Up until a few days ago, I had a favorable review posted here, before I knew the truth of what went down with American Dirt. I thought that Jeanine Cummins was telling this story at the behest of her husband--that she was telling the story of undocumented immigrants from Latinx countries through him. Cummins told us she understood their story because of her husband, her undocumented immigrant husband. But, then, shockingly, the public learned that she misled us purposely—-and, in cahoots with Flatiron books, framed the lie in her reader’s note to us in her book.
Flatiron and Cummins wholly mislead and deceived us as readers into thinking the writer’s husband was Latinx. That is shameless and egregious deception from both the writer and the publisher. And it also demonstrates that both the author and the publisher don’t respect readers and other writers, and were aware before publication that they needed cover for a white woman to tell the story of perilous times for Latinx immigrants. So, they hatched this hideous plan to betray their readers.
Cultural appropriation, which has gone unchecked for decades and maybe centuries, is when the white majority (or any majority) deigns to tell the very story of the people they have oppressed. It isn’t about being PC. It’s about being culturally sensitive. I’m Caucasian and a Jew, and I’ll be darned if I will defend my white peers that get defensive and throw vitriol and hostility toward Latinx readers and writers who say that enough is enough. White writers should not tell the story through Latinx eyes after being a major factor in hurting and oppressing them for all those years. Don’t cry censorship when you have a responsibility. Ethics, morals, awareness, anyone? It is time to wake up. And it is time for Jeanine Cummins and Flatiron to apologize for betraying the trust of readers and writers alike.
What Flatiron did was select a Caucasian writer with a Caucasian husband, and then try to falsify the author’s experience into, “I understand, my husband is an undocumented immigrant” for a 7-figure publishing deal. This bad faith deception is the most noxious, insufferable, arrogant, money-grubbing and mean-spirited behavior in writing and publishing. I am disappointed in my Caucasian friends who have closed their ears to what Latinx and Asian and other ethnic writers are angry about. If it is supposedly okay for a Caucasian writer to culturally appropriate the feelings and experiences of Latinx people that face hardship, danger, and death, then why go to such treacherous lengths to hide the truth of Cummins’ husband? Why try to foist this bogus narrative of “undocumented immigrant husband” by placing her erstwhile empathy in the context of shared experience?
This isn’t about Latinx people/writers crying “victim.” They are crying foul. Fraud. Why are 7-figure publishing deals like this to tell a story about the Latinx experience awarded to a Caucasian writer and not a Latinx writer? About 99% of the characters in AD are Latinx. This isn’t the same as a book that CONTAINS ethnic minorities. This is about having the temerity and greed to tell their story FOR them under false pretenses. Shameless.
It’s time for those that aren’t woke to wake up and listen. And don’t try to shame and blame Latinx voices for “playing victim.” How outrageous to do more pretzel twisting. Don’t be insensitive and crude and then try to censure ethnic minorities from voicing their concerns by branding then with disparaging labels. That’s boorish and obscene. How about just taking a step back and promising to listen? Yes, just listen to the voices that many are bent on crushing. Shame on Caucasians to lash out at Latinx people for not agreeing with Caucasians who think we, the Caucasians, have the right to tell their (Latinx) stories and shame on Caucasians that think they have the right to decide how Latinx people should respond. Shame on us for trying to silence them.