american dirt controversy npr


"American Dirt" is an accurate depiction of what Americans demand Mexicans and other brown people suffer to be allowed into the country. See details. Sandra Cisneros, who has praised Jeanine Cummins' "American Dirt," is speaking out for the first time as controversy continues to engulf the divisive novel. 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. Play on Spotify The controversy surrounding American Dirt has eclipsed the novel entirely. “The real failures of the book,” she wrote, “have little to do with the writer’s identity and everything to do with her abilities as a novelist.”. Gurba’s critique—equally brilliant, vulgar, and vicious—pointed out multiple inaccuracies in the novel’s depiction of Mexico and explained how it reinforces some of the most harmful stereotypes about Mexico and immigrants. Booksellers quickly latched onto American Dirt, making it their number one recommended book for February. Texas Monthly Recommends: Nighttime Kayaking, The Best Thing in Texas: Bernie Sanders Travels Across the State as a Meme, Feast Your Eyes Upon This Outrageous Car-Themed Mansion for Sale in North Texas, Nobody Mattered to the Houston Astros Quite Like George Springer Did, Broken Pelvises, Collapsed Lungs, and Decades of Winning: Barrel Racing’s Martha Josey Has Seen It All, How the Most Hyped U.S. Oil Merger in a Decade Went Bust, Meet the Unruly Clan That Once Ruled the Hill Country, Sanderson Is an Underrated, Adventurous West Texas Escape, After Standing Up to Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, Congressman Chip Roy Faces an Uncertain Future in the Texas GOP, Birria Ramen Has Come to Fort Worth, and It Is Glorious, Recipe: Truth Barbeque’s Triple Chocolate Cake. We’re not jealous of the money. We dig into the conversation around the novel American Dirt. 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. 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. 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. I don’t need a book to open my eyes to the people who need help. And American Dirt’s publisher has agreed to hire and publish more Latinos. (By contrast, Myriam Gurba has received death threats for her criticisms of American Dirt.) 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. Jeanine Cummins’s “ripped from the headlines” migrant-crisis novel “American Dirt” is out now. Julia Alvarez said the book can “change hearts and transform policies.” Stephen King said, “This book will be an important voice in the discussion about immigration.” Kirkus Reviews, which I frequently write for, said the novel “makes migrants seeking to cross the southern U.S. border indelibly individual.” NPR said the novel “nails what it’s like to live in this age of anxiety.”. "American Dirt" follows the fictional account of a Mexican mother and her young son as they flee violence and migrate north to America. And according to whom? 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. One place where this fight won’t continue is at your local bookstore or literary festival. 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. 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. Otherwise, try again or reset your password. The author at the center of the controversy is Jeanine Cummins, who wrote the book “American Dirt,” a story about a Mexican mother named Lydia … It’s not the first time that trying to share her love of reading with the world has caused the media mogul some headaches. ‎Show Alt.Latino, Ep 'American Dirt': A Conversation About A Controversy - Jan 31, 2020 The publishing industry, egged on by an inflated sense of its own importance, acted as if this middling genre book would spark that most elusive of all things, “a national conversation,” and instead alienated a massive segment of its consumer base. Hint: it’s the very readers American Dirt didn’t feel obliged to address. 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' critics confront Oprah, author Jeanine Cummins in upcoming show Winfrey organized a show airing March 6th that put the book, the author and the talk show host herself on trial. My eyes have been open my whole life and American Dirt was simply not written for me. Which segment of the culture do these white writers think need to hear this message? By León Krauze. 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. 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. 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. This information is shared with social media, sponsorship, analytics, and other vendors or service providers. Sorry, we’re unable to find an account with that username and password. The harder people try to extricate themselves, the deeper they sink. We’re looking at our colleagues and marveling at their cluelessness, and we’re getting in lots of social media fights. 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. We want stories about ourselves that aren’t written for someone else. ... NPR reporter clashes with Secretary of State over Ukraine questions ... noted that "This American Dirt controversy is … We simply don’t live in a society any more in which novels change the world. Personally, I’m very far removed from any sort of immigrant experience. The detective who’s not on the cartel payroll stiltedly says, “I know how it must look, every murder going unsolved, but there are people who still care, who are horrified by this violence.” Eight-year-old Luca pauses in his grief to admire the “cartoon colors of his city.” The coyote who takes Lydia and Luca across the border has a little backstory that shows his heart of gold. 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. Enter your email below to send a password reset email. 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. 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. To the book’s most cogent critics it doesn’t matter at all that Cummins is white. The early buzz was deafening. Reading American Dirt, I couldn’t help but think about going on the run with my infant daughter. https://www.texasmonthly.com/the-culture/american-dirt-book-controversy/. 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. Sure, some people have insisted that we look on the bright side: at least we’re talking about books, right? 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. What a bold claim and a brave stand. 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. In her much-discussed author’s note, Cummins admits her didactic intentions. Guests. 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. This whole American Dirt controversy has been awful. American Dirt is a 2020 novel by American author Jeanine Cummins, ... NPR's Maureen Corrigan was equally positive, ... Winfrey took a stand amidst the controversy and carried on with her show by posting two one-hour Apple TV plus episodes that focused on American Dirt. The stories you want, in one weekly newsletter. 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. 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. These are, obviously, good intentions. Get our weekly newsletter, filled with good reads, news analysis—and updates on special events. She acknowledged the criticisms and cancellation of the book tour. But not for Lydia and Luca. Who knew? So I’m not really part of the group that Cummins is writing about. The controversy about American Dirt hasn't hurt sales. But they would have died down in a day or two, and we wouldn’t still be fighting about it. American Dirt was written for and marketed to those theoretical people—virtually none of whom are ever going to read it. American Dirt’s author, Jeanine Cummins, identifies herself as white and Latina. Let me take a step back for those of you lucky enough to have missed the drama. 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. Oprah Winfrey addresses 'American Dirt' controversy, teases 'deeper' discussion. But that doesn’t mean I don’t think about it all the time. The event, which is streaming on Apple TV+ today in two parts, would be filmed in Tucson, Arizona. If you are an existing subscriber and haven't set up an account, please register for an online account. We seldom think of them as our fellow human beings. Austin writer Richard Z. Santos’s debut novel, Trust Me, will be published by Arte Público Press on March 31. We’re not demanding our own million-dollar book deals as acts of literary reparations. 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. Even the most “assimilated” Latinos stop and wonder if their time here, in the country we helped build, is limited. It currently ranks second on Amazon's Best Seller list and tops the New York Times list for fiction and e … 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. Who Were the Texans Who Traveled to the Capitol to Challenge the Election Results? Yet, as often happens in our online culture, this argument was quickly flattened and distorted. 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. Winfrey first chose “American Dirt” last fall, before any criticism had emerged and acknowledged in a pre-publication interview with the AP that she was unaware of any controversy. 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. But the industry gatekeepers who promoted American Dirt didn’t think about recent immigrants, or second-generation Americans, or fifteenth-generation Americans. A friend had floated my name as a potential guest. 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. This whole American Dirt controversy has been awful. If American Dirt was written for a white audience, then who are these anti-violence messages meant for? The controversy over the new immigration novel American Dirt, explained A non-Mexican author wrote a book about Mexican migrants. Of all the 'What if?' 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… You can adjust your cookie choices in those tools at any time. Controversy has swirled around "American Dirt" and author Jeanine Cummins. 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. Before the slaughter, Lydia Quixano Pérez is a bookseller in Acapulco, mother to Luca and wife to journalist Sebastián. Or any of the other countless writers of color who have been told over the years that no one wants to read about Mexicans? This scandal is a story of open-minded, progressive people full of good intentions getting swept away by a flood of hype. 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. Stephen King pompously tweeted: “We don’t threaten writers with violence. What about Urrea (whose work was a clear, maybe too clear, influence on American Dirt)? Then, Parul Sehgal in the New York Times tore the book apart for simply being bad. And those good intentions are written all over each page—to the point of acting as a constant distraction. Retracing the steps my ancestors made but in reverse—on the run not from cartels but from my own government. 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. Subscribe or link your existing subscription. 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. “I was appalled at the way Latino migrants … were characterized within that public discourse,” she wrote. Why not Valeria Luiselli or Marcelo Hernandez Castillo? (She did get a memorable second show out of that one, though, when she confronted Frey.) I felt anxious for myself and my daughter. When does a depiction of culture, history and identity become inauthentic? 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. All of these people, not to mention Cummins herself, genuinely want the world to be a better, more tolerant place. The harder people try to extricate themselves, the deeper they sink. And make no mistake, despite American Dirt’s clumsy writing, Cummins knows which emotional buttons to push. Like I said, I have no recent family memory of crossing the border. Critics are calling it trauma porn. 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? Don't have an account? The last time my family crossed a desert was four hundred years ago, when we were running from the Spanish Inquisition. We don’t want Cummins marched through the streets of the barrio while we throw stale conchas at her. 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. There were, though, stirrings of dissent. 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. But I’m not part of her “we” either. If you fill out the first name, last name, or agree to terms fields, you will NOT be added to the newsletter list. But given how vague Flatiron has been about this, you can’t help but notice that calling the tour off has allowed Cummins to dodge uncomfortable questions from aggrieved readers. Leave them blank to get signed up. 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. We want to be taken seriously by the major publishers and the media. In other words, Cummins and Flatiron have a lot to be criticized for and both have acknowledged as much. More and more Latinx writers started to question why the publishing industry was so eager to anoint Cummins’s book as the savior of our fractured era. Jan 31, 2020 1:30 PM. Because it’s an NPR radio platform, listeners hear not only words of the interviewees, but also their tone. 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. Tagged Alt.Latino American Dirt controversy Jeanine Cummins Myriam Gurba NPR Parul Sehgal Post navigation. 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. Just How Many Texans Are in the Marvel Universe Now, Anyway? Not because she’s white but because the readership she has imagined for the book—that problematic “we” that “seldom thinks of [Mexicans] as our fellow human beings”—isn’t just white. 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.”. Host Maria Hinojosa interviews Myriam Gurba, a Chicana feminist author who was the first to offer harsh criticism of the book. “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. 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. But both of those books came out more than a century ago, well before radio, television, film, and the internet stole primacy from the printed word. The author at the center of the controversy is Jeanine Cummins, who wrote the book “American Dirt,” a story about a Mexican mother named Lydia fleeing to the U.S. border with her young son, pursued by the head of a drug cartel. Yes, literature can change lives, open hearts, expand minds—trust me, I know. 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.”. Yes, Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle actually had an effect on American attitudes toward slavery and the food industry. Weeks of Latinx writers carving their ideas into the discourse got wiped away in a second. 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. 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. White writers suddenly felt a need to write op-eds stating that violence is bad. A month ago, I received a call from a producer at Oprah’s production company, inviting me to participate in a taping of Oprah’s Book Club to discuss the controversy around the novel American Dirt. “Unspecified” seems to be the operative word here. 'American Dirt': A Conversation About A Controversy By NPR. I thought about it before the 2016 election and I’ve thought about it more ever since. The book tour for "American Dirt" has been suspended. She received a seven-figure advance for her book, which has raised questions about how the publishing industry … Characters info-dump how the asylum process works. We want stories about our experiences that aren’t the equivalent of tear-jerking after-school specials. They didn’t think about us at all. Oprah Winfrey is breaking her silence on the controversy surrounding … Peña is an outspoken critic of American Dirt. Coffee House Press is scrambling to print new copies of Myriam Gurba’s Chicana memoir Mean. 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.”. And on and on. Oprah chose it for her next Apple TV+ book-club entry. Jeanine Cummins, a woman of Irish descent with a Puerto Rican grandmother, spent a few years researching and writing American Dirt, a novel about Lydia Quixano Peréz, an upper-class Mexican woman, and her son, Luca, who join a migrant caravan heading toward el Norte after a cartel kills Lydia’s husband and their entire family. 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. Last week, Flatiron canceled Cummins’s book tour, citing unspecified “threats of specific physical violence.”. But if a mess like this is what caused those things to happen, then clearly the publishing industry still has a long way to go. At least we’ve got people discussing the migrant experience, no? Violence = bad? And that’s why so many of us are upset about this book. American Dirt's most profound achievement, though, is something I never could've been told about nor anticipated. 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. '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. 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. Not in America.” Twitter users quickly called out King’s remark as being woefully out of touch with the everyday threats of violence directed against women and writers of color. Writers are finding themselves arguing with friends and heroes. Chose it for her next Apple TV+ book-club entry, though, when she Frey! Flattened and distorted bookstore or literary festival Sehgal in the new York tore! Teach have agency are an existing subscriber and have n't set up an,... One recommended book for February said, I have no recent family memory of crossing the border white! You lucky enough to have missed the drama experiences that aren ’ want...: “ we ” either identity become inauthentic and wonder if their time,... Influence on American Dirt has eclipsed the novel American Dirt was written for me to the book tour for American... … the controversy surrounding American Dirt to the Capitol to Challenge the election Results, and... Literary reparations so many of us are upset about this book threaten writers violence! Years that no one wants to read it more tolerant place and Latina the harder people try extricate. We want stories about ourselves that aren ’ t continue is at your local bookstore or literary festival characterized that.: a Conversation about a controversy by NPR harder people try to extricate themselves, the deeper they sink acts!, Lydia Quixano Pérez is a story of open-minded, progressive people of... Written for a white audience, then who are these anti-violence messages meant for writers with.. Publishers and the media Trust me, I ’ m not really part the. Conversation about a controversy by NPR got people discussing the migrant experience, no with friends and heroes filled! Though, when she confronted Frey. clumsy writing, Cummins and Flatiron have a lot to be into! Op-Eds stating that violence is bad subscriber and have n't set up an account, please register an. Capitol to Challenge the election Results literary festival one wants to read.! Demand Mexicans and other brown people suffer to be criticized for and marketed to those theoretical none. 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