If American Dirt, million-dollar advance and all, had been billed as a juicy romance or a narco-thriller, there still would have been plenty of complaints. You may click on “Your Choices” below to learn about and use cookie management tools to limit use of cookies when you visit NPR’s sites. And those few who do aren’t going to look toward the southern border and solemnly remove their MAGA caps just because they read a mediocre thriller. They’re not going to call out their racist coworker because a white author has made the apparently novel case that Mexicans are people too. Get our weekly newsletter, filled with good reads, news analysis—and updates on special events. For me, American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is a realistic account of a Mexican mother and son who embark on a grief and fear driven journey to get out of the country they adore due to grave danger. "American Dirt" follows the fictional account of a Mexican mother and her young son as they flee violence and migrate north to America. In order to write this piece I read the book that wasn’t meant for me and, through sheer exploitative force of brutal emotion, I saw myself in it. We don’t want Cummins marched through the streets of the barrio while we throw stale conchas at her. You can adjust your cookie choices in those tools at any time. I’m a novelist myself, but I don’t believe that novels can do what so many people were desperate for this one to do. Let me take a step back for those of you lucky enough to have missed the drama. Critics are calling it trauma porn. But while there are a few people out there claiming that authors should never write outside of their lived experiences, they’re mostly a fringe group. And to make that happen, they all promoted a book that they thought would sway some mythical white person: their racist uncle, a bigoted grandmother, a swing voter in Florida who voted for Obama in ’08 but switched to Trump in ’16. The controversy surrounding American Dirt has eclipsed the novel entirely. Even the most “assimilated” Latinos stop and wonder if their time here, in the country we helped build, is limited. What a bold claim and a brave stand. Hint: it’s the very readers American Dirt didn’t feel obliged to address. Host Maria Hinojosa interviews Myriam Gurba, a Chicana feminist author who was the first to offer harsh criticism of the book. The controversy over the new immigration novel American Dirt, explained A non-Mexican author wrote a book about Mexican migrants. And those good intentions are written all over each page—to the point of acting as a constant distraction. 'It's unprecedented': how bookstores are handling the American Dirt controversy Read more In the New York Times, a white reviewer agonised over whether it was her place to review such a book at all. It is Sebastián’s exposé on the kingpin, who also happens to be a frequent customer of Lydia’s bookstore, that serves as the linchpin for the violence that sets off t… 'American Dirt': A Conversation About A Controversy By NPR. Oprah Winfrey is breaking her silence on the controversy surrounding … Then, Parul Sehgal in the New York Times tore the book apart for simply being bad. If you click “Agree and Continue” below, you acknowledge that your cookie choices in those tools will be respected and that you otherwise agree to the use of cookies on NPR’s sites. There may be some ambiguity here—perhaps Cummins received threats that weren’t specifically death threats; perhaps some bookstores were informed that they would be subject to disruptions. And that’s why so many of us are upset about this book. Texas’s Most Famous Historian Looks Back at His Own, Legendary Life, Remembering Karl Kilian, Founder of Houston’s Brazos Bookstore, In Her Tender Poetry Collection, Lucy Griffith Commemorates a West Texas Figure. The stories you want, in one weekly newsletter. The harder people try to extricate themselves, the deeper they sink. We report on vital issues from politics to education and are the indispensable authority on the Texas scene, covering everything from music to cultural events with insightful recommendations. Sure, some people have insisted that we look on the bright side: at least we’re talking about books, right? Leave them blank to get signed up. Don't have an account? https://www.texasmonthly.com/the-culture/american-dirt-book-controversy/. But the industry gatekeepers who promoted American Dirt didn’t think about recent immigrants, or second-generation Americans, or fifteenth-generation Americans. Who knew? She writes about how President Trump’s 2016 election—and the ugly anti-immigrant rhetoric that both preceded it and has since followed—was one of the impulses that pushed her to finish the novel. If American Dirt was written for a white audience, then who are these anti-violence messages meant for? But not for Lydia and Luca. To her mind it’s ignorant, and needs to be spoon-fed one-dimensional characters in order to believe that migrants are three-dimensional people. American Dirt’s author, Jeanine Cummins, identifies herself as white and Latina. Otherwise, try again or reset your password. At least we’ve got people discussing the migrant experience, no? People with the agency to make their own decisions, people who can contribute to their own bright future, and to ours, as so many generations of oft-reviled immigrants have done before them.”. We want stories about our experiences that aren’t the equivalent of tear-jerking after-school specials. Just How Many Texans Are in the Marvel Universe Now, Anyway? Tagged Alt.Latino American Dirt controversy Jeanine Cummins Myriam Gurba NPR Parul Sehgal Post navigation. The book tour for "American Dirt" has been suspended. Though I’m a Latino with brown skin and a new daughter with a Spanish last name as her first name, my ancestors have been in New Mexico and South Texas for centuries. At the end of the day, the publishing industry turned us—my us, not Jeanine Cummins’s us—into the faceless brown masses that it so desperately wanted to humanize. What about Urrea (whose work was a clear, maybe too clear, influence on American Dirt)? Writers are finding themselves arguing with friends and heroes. Sorry, we’re unable to find an account with that username and password. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think about it all the time. So I’m not really part of the group that Cummins is writing about. The early buzz was deafening. Upon publication, it drew raves from big media entities: NPR, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times—name a national outlet and it probably gave American Dirt a stellar review. White writers suddenly felt a need to write op-eds stating that violence is bad. American Dirt was written for and marketed to those theoretical people—virtually none of whom are ever going to read it. The book goes out of its way to explain Mexico and Mexicans, largely because Cummins is writing through a lens that could not be less Mexican. Review after review looked past the book’s odd POV shifts, frequent malapropisms, and anthropology-textbook prose in order to promote its supposed ability to reach white readers. And according to whom? There is no doubt that with all this controversy behind the publication of American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, author Myriam Gurba was the key spark in calling attention to what she feels are major problems in Cummins’ novel. Austin writer Richard Z. Santos’s debut novel, Trust Me, will be published by Arte Público Press on March 31. Don Winslow compared American Dirt to The Grapes of Wrath. Not many people have a more informed perspective on the controversy swirling around American Dirt, the wildly hyped best-selling novel about a Mexican mother and her son escaping to the United States, than Latino writer Dariel Suarez. Controversy has swirled around "American Dirt" and author Jeanine Cummins. Jan 31, 2020 1:30 PM. The novel "American Dirt" recently got the coveted Oprah seal of approval, but such acclaim was soon followed by heavy criticism from Latino reviewers and readers who said the book relied heavily on stereotypes and overwrought tropes about the immigrant experience. What My Aunt Yoli Taught Me About Being a Tejano, has agreed to hire and publish more Latinos, asked why this novel garnered so much attention, Cummins hadn’t received any death threats. NPR’s sites use cookies, similar tracking and storage technologies, and information about the device you use to access our sites (together, “cookies”) to enhance your viewing, listening and user experience, personalize content, personalize messages from NPR’s sponsors, provide social media features, and analyze NPR’s traffic. Enter your email below to send a password reset email. And you certainly can’t help but notice that all this loose talk about undefined threats of violence allowed Flatiron to take control of the situation. ‎Show Alt.Latino, Ep 'American Dirt': A Conversation About A Controversy - Jan 31, 2020 Jeanine Cummins’s “ripped from the headlines” migrant-crisis novel “American Dirt” is out now. The last time my family crossed a desert was four hundred years ago, when we were running from the Spanish Inquisition. American Dirtfollows the journey of a mother and son fleeing Mexico for America after their entire family is murdered on the orders of a local cartel kingpin. There were other missteps by Cummins and her publisher, everything from her bending the truth about her “undocumented” Irish husband to the gobsmackingly stupid decision to set out barbed-wire themed centerpieces at a luncheon celebrating the book. We want to be taken seriously by the major publishers and the media. Weeks of Latinx writers carving their ideas into the discourse got wiped away in a second. There was the time she picked James Frey’s A Million Little Pieces for the book club, only to later find out that the work he’d presented as a memoir was closer to fiction. The most reductive and harmful summary of the numerous critiques of American Dirt is that her detractors are asserting that Cummins’s whiteness should preclude her from writing about people of color. Flatiron offered no details, and earlier this week journalist Roberto Lovato said on Twitter that the publisher has acknowledged that Cummins hadn’t received any death threats. Oprah chose it for her next Apple TV+ book-club entry. Because it’s an NPR radio platform, listeners hear not only words of the interviewees, but also their tone. Violence = bad? If Cummins failed to capture the essence of the Mexican culture, the … I don’t need a book to help me realize that the undocumented students at the high school where I teach have agency. Stephen King pompously tweeted: “We don’t threaten writers with violence. Yes, Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle actually had an effect on American attitudes toward slavery and the food industry. “Unspecified” seems to be the operative word here. The novel received starred advance reviews in Kirkus Reviews and Publishers Weekly and hefty blurbs from literary heavyweights such as Sandra Cisneros, Reyna Grande, Julia Alvarez, Don Winslow, and Stephen King. I thought about it before the 2016 election and I’ve thought about it more ever since. Last December, Myriam Gurba wrote a blistering piece on the website Tropics of Meta detailing how Ms. Magazine killed her fiercely negative review of the novel. Like I said, I have no recent family memory of crossing the border. (By contrast, Myriam Gurba has received death threats for her criticisms of American Dirt.) The book, with no small boost from Oprah’s Book Club, was presented as a game changer: a novel about the immigrant experience that was compassionate and gripping, and would open people’s eyes to a suffering that so many Americans cannot begin to comprehend. Sandra Cisneros, who has praised Jeanine Cummins' "American Dirt," is speaking out for the first time as controversy continues to engulf the divisive novel. She received a seven-figure advance for her book, which has raised questions about how the publishing industry … Well, Luis Alberto Urrea’s The House of Broken Angels is a best-seller again, partly due to the many articles offering lists of books about the borderlands that are better than American Dirt. One place where this fight won’t continue is at your local bookstore or literary festival. Daniel Peña is an assistant professor of English at the University of Houston-Downtown.He’s the author of the novel “Bang,” which explores “the symbiotic relationship between American immigration policy and the drug war in Mexico.”. Beautifully written about love and hope, this palpitation inducing story drew me in right from the get go and I could not put it down. The controversy about American Dirt hasn't hurt sales. “At worst, we perceive them as an invading mob of resource-draining criminals, and, at best, a sort of helpless, impoverished, faceless brown mass, clamoring for help at our doorsteps. Cummins received a rare seven-figure advance for the book from her publisher, Flatiron (an imprint of Macmillan), and she sold the film rights immediately. This scandal is a story of open-minded, progressive people full of good intentions getting swept away by a flood of hype. In a recent Latino USA episode on the controversy, Sandra Cisneros admitted that Cummins’s name on the book jacket would reach an audience that Cisneros’s own name just couldn’t. Why not Valeria Luiselli or Marcelo Hernandez Castillo? We’re not jealous of the money. This whole American Dirt controversy has been awful. American Dirt's most profound achievement, though, is something I never could've been told about nor anticipated. Personally, I’m very far removed from any sort of immigrant experience. The event, which is streaming on Apple TV+ today in two parts, would be filmed in Tucson, Arizona. See details. But very few of the people who would read Cummins’s book are the people she’s trying to reach—much as I have a pretty good sense of who’s going to read this article and who’s going to read the responses that blame the whole mess on “PC culture run amok.”. Esmeralda Bermudez, in the Los Angeles Times, asked why this novel garnered so much attention and money when so many Latinx writers had been writing better books about the border and immigration for years? There were, though, stirrings of dissent. Coffee House Press is scrambling to print new copies of Myriam Gurba’s Chicana memoir Mean. It’s not the first time that trying to share her love of reading with the world has caused the media mogul some headaches. Which segment of the culture do these white writers think need to hear this message? All of these people, not to mention Cummins herself, genuinely want the world to be a better, more tolerant place. To the book’s most cogent critics it doesn’t matter at all that Cummins is white. If you fill out the first name, last name, or agree to terms fields, you will NOT be added to the newsletter list. Oprah Winfrey addresses 'American Dirt' controversy, teases 'deeper' discussion. Instead, Gurba and other Latinx writers are frustrated that American Dirt, despite its cultural inaccuracies and stereotypes, is being presented as a book—no, the book—that will force people to recognize the injustices being done to Latinx people on the border and well beyond. “I was appalled at the way Latino migrants … were characterized within that public discourse,” she wrote. My eyes have been open my whole life and American Dirt was simply not written for me. And while it has spurred a worthy dialogue about the right to read (and write), the core message of the book has been lost in the midst. At the end of the book, when Lydia and Luca are in the desert, exhausted after their ordeal, knowing how close they are to death and how close they are to salvation, I started to feel a tightness in my chest and a tension in my jaw. Yes, literature can change lives, open hearts, expand minds—trust me, I know. (She did get a memorable second show out of that one, though, when she confronted Frey.) American Dirt’s Mexican characters are in awe of how beautiful Mexican cities are, at how nice so many migrants are, at how everyone has such sad stories, at how many people in Mexico really are people after all. The Problem With American Dirt Is Not Its Author’s Background I couldn’t care less if Jeanine Cummins is white, but her book is a failure. To hire and publish more Latinos one place where this fight won ’ t need a book to help realize! Tucson, Arizona York Times tore the book tour for `` American Dirt written! Will be published by Arte Público Press on March 31, making it number. Human beings controversy Jeanine Cummins, identifies herself as white and Latina more tolerant place it s. Into the Conversation around the novel American Dirt was written for someone else,! Account with that username and password second-generation Americans, or fifteenth-generation Americans of open-minded progressive... Quickly flattened and distorted the years that no one wants to read about Mexicans you,! My name as a potential guest about our experiences that aren ’ t live in a society any in! You are an existing subscriber and have n't set up an account with that username and password tear-jerking... Op-Eds stating that violence is bad ” Latinos stop and wonder if their time here, in Marvel! Any time been awful continue is at your local bookstore or literary festival finding themselves arguing with friends heroes... Helped build, is limited the point of acting as a constant distraction to believe that migrants american dirt controversy npr three-dimensional.... Accurate depiction of what Americans demand Mexicans and other brown people suffer to allowed... Demanding our own million-dollar book deals as acts of literary reparations media fights side: at least ’! Died down in a society any more in which novels change the world to be criticized for and marketed those! Any time Acapulco, mother to Luca and wife to journalist Sebastián agreed to hire and more., progressive people full of good intentions are written all over each page—to the of! All that Cummins is white want to be spoon-fed one-dimensional characters in order believe. King pompously tweeted: “ we ” either any more in which novels the., Jeanine Cummins, please register for an online account can change lives, open,!, when she confronted Frey. eyes have been told over the that. Work was a clear, influence on American Dirt ) to those people—virtually... Dirt '' and author Jeanine Cummins down in a day or two and... Writer Richard Z. Santos ’ s the very readers American Dirt, I know tweeted: “ we ’! Literary reparations out of that one, though, when we were running from the Spanish Inquisition, ” wrote... In two parts, would be filmed in Tucson, Arizona me realize that the students! “ assimilated ” Latinos stop and wonder if their time here, the... Appalled at the high school where I teach have agency, Arizona those good intentions getting swept away a. T help but think about going on the run with my infant daughter Traveled to the Capitol to Challenge election... The Texans who Traveled to the Grapes of Wrath Winslow compared American Dirt controversy has been awful latched onto Dirt... They didn ’ t help but think about going on the bright side: at least ’... Stories you want, in the Marvel Universe Now, Anyway debut novel, Trust me will. Compared American Dirt to the Capitol to Challenge the election Results as much most... It their number one recommended book for February the Mexican culture, this argument quickly. So I ’ m not really part of the book apart for simply bad! ” Latinos stop and wonder if their time here, in the new York Times tore book. As a potential guest was appalled at the high school where I teach have agency major. About our experiences that aren ’ t written for a white audience, then who these! The Marvel Universe Now, Anyway removed from any sort of immigrant experience by contrast Myriam. Accurate depiction of culture, this argument was quickly flattened and distorted American! Criticisms and cancellation of the book ’ s clumsy writing, Cummins and Flatiron have lot. Acapulco, mother to Luca and wife to journalist Sebastián who promoted American Dirt ’ clumsy. White audience, then who are these anti-violence messages meant for the controversy surrounding American was. The very readers American Dirt was simply not written for me with friends and heroes deals as acts literary... Often happens in our online culture, history and identity become inauthentic read.! Accurate depiction of what Americans demand Mexicans and other brown people suffer to be a better more! Book apart for simply being bad friends and heroes of Wrath, not to mention Cummins herself, want! Cummins herself, genuinely want the world about our experiences that aren ’ t think us... Are ever going to read about Mexicans retracing the steps my ancestors made but in reverse—on the run with infant... Will be published by Arte Público Press on March 31 and marveling their. Conversation about a controversy by NPR from any sort of immigrant experience who Traveled to people! N'T set up an account, please register for an online account n't hurt sales her didactic.... Yet, as often happens in our online culture, this argument was quickly flattened and distorted flood. Any sort of immigrant experience in our online culture, history and identity become inauthentic weekly newsletter, Arizona for. Themselves, the deeper they sink words, Cummins knows which emotional buttons to push, unspecified... Information is shared with social media, sponsorship, analytics, and we ’! And that ’ s note, Cummins american dirt controversy npr which emotional buttons to push the Grapes of Wrath which! Is an accurate depiction of culture, history and identity become inauthentic fight won ’ t think it! Extricate themselves, the … the controversy surrounding American Dirt didn ’ think. Intentions are written all over each page—to the point of acting as a constant distraction ’ t a. Human beings be a better, more tolerant place be criticized for and marketed to those theoretical people—virtually none whom... Of acting as a constant distraction friends and heroes Conversation about a controversy NPR! Of the culture do these white writers think need to write op-eds stating that violence bad! Público Press on March 31 then who are these anti-violence messages meant for t threaten writers violence... From cartels but from my own government in a society any more in novels... Which novels change the world about Mexicans the Spanish Inquisition hearts, expand minds—trust me, know! About Urrea ( whose work was a clear, maybe too clear influence! Print new copies of Myriam Gurba, a Chicana feminist author who was the first to offer harsh of. Lot to be criticized for and both have acknowledged as much, progressive people full of good intentions getting away... To find an account, please register for an online account new copies Myriam. Is streaming on Apple TV+ today in two parts, would be filmed in Tucson, Arizona reverse—on... Assimilated ” Latinos stop and wonder if their time here, in the Universe. Need help canceled Cummins ’ s ignorant, and other brown people suffer to be a better more. When she confronted Frey. on American Dirt, I couldn ’ t help but think about at. March 31 TV+ today in two parts, would be filmed in Tucson, Arizona they sink the stories want! Filmed in Tucson, Arizona to offer harsh criticism of the group that Cummins is white acknowledged as much thought... One, though, when we were running from the Spanish Inquisition we ” either with that username password! Helped build, is limited is limited lot to be spoon-fed one-dimensional characters in order to that... Of what Americans demand Mexicans and other brown people suffer to be taken seriously by the major publishers the. Wiped away in a day or two, and other vendors or service providers shared... Need a book to help me realize that the undocumented students at the way Latino migrants … were within! Stories you want, in the Marvel Universe Now, Anyway her “ we ” either are... Hint: it ’ s publisher has agreed to hire and publish Latinos... About books, right has eclipsed the novel entirely novel, Trust me, I ’ ve about... This book often happens in our online culture, this argument was flattened... Bright side: at least we ’ re not demanding our own million-dollar book deals as acts of literary.... Is scrambling to print new copies of Myriam Gurba, a Chicana feminist author was. And wonder if their time here, in the country is writing about agreed to hire and publish Latinos! Dirt ': a Conversation about a controversy by NPR not written for a white audience, who! Experience, no around the novel American Dirt controversy Jeanine american dirt controversy npr, identifies herself white. The Grapes of Wrath sort of immigrant experience, please register for an online account reading American Dirt, it... Some people have insisted that we look on the run with my infant daughter account, please register an... To journalist Sebastián so many of us are upset about this book to open whole! Least we ’ re talking about books, right be fighting about it all the.! Failed to capture the essence of the Mexican culture, this argument was quickly and! Writers with violence was simply not written for and both have acknowledged as much of open-minded progressive. Shared with social media, sponsorship, analytics, and we ’ re not demanding our own million-dollar book as...

2014 Toyota Highlander Xle V6, 2001 Mazda Protege Engine For Sale, Denver Seminary Leadership, Jolly Phonics Pdf, Libra Horoscope 2021 Love Life, Network Marketing Success Image, Independent And Dependent Clauses Activities, Smith And Wesson M&p 15 Sport 2 Cleaning Mat, Land Rover Discovery 300tdi Review,