Everything was going well for Jeanine Cummins and her new novel American Dirt until it wasn'tThe book was featured on dozens of 2020 lists from major outlets like The New York Times and got rave reviews from a bevy of white critics for its portrayal of a family fleeing violence.

The book even scored coveted endorsements from Oprah Winfrey and a fawning interview on CBS This Morning, which Winfrey attended herself to announce that she was adding the book to her prized book list.

But then the Latinx community, whom the book is centered around, read the book.

The response online has been overwhelmingly negative, with many slamming the book and its portrayal of the migrant experience.


A number of cringeworthy passages have made their way to Twitter, and one New York Times reviewer questioned Cummins' offensive declaration in the book's afterword, where she proclaimed that she "wished someone slightly browner than" her would have written it.

"The book feels conspicuously like the work of an outsider. The writer has a strange, excited fascination in commenting on gradients of brown skin: Characters are 'berry-brown' or 'tan as childhood' (no, I don’t know what that means either). In one scene, the sisters embrace and console each other: 'Rebeca breathes deeply into Soledad’s neck, and her tears wet the soft brown curve of her sister’s skin.' In all my years of hugging my own sister, I don’t think I’ve ever thought, 'Here I am, hugging your brown neck.' Am I missing out?" Parul Sehgal said in his scathing New York Times review.


“American Dirt” by Jeanine ... by CBS This Morning on Scribd


The book's rollout took an even bigger turn for the worse when photos of a book release party in New York made their way to the internet. People were outraged to see barbed wire decor and other offensive hints of the migrant experience at the dinner party.

In a now-deleted tweet, Cummins, who identifies as white, joked about the barbed wire and shared other photos of a mostly white audience dining amidst the offensive designs. Thanks to @lesbrains, there were photos of the event. 


The response to the party and to the book was savage, with many using the photos as an example of Cummins' callousness and ignorance about the plight of migrants coming from Central and South America. 




People even took time to clown Gina Rodriguez for promoting the book on her Instagram page.



The controversy over the photos brought more attention to the book, which led to even harsher criticisms of its portrayal of the migrant experience.


In a takedown of the book and Cummins, acclaimed author and writer Myriam Gurba held no punches in describing just how bad it really was in an essay titled "Pendeja You Ain't Steinbeck: My Bronca With Fake-Ass Social Justice Literature."

"Unlike the narcos she vilifies, Cummins exudes neither grace nor flair. Instead, she bumbles with Trumpian tackiness, and a careful look at chronology reveals how she operates: opportunistically, selfishly, and parasitically," Gurba wrote. 

"Cummins identified the gringo appetite for Mexican pain and found a way to exploit it. With her ambition in place, she shoved the 'faceless' out of her way, ran for the microphone and ripped it out of our hands, deciding that her incompetent voice merited amplification," she added.