The novel also received good reviews by authors such as Stephen King.
The author of the brand-new American Dirt novel (“American land”) Jeanine Cummins states in her book that she wished someone “a little darker skin” that she had written it.
“But then I thought, if you are a person who has the ability to build a bridge, why not be a bridge?” Adds Cummins, white-skinned and Puerto Rican ancestors.RELATED
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The book, which tells the story of a family fleeing from Mexico to the US, was reviewed and recommended by Mexican actresses Salma Hayek and Yalitza Aparicio, among other personalities.
Both Hayek and Aparicio received the text as part of the “reading club” organized by the presenter and businesswoman Oprah Winfrey, under which she invites other celebrities to read different titles in the year, which is seen as a sales opportunity for the books.
But the applause was followed by the outrage of Latin and Hispanic readers and authors, who argued that the novel misrepresents the Latin American experience and exhibits stereotypes.
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The negative reactions caused Hayek to retract his recommendation after admitting that he had not read the book, available since January 21.
“I want to thank all of you who caught my attention and scolded me for not having investigated well what I was recommending,” he said.
The wave of criticism also led to Wednesday’s editorial company behind the book, Flatiron, cancel its promotional tour for “security concerns” of the author and those who sell the title.
The desperation of migrants “trapped in Mexico” who send their children alone to the US
In a statement, the company acknowledged having made “serious mistakes” in the way it promoted the novel.
“We should never have claimed that it was a novel that defined the migrant experience,” said the paper published on his Twitter account.
The controversy has revived a debate about prejudices in the American publishing industry and about who or who can tell the stories of “others.”
The novel tells the story of a middle-class Mexican who runs away from her country with her son after her husband, who is a journalist, is killed by drug traffickers.
The text describes the often violent and dangerous journey of migrants to the border with the United States.
Cummins signed a contract that, according to reports, exceeded one million dollars, for the first edition and printing of 500,000 copies of the book.
The author was interviewed by The New York Times, which published a fragment of the work.
Jeanine Cummins with her new novel “American Dirt”.
The positive reviews came from recognized authors, including Stephen King, who described him as “wonderful” and Don Winslow.
Oprah Winfrey, on the other hand, said in an interview: “Every night on the news … you see stories from the border. It seemed to me that this book humanized that migration process in a way that I had never felt or seen.”
For others, like the Chicano writer Myriam Gurba, the novel did not cause that effect.
It is a “Trumpian fantasy of what Mexico is,” Gurba wrote in reference to US President Donald Trump.
In another column published in the Los Angeles Times and which was widely disseminated, Salvadoran journalist Esmeralda Bermúdez accuses the text of containing “the worst stereotypes, fixations and inaccuracies about Latinos.”
Bermudez adds that the suspense is “the only thing this narrative does well, like a cheap narconovela.”
I am an immigrant. My family fled El Salvador with death pounding on our door. The terror, the loss, the injustice of this experience shaped everything about me. I see no part of myself reflected in #AmericanDirt
– Esmeralda Bermudez (@LATBermudez) January 20, 2020
To the controversy were added allegations that the novel had replicated fragments or scenes of other titles about Mexico.
“When you write about a community to which you do not belong, the authors have an obligation to think about the social and cultural policy of what they are doing,” Domino Pérez, an English professor at the University of Texas, told the BBC .
“Wondering whether or not you are the person to tell a certain story means that sometimes the answer is no,” he added.
Maricela Becerra, a professor at the University of Los Angeles in California (UCLA), told the BBC: “We have been talking about these issues for many, many years as Latinos and immigrants, and the problem is that no they’ve heard us. Suddenly, a nonimmigrant tells our story and people seem to be interested. “
But the book has defenders within the Latino community.
Sandra Cisneros, a famous Mexican-American author, said that American Dirt “is not simply the great American novel; it is the great novel of the Americas. It is the great world novel!”
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But more than 120 Latin American and Latin-American writers published an open letter to Oprah on Wednesday asking him to reconsider his recommendation.
In it, they ask not to promote a book that “falls too often in the fetish of trauma and the sensationalism of migration and of Mexican life and culture.”
Jeanine Cummins said Wednesday feeling “disappointed” by the discussion that arose following her novel on the radio show “Latino USA”.
“The surprising thing that probably shouldn’t have been surprising is that this became much more a dialogue about inequalities in the publishing industry than in a story about the book itself,” he continued.
The novel is called “American land” in Spanish.
“There is great frustration among minority communities when it comes to the publishing industry,” said Cummins, who called this industry “white and with money.”
The writer said that she made “multiple trips” of investigation to the border and that she read everything she could find on the subject.
When asked if he would write a book about immigrants again, he replied: “It’s a resounding no.”
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In 2016, Cummins wrote in an opinion column in The New York Times that he didn’t want to write about race because of the fear of “touching the wrong rope, of being vulnerable, of exposing an embarrassing ignorance.”
He said then that he identified himself as a white woman “practically in all forms.”
According to 2018 data published by the specialized publication Publisher’s Weekly, 84% of the workforce of the publishing industry in the US It is white, 5% Asian, 3% Latin or Hispanic and 2% black.
At the management level, 86% of industry members are white, according to a 2015 survey by Lee and Low Books, as are 89% of book critics.
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