“I’m gonna say it — I’m gonna get crazy.”

By Melissa Batchelor Warnke
Updated Feb 05, 2020 @ 10:15 am
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Jeanine Cummins' American Dirt was poised to be a massive success upon publication. The author reportedly received a seven-figure advance, Oprah Winfrey anointed the novel as a book club pick and its release was covered by every major newspaper. (The New York Times even published multiple reviews.)

In the past few weeks, however, American Dirt has received a resounding backlash—with many Latinx authors and activists saying the book misrepresents the experiences of migrants and Cummins' portrayal reinforces harmful stereotypes. John Paul Brammer, author of the forthcoming memoir ¡Hola Papi! gave insight into the problem in an interview with InStyle in January. "I think you're seeing a dam breaking because people have been frustrated for a long, long time at the lack of institutional support for our stories," he said. "American Dirt story is a kind of perfect catalyst for that."

Winfrey eventually responded to the backlash writing on Instagram, "It's clear that we need to have a different kind of conversation about American Dirt."

In the days following, the author canceled her book tour and the backlash has shown no signs of quieting down. This morning, on a panel at a "Defining Women" brunch held by Emily's List in Beverly Hills, Eva Longoria even weighed in. "I have not read the book. I will not read the book. It's just parallel and synonymous with what's happening in entertainment, what's happening in government. The gatekeepers of the industries do not reflect the people and the consumers that they serve," Longoria said. "That's the problem."

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"There's a bidding war over this book, which means all the publishers wanted this book. And they wanted some sort of way in to a different community. The problem with that is that the publishing industry is 80% white, from agents to editors and publicists," Longoria continued, citing reporting by the L.A. Times' Esmeralda Bermudez.

"What made me really upset was when the publisher said, 'We had to cancel the book tour because of safety concerns,' which made my community look like we're crazy people going to cause trouble. We're not. We're just being outspoken about the inaccuracies of what this book represents. The last thing I'll say that it really pissed me off — I'm gonna say it, I'm gonna get crazy — is [that the author said] "I wish a browner person than me wrote this book." They did! It was [Sonia Nazario's] Enrique's Journey, [Óscar Martínez's] The Beast—many Latino authors have written this story! Oprah didn't pick them."