But some Latins are responding with their message: we will not take this book, and neither should you.
But Jeanine Cummins, the author, is not a Mexican or migrant. And for some aspiring readers, this is a problem that cannot be erased from celebrity thorns or publishers’ promotion.
And now the debate has exploded once again, thanks to a 392-page book with barbed wire running across its cover.
A book party with barbed wire decorations
But when Oprah blessed the book that landed in the Oprah Book Club, the conversation took over.
The author wrote that “she wanted someone slightly browner” to tell the story
In an author’s note included in the book, Cummins acknowledges that he is grappling with whether she should write it.
“I feared that my privilege would blind me to certain truths, that I would have done things wrong, as I might have done. I feared that, as a non-migrant and non-Mexican, I would have had no business writing a book almost entirely in Mexico, set entirely among migrants. I would have liked someone to write it “slightly browner than me,” he says.
“But then, I thought, if you’re a person who has the ability to be a bridge, why not be a bridge? So I started.”
“I have traveled extensively on both sides of the border and have learned as much as possible about Mexico and migrants, about people living across borders,” he writes.
For its part, Flatiron Books claims to be proud to be the editor of “American Dirt” and to listen to the debate.
The book, according to the editor, “empathizes with our fellow men” in that it answers the question “How far will a mother go to protect her son?”
“This is the goal through which we have seen” American Dirt “as the publisher and how we hope it will be appreciated by readers,” Flatiron says.
“I recognize that there is a huge iniquity in the sector, about who gets attention for writing which books … I am aware that in the court of public opinion on my ethnicity at this point I am the white lady. I am also Puerto Rican. I’m a Latin woman. And I’m not a migrant, “she continued.
“But I feel like putting this aspect so central to the conversation: I find myself in such an uncomfortable position on how to identify myself and how to account for things that go beyond my account.”
The questions “American Dirt” is raising go far beyond this book
Although there is no doubt that “American Dirt” itself has sparked a heated debate that shows no signs of slowing down, it is also part of a much broader conversation.
“Especially for the Latin community, in film and TV we don’t really have the opportunity to show our authentic lives,” says Ramón, who has not read “American Dirt” but says he has read numerous reviews and analysis of the book from the people of whom he trusts. “So seeing that it’s a bit the same in literature is frustrating.”
And the consequences, he says, can be devastating.
“When the privileged few can tell stories and distribute them widely, they shape the narrative for themselves and others,” he wrote on Twitter.
“Every time I do it, they are words like” drugs “,” violence “,” danger “,” economic threats. “It is illuminating and frustrating that every term, starting all over again, causes people to realize that migration takes place through many reasons and that migrants look in every way, “he says.
“Unfortunately, this book, which is enlightening for people, we continue to get the same trope as a migrant victim fleeing a drug-and-corruption Mexico. … Erase all the other rich, complicated and different Latin stories Americans, migrants of all kinds … It cancels all the work that those of us who are trying to educate the public are trying to do. I think that’s what strikes a big nerve for people. They are frustrated and tired of the struggle. that must repeat itself every day “.
Flores said he wouldn’t buy the book based on what he read about it, but he isn’t ruling out taking a copy from the library and using it as a teaching tool.
“It certainly can be,” he says, “because it makes us think about what’s problematic in history and what’s problematic in the publishing sector.”
A teacher says that authors should “write the other” but do it well
Nisi Shawl says that the conclusion of the “American Dirt” debate should not be that the authors cannot write about experiences they have not lived.
“In any kind of fiction, you’re building a world. If you’re trying to do it realistically, then you’re not just representing people who are actually demographically like you. You have to be able to do it,” they say. “It is a skill that writers need.
“It’s just that you can do it well or you can do it badly,” they say. “And by all accounts, (in” American Dirt “) this was badly done.”
There are common missteps that writers do, says Shawl, and relying on stereotypes and clichés is one of them.
“They are not going from what they have gone through, but they are filtering it through a TV show or a book or a cartoon, or something else,” says Shawl, who learned “American Dirt” from a student and did not l I still read.
But it is possible to learn from mistakes – something Shawl hopes the author of the book will do.
“I think you have to expect at least part of the time to be wrong,” says Shawl. “But you can learn how to improve it.”