The publisher Flatiron Books has canceled the author tour of the controversial novel “American Dirt,” after the book faced massive criticism and backlash for its stereotypical and inaccurate portrayal of Mexicans and the current migration crisis. The book by Jeanine Cummins tells the story of a Mexican mother and her son fleeing cartel violence. Before its release, it was heralded as the next great American novel, and Flatiron Books paid Cummins, who is not Mexican, a seven-figure advance. But a slew of Latino writers say the book is a poorly researched caricature of Mexico and have slammed the publishing industry for ignoring Latino writers who are telling their own stories of migration and displacement. This is author and writer Myriam Gurba speaking with Maria Hinojosa on NPR about reading “American Dirt” while in Mexico.
Myriam Gurba: “It felt insulting that I am in a country with a tremendous cultural history and a tremendous literary history, and I’m reading a book with an introductory letter from a publisher that argues that this author is going to give a face to the faceless. And I’m looking around at my Mexican family, and we all have faces. And faces and voices matter in my family.”
The book’s critics also say “American Dirt” completely erases Central Americans, who actually make up the largest number of asylum seekers currently fleeing to the U.S.-Mexico border. Myriam Gurba and other Latino writers have launched a campaign called #DignidadLiteraria — or “Literary Dignity” — in order to promote Latino writers.