"It’s clear that we need to have a different kind of conversation about American Dirt"

By Kimberly Truong
Jan 28, 2020 @ 10:15 am

Oprah is finally responding to the controversy surrounding her latest book club pick, American Dirt

On Monday, the official Instagram account for Oprah's book club shared a video of her, writing, "It’s clear that we need to have a different kind of conversation about American Dirt and we welcome everyone’s thoughts and opinions in our community."

"There's been a lot of talk about this book lately," Oprah says in the video. "And I just wanted you all to hear directly from me that I read an advance copy of American Dirt last summer before it even was an official book. And it was a visceral experience for me, a migrant story being told from a mother's perspective about the lengths that she would go to to protect her child, to get to freedom in America. I was deeply moved. It had me riveted from the very first sentence, and I could hardly wait, really, to share it with all of you."

"Now, it has become clear to me, from the outpouring, may I say, of very passionate opinions, that this selection has struck an emotional chord and created a need for a deeper, more substantive discussion," she continued. "So when I first started to hear your comments opposing the selection, I was asking the question in earnest, like what is offensive? I've spent the last few days listening to members of the Latinx community to get a greater understanding of their concerns, and I hear them. I do. So what I want to do is bring people together from all sides to talk about this book, and who gets to publish what stories. And I'm hoping that is going to resonate with many of you and your concerns."

Oprah concluded her message by telling fans that this conversation would stream on Apple TV+ in March, adding, "I think it's gonna allow us to open up the conversation in unexpected, and, I really hope, meaningful ways."

Last week, Oprah's decision to select Jeanine Cummins's novel as a book club pick drew backlash, as many criticized the book for portraying Latinx people as stereotypes. Critics also argued that it engages in "brownface," given that it's a book from a Mexican perspective, written by an author who, at least in 2015, identified as white. In an interview in 2019, however, Cummins said she identifies as Latinx.

RELATED: Why Oprah's New Book Club Pick Is Drawing Controversy

The discussion has brought up questions about who should be allowed to tell stories about marginalized people, though the issue certainly isn't limited to American Dirt or Cummins herself. Hopefully, Oprah's conversation will be a productive discussion in the realm of the publishing industry and beyond. 

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