Bookish Post, Discussion

Why I Won’t Be Reading American Dirt

Guys, I can’t pussyfoot around this subject anymore.

American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins is currently the most talked about book in the media right now. It’s being lauded by bestselling authors like Stephen King and Oprah has included it in her book club. It’s about a woman named Lydia who must flee Mexico with her young son after her husband pisses the boss of a drug cartel and covers the immigration and border crisis. While this book sounds great on the surface, there are several problems with this book that are being glossed over in the media.

First of all, the author, Jeanine Cummins, is white. Now, I’m not saying white people can’t write about other people’s experiences, but when you call the people you’re writing about “a faceless brown mass,” and say that “you don’t know if you’re the right person to tell this story,” maaaaybe you should just keep it to yourself. Additionally, now she’s calling herself Latinx because she has a Puerto Rican grandmother. Again, not a problem. What is the problem is that she only just started calling herself Latinx…when she writes a book about Mexican and Latinx people. Plus, all of a sudden, she says that her husband is an undocumented immigrant from Ireland and that he’s gone through the same thing as the people in cages at border. I’m not even going to dignify this with a statement as to why this sentence sucks in multiple ways.

Just how tone deaf can you be?

In several reviews by those who know more about Mexican culture than I do, they go on to explain how she gets the culture soooo wrong. I’ll link those reviews here:

Cummins’ Non-Mexican Crap – David Bowles

Pendeja, You Ain’t Steinbeck – Myriam Gurba

A Mother and Son, Fleeing for Their Lives Over Treacherous Terrain – Parul Sehgal

And then there’s the release of the book and what has ensued after it. A publisher decided that it’d be a great idea to put barbed wire on the party table’s centerpieces. Yeah, you read that right? That’s like an author writing a book about lynchings and the African American experience in America and putting pretty colorful nooses on the table. People, children, have died in those cages at the border! I’m so happy that this is someone’s idea of great decorating. Just wtf. This is in extremely bad taste and spits on the people who she was so concerned about. Is this the author’s fault? No, but she didn’t exactly pull anyone aside during the party and say, “Maybe this isn’t the decor we should use.”

american dirt centerpieces

Now, the author’s tour has been canceled amid criticism and reviews. Not because the publishing company is like, “Hmmm maybe we should calm down the hype about this book that is obviously hurtful to Mexican readers,” but because they are fearful for safety reasons.

They are worried that Mexican and Latinx people are going to attack this white author over her book.

There are so many things wrong with this. First of all, just like people like to say all white people aren’t racist, I’m pretty sure all Mexicans and Latinx people aren’t planning to attack this woman in the street. The publishing company, Flatiron, has literally just painted an entire community of people as violent just like white people…which is, yes, you guessed it, racist AF.

This has been done to many people over the course of the history of America. As soon as the Pilgrims got here, they automatically thought the Native Americans would be violent and until Squanto helped save their very lives. And then, I mean, we know what happened to the Native Americans next, but we won’t go into that here. And then Black people were said to be violent when they were being whipped, lynched, beaten, and murdered. Instead of paying apt attention to this history, Flatiron Books says this. This is a dangerous precedent that should be stopped.

Has the author came out and spoke to the publishing company about how this smear on the face of Mexican and Latinx people could be harmful?

Nope.

Needless to say, this book and every controversy surrounding it is just a clusterfuq. I just cannot read this book. It is a hard pass from me, and maybe every further book this author writes.

#HardPass

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