Posted on January 29, 2020 at 8:09 AM by Sadye Scott-Hainchek
A group of eighty-two authors have penned an open letter to Oprah Winfrey (shared on Literary Hub) asking the media icon to remove American Dirt from her book club.
They stress that the issue is not simply that that the author wrote about a demographic group to which she doesn’t belong, but that she (in their opinion) did not research the experiences of Mexican migrants well enough, that it’s an example of “trauma fetishization,” and that it leans too heavily on other writers’ work.
Additionally, they argue, publishers chose to release and promote Cummins rather than any number of Latinx authors who have written more accurately and empathetically on the same subject.
Among the signers:
Kiese Laymon, author of Heavy: An American Memoir, a 2019 Carnegie award winner.
Valeria Luiselli, author of Lost Children Archive, a 2020 Carnegie award winner and finalist for this year's National Book Critics Circle Awards; Luiselli also received a MacArthur genius grant last year.
Carmen Maria Machado, author of In the Dream House: A Memoir, which landed on many best-of-2019 lists.
Tommy Orange, author of There There, winner of the 2019 American Book Award and the 2019 PEN/Hemingway Award for Debut Novel.
Rebecca Solnit, author of Call Them by Their True Names, winner of the 2018 Kirkus Prize.
Urrea, in fact, is among the authors mentioned in a Huffington Post piece questioning Cummins’s originality.
HuffPo’s David J. Schmidt points to several scenes in American Dirt that strongly resemble passages from Urrea’s work, in addition to identifying multiple times she inaccurately describes Mexico and the way its residents speak.
Categories: Today in Books