White Author Of Fiction Book About Mexican Immigration Just Now Getting Dragged After Launch Party Exploits Border Crisis
Writer Jeanine Cummins is getting crushed for her new novel "American Dirt."
January 23, 2020 at 5:06 pm
Everything was going well for Jeanine Cummins and her new novel American Dirt until it wasn't. The 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.
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, a book white critics are hailing as the great immigrant novel.— Esmeralda Bermudez (@LATBermudez) January 20, 2020
it's weird to me that the dialogue around american dirt is being reduced to "brown people mad because white person wrote book" when I see Latinx authors going out of their way to say, yes, anyone can write whatever they want, but there are problems with the content itself.— JP (@jpbrammer) January 22, 2020
"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.
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.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.
Jeanine Cummins got a barbwire manicure. The fetish here, the vulgar pleasure of proudly wearing this exact symbol of oppression as a fashion statement and claiming it's "pretty," is literally making me nauseous. I wanna throw up. https://t.co/AdOlPwz6mw— Aura Bogado (@aurabogado) January 23, 2020
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.
luv 2 b reminded of people's pain and struggle at my party 😒— Monica Castillo (@mcastimovies) January 22, 2020
It’s okay for her and those sitting at the table because that barb wire does not trigger a cascade of emotions from the effect of PTSD from having to live through it. That’s why to them is just cool decorations while for those that lived through it is a stab in the scars— Johanny Ortega is a student again. #MFA (@johannyconchole) January 22, 2020
You know, this is just beyond disgraceful and insensitive. This feels like PLAY.— Carolina A. Molk (@zuni_mo) January 22, 2020
I was undocumented for most of my life and the fact that this woman&publisher are exploiting this issue w/o care is painful.
But this? I think I need a few days off the internet.
Also, I heard Amazon was stopping reviews so I went to check. Just clicked “review” and got an error message. pic.twitter.com/5jwZK0WClK— Zoraida Córdova (@zlikeinzorro) January 22, 2020
the barbed wire centerpieces tho that's a ¡yikes!— JP (@jpbrammer) January 22, 2020
People even took time to clown Gina Rodriguez for promoting the book on her Instagram page.
Lmaoooooooooooooooo siri what's the opposite of a plot twist https://t.co/AElz8jwlp9— Daniel José Older (@djolder) January 22, 2020
Rather than respond to legitimate concerns about how harmful and careless #AmericanDirt is in its portrayal of immigrants, author @jeaninecummins (who used to follow my work) has now blocked me. Because tuning out Latinos is really going to make this mess she created go away. pic.twitter.com/mKYHGRDlrT— Esmeralda Bermudez (@LATBermudez) January 21, 2020
I keep thinking about how Jeanine Cummins wrote, in print, that she was white five years ago and how she POOF! suddenly made herself latina ahead of her new book. And how that's directly related to actual latinas who aren't white and don't get the book deals and movie contracts.— Aura Bogado (@aurabogado) January 20, 2020
Jeanine Cummins, a white woman who isn’t Mexican, wrote “American Dirt” about Mexican experiences at the border.— Sasha Perigo (@sashaperigo) January 22, 2020
Her wealthy publisher threw her a book launch with barbed wire centerpieces where guests ate lobster. You can’t make this shit up! https://t.co/trlDsFEqnh
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."
so jeanine cummins gets a 7 figure deal for this bullshit and i can’t even get an agent. lmfao— Peter Lopez (@PeterxLopez) January 22, 2020
"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.