In an author’s note for her hit new unique American Dirt, Jeanine Cummins states she wanted “someone slightly browner than me” had written it.
” However,” continued Ms Cummins, a white author with Puerto Rican forbearers, “then I thought, if you’re an individual who has the capability to be a bridge, why not be a bridge?”
The book, which tells the story of a family leaving Mexico for the US, was welcomed with rave reviews from Oprah Winfrey, to name a few.
However, the plaudits were quickly followed by outrage from members of the Hispanic community, who grumbled that the novel misrepresents the Latin-American experience.
The row has revived a dispute over bias in the publishing market and over who, exactly, is allowed to tell the stories of others.
American Dirt follows a middle-class Mexican female who escapes the nation with her son after her partner, a reporter, is killed by a drug cartel. The story traces their frequently violent journey as migrants to the United States border.
The novel was highly expected and Ms Cummins got a reported seven-figure book deal for a first print run of half a million copies. She was interviewed by the New york city Times, which released an excerpt of the book.
Positive evaluations originated from beloved authors, consisting of Stephen King. Ms Winfrey selected American Dirt for her book club today, all but ensuring an increase in sales. “I enjoy it a lot,” she stated.
Others were less favourably disposed. A scathing review by the Hispanic-American writer Myriam Gurba called it a “Trumpian fantasy of what Mexico is”.
Outrage over the book’s representations of migrants quickly spilled forth on social media. Critics tweeted out mock-stereotyped stories with the hashtag “Composing my latino novel”.
Adding to the controversy were claims that American Dirt had obtained from other books about Mexico, while at the same time misunderstanding key nuances, like using Mexican phrases in Spanish.
” When discussing a community to which one does not belong, authors have an obligation to think of the social and cultural politics of what they are doing,” Domino Perez, a teacher of English at the University of Texas at Austin’s Center for Mexican American Studies, told the BBC. “Asking whether or not you are the ideal person to narrate suggests that often the answer is no.”
Maricela Becerra, an assistant accessory professor at UCLA, informed the BBC: “We have actually been speaking about these issues for lots of, several years as Latinxs and immigrants, and the problem is that we have actually not been heard. All of a sudden a non-immigrant person tells our story, and individuals seem to be interested.”
But the book has discovered protectors in the Latino community. Sandra Cisneros, a well-known Mexican-American author, stated American Dirt was “not simply the fantastic American novel; it’s the fantastic novel of las Americas. It’s the terrific world book!”
Rigoberto González, an English teacher at Rutgers-Newark University, called the book “highly original”, albeit with “moments of pandering to social justice language”.
In 2016, Ms Cummins said in a New york city Times viewpoint piece that she did not desire to blog about race out of worry of “striking the wrong chord, of being susceptible, of revealing disgraceful ignorance in my mind”. She stated she identified as white “in every useful way”.
” I do not understand if I’m the ideal person to tell this story,” she informed the Times. “I do believe that the conversation about cultural appropriation is extremely essential, however I likewise believe that there is a threat often of going too far toward silencing individuals,” she said.
According to 2018 data from Publisher’s Weekly, 84%of the publishing workforce is white, 5%is Asian, 3%Hispanic and 2%black.
At the executive level, 86%of the industry is white, according to a 2015 survey by Lee and Low Books, as are 89%of book reviewers.
Extra reporting by Ritu Prasad.