american dirt controversy npr

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. I don’t need a book to open my eyes to the people who need help. You can adjust your cookie choices in those tools at any time. 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. Coffee House Press is scrambling to print new copies of Myriam Gurba’s Chicana memoir Mean. Weeks of Latinx writers carving their ideas into the discourse got wiped away in a second. Yet, as often happens in our online culture, this argument was quickly flattened and distorted. Because it’s an NPR radio platform, listeners hear not only words of the interviewees, but also their tone. 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. The harder people try to extricate themselves, the deeper they sink. A friend had floated my name as a potential guest. Violence = bad? 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. If American Dirt was written for a white audience, then who are these anti-violence messages meant for? It currently ranks second on Amazon's Best Seller list and tops the New York Times list for fiction and e … And according to whom? We simply don’t live in a society any more in which novels change the world. 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? 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. American Dirt’s author, Jeanine Cummins, identifies herself as white and Latina. 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. 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 … The controversy about American Dirt hasn't hurt sales. Get our weekly newsletter, filled with good reads, news analysis—and updates on special events. The early buzz was deafening. Yes, Uncle Tom’s Cabin and Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle actually had an effect on American attitudes toward slavery and the food industry. 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. And American Dirt’s publisher has agreed to hire and publish more Latinos. 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. To the book’s most cogent critics it doesn’t matter at all that Cummins is white. 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. 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. 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… 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. 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. Writers are finding themselves arguing with friends and heroes. 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. Oprah Winfrey addresses 'American Dirt' controversy, teases 'deeper' discussion. 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. Sandra Cisneros, who has praised Jeanine Cummins' "American Dirt," is speaking out for the first time as controversy continues to engulf the divisive novel. Who Were the Texans Who Traveled to the Capitol to Challenge the Election Results? We’re not jealous of the money. 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. 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. 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. American Dirt was written for and marketed to those theoretical people—virtually none of whom are ever going to read it. 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. '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. 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.”. 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. “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. We seldom think of them as our fellow human beings. We dig into the conversation around the novel American Dirt. One place where this fight won’t continue is at your local bookstore or literary festival. Sure, some people have insisted that we look on the bright side: at least we’re talking about books, right? The last time my family crossed a desert was four hundred years ago, when we were running from the Spanish Inquisition. What about Urrea (whose work was a clear, maybe too clear, influence on American Dirt)? Before the slaughter, Lydia Quixano Pérez is a bookseller in Acapulco, mother to Luca and wife to journalist Sebastián. If you fill out the first name, last name, or agree to terms fields, you will NOT be added to the newsletter list. 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. The harder people try to extricate themselves, the deeper they sink. 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. (She did get a memorable second show out of that one, though, when she confronted Frey.) This information is shared with social media, sponsorship, analytics, and other vendors or service providers. 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. Leave them blank to get signed up. So I’m not really part of the group that Cummins is writing about. “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.”. 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. White writers suddenly felt a need to write op-eds stating that violence is bad. Oprah chose it for her next Apple TV+ book-club entry. Don Winslow compared American Dirt to The Grapes of Wrath. And make no mistake, despite American Dirt’s clumsy writing, Cummins knows which emotional buttons to push. ‎Show Alt.Latino, Ep 'American Dirt': A Conversation About A Controversy - Jan 31, 2020 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. And on and on. 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. 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. See details. But I’m not part of her “we” either. We’re not demanding our own million-dollar book deals as acts of literary reparations. https://www.texasmonthly.com/the-culture/american-dirt-book-controversy/. 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. 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. 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. 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. Guests. Sorry, we’re unable to find an account with that username and password. The event, which is streaming on Apple TV+ today in two parts, would be filmed in Tucson, Arizona. 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.”. Critics are calling it trauma porn. 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. “Unspecified” seems to be the operative word here. We want to be taken seriously by the major publishers and the media. 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. 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. 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. This whole American Dirt controversy has been awful. 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. Don't have an account? 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. Austin writer Richard Z. Santos’s debut novel, Trust Me, will be published by Arte Público Press on March 31. Enter your email below to send a password reset email. This scandal is a story of open-minded, progressive people full of good intentions getting swept away by a flood of hype. 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. Otherwise, try again or reset your password. These are, obviously, good intentions. Why not Valeria Luiselli or Marcelo Hernandez Castillo? But they would have died down in a day or two, and we wouldn’t still be fighting about it. 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. American Dirt's most profound achievement, though, is something I never could've been told about nor anticipated. Characters info-dump how the asylum process works. Stephen King pompously tweeted: “We don’t threaten writers with violence. Reading American Dirt, I couldn’t help but think about going on the run with my infant daughter. In her much-discussed author’s note, Cummins admits her didactic intentions. Let me take a step back for those of you lucky enough to have missed the drama. Just How Many Texans Are in the Marvel Universe Now, Anyway? “I was appalled at the way Latino migrants … were characterized within that public discourse,” she wrote. Host Maria Hinojosa interviews Myriam Gurba, a Chicana feminist author who was the first to offer harsh criticism of the book. What a bold claim and a brave stand. 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. 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.”. The controversy over the new immigration novel American Dirt, explained A non-Mexican author wrote a book about Mexican migrants. Oprah Winfrey is breaking her silence on the controversy surrounding … Tagged Alt.Latino American Dirt controversy Jeanine Cummins Myriam Gurba NPR Parul Sehgal Post navigation. Controversy has swirled around "American Dirt" and author Jeanine Cummins. If Cummins failed to capture the essence of the Mexican culture, the … But that doesn’t mean I don’t think about it all the time. We’re looking at our colleagues and marveling at their cluelessness, and we’re getting in lots of social media fights. Hint: it’s the very readers American Dirt didn’t feel obliged to address. 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. They didn’t think about us at all. If you are an existing subscriber and haven't set up an account, please register for an online account. 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. Personally, I’m very far removed from any sort of immigrant experience. Even the most “assimilated” Latinos stop and wonder if their time here, in the country we helped build, is limited. We want stories about our experiences that aren’t the equivalent of tear-jerking after-school specials. 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. 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. 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. 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. She acknowledged the criticisms and cancellation of the book tour. When does a depiction of culture, history and identity become inauthentic? All of these people, not to mention Cummins herself, genuinely want the world to be a better, more tolerant place. 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. Peña is an outspoken critic of American Dirt. 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. "American Dirt" follows the fictional account of a Mexican mother and her young son as they flee violence and migrate north to America. Or any of the other countless writers of color who have been told over the years that no one wants to read about Mexicans? It’s not the first time that trying to share her love of reading with the world has caused the media mogul some headaches. I don’t need a book to help me realize that the undocumented students at the high school where I teach have agency. But the industry gatekeepers who promoted American Dirt didn’t think about recent immigrants, or second-generation Americans, or fifteenth-generation Americans. Last week, Flatiron canceled Cummins’s book tour, citing unspecified “threats of specific physical violence.”. 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. Mother to Luca and wife to journalist Sebastián of color who have been open my to! All the time has swirled around `` American Dirt controversy has been awful Trust,. And other brown people suffer to be the operative word here last time family... 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