critics, who say she can’t get a sense of how immigrants actually feel because she’s in no danger of becoming one.
“American Dirt fails to convey any Mexican sensibility,” one critic says. “It aspires to be Día de los Muertos but it, instead, embodies Halloween.”
Worse still, Cummins portrays the United States as a shining beacon on a hill — a safe place — and the woke progressives want to be clear: it is no such thing.
“Mexicanas get raped in the USA too,” the same critic writes. “You know better, you know how dangerous the United States of America is, and you still chose to frame this place as a sanctuary. It’s not.”
The criticism goes on. And on. And on. And it ranges from concerns that there was “border chic” barbed wire on the centerpieces at “American Dirt’s” book release party, to concerns that writers of color would never be offered a seven-figure advance. Even Salma Hayek, who expressed excitement at the book’s premise was forced to retract — or “correct” — her positive statements.
— Rosy Cordero (@SocialRosy) January 25, 2020
It’s hard work being a social justice warrior.