Entertainment

Critics Confront Oprah Winfrey And Jeanine Cummings Over ‘American Dirt’ In New Episode Of Apple TV+ Show

Oprah Winfrey and Jeanine Cummins are finally facing the music in a new episode of “Oprah’s Book Club” on Apple TV+. The episode is a panel discussion on the very controversial and widely panned book “American Dirt” that many have painted as offensive and uncharacteristic of the experience of migrants crossing the southern border.

Oprah Winfrey and Jeanine Cummins are finally facing the music for “American Dirt.”

Oprah and the author of the book opened themselves up to criticism directly from the critics about the book. “American Dirt” was billed as a wonderful telling of the experience of migrants trying to make it to the southern border. However, people took issue with the book because they found it offensive and reliant on stereotypes that they found hurtful. Now, the critics get a chance to hold Oprah and Cummins accountable for promoting a book many want gone. The episode is airing on March 6 on Apple TV+.

The controversy surrounding the most recent novel on Oprah’s Book Club “American Dirt” by Jeanine Cummins continues to grow. The book follows protagonist Lydia Quixano Pérez, a middle-class Mexican bookseller who escapes Acapulco with her 8-year-old son, Luca, after a drug cartel massacres their family at a quinceañera. The backlash over the novel has led to the cancelation of a book tour promoting the novel due to ‘threats of physical violence’. Here’s what’s going on.

Cummins received a big advance and a lot of promotional push for “American Dirt,” which follows a Mexican mother and son fleeing drug violence. 

Oprah Winfrey picked it for her book club, and a growing number of celebrities and authors showered it with praise, some without reading the book. Critics have called the book inaccurate and full of harmful stereotypes and questioned whether Cummins was the right person to tell that story. (Despite the controversy —or maybe thanks to it— the book is selling well; it’s currently No. 1 on Amazon’s charts.)

The publisher is proud to have taken on “American Dirt.”

In a statement, Bob Miller, the president of Flatiron Books, said the publisher is proud to have published “American Dirt,” and was “therefore surprised by the anger that has emerged from members of the Latinx and publishing communities.”

Yet, he was able to understand the privilege in his surprise to the backlash.

“The fact that we were surprised is indicative of a problem, which is that in positioning this novel, we failed to acknowledge our own limits,” Miller said. “The discussion around this book has exposed deep inadequacies in how we at Flatiron Books address issues of representation, both in the books we publish and in the teams that work on them.”

The public has been blasting the author, who is white and had a Puerto Rican grandmother, for being out of her league writing about undocumented Mexican immigrants. 

The backlash led to the concerns which canceled the book tour, Flatiron Books wrote in a tweeted statement on Wednesday. “While there are are valid criticisms around our promotion of this book that is no excuse for the fact that in some cases there have been threats of physical violence,” Miller explains. He added that it was sad that Cummins had become “the recipient of hatred from within the very communities she sought to honor,” and that her “work of fiction that was well-intentioned has led to such vitriolic rancor.” 

He also apologized for giving the impression the author’s husband might have been Mexican, and addressed other specific issues around the promotion of the book.

“We made serious mistakes in the way we rolled out this book. We should never have claimed that it was a novel that defined the migrant experience,” Miller stated. “We should not have said that Jeanine’s husband was an undocumented immigrant while not specifying that he was from Ireland; we should not have had a centerpiece at our bookseller dinner last May that replicated the book jacket so tastelessly. We can now see how insensitive those and other decisions were, and we regret them.”

Several Mexican authors have expressed their discomfort with the harmful depictions in “American Dirt.”

Julissa Arce Raya, the author of “My (Underground) American Dream,” argued that “American Dirt” was not representative of her experience as an undocumented immigrant in America. Author Celeste Ng shared a review calling Cummins’ depictions of Mexico “laughably inaccurate.” 

Roxane Gay deplored Oprah’s decision to elevate the novel.

The New York Times bestselling author of “Bad Feminist,” argued that “to see a book like this elevated by Oprah…legitimizes and normalizes flawed and patronizing wrong-minded thinking about the border and those who cross it.” “I hope this makes people realize how conservative publishing really is,” Myriam Gurba, a Mexican American writer, told the Guardian.

About the seven-figure advance she reportedly earned, Cummins said:

“I was never going to turn down money that someone offered me for something that took me seven years to write. I acknowledge that there is tremendous inequity in the industry, about who gets attention for writing what books.”

Cummins spoke about the doubts she had about writing the book at a Jan. 22 event in Baltimore

“I lived in fear of this moment, of being called to account for myself: ‘Who do you think you are,’” she told bookshop manager Javier Ramirez, according to The Guardian. “And, in the end, the people who I met along the way, the migrants who I spoke to, the people who have put themselves in harm’s way to protect vulnerable people, they showed me what real courage looks like. They made me recognize my own cowardice. When people are really putting their lives on the line, to be afraid of writing a book felt like cowardice.”

The author had made a handful of promotional appearances since the book was released.

Over the past few days however, the St Louis-based Left Bank Books called off an event and Flatiron canceled interviews in a pair of California stores. The tour for her heavily promoted book had been scheduled to last at least through mid-February, with planned stops everywhere from Seattle to Oxford, Mississippi. 

Oprah announced she’ll meet with Cummins and their conversation will be broadcast in an upcoming Apple TV special.

Flatiron now plans to send Cummins to town-hall-style events, where the author will be joined by “some of the groups who have raised objections to the book.”

READ: Latinos Are Taking To Twitter To Call Out The Stereotypes And Tropes In The Criticized Novel ‘American Dirt’

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9-Year-Old Migrant Girl Drowns While Trying to Cross the Rio Grande in the U.S.

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9-Year-Old Migrant Girl Drowns While Trying to Cross the Rio Grande in the U.S.

Photo via Getty Images

On March 20th, U.S. Border Patrol agents found a 9-year-old migrant girl unresponsive along with her mother and sibling on an island in the Rio Grande.

U.S. Border Patrol agents attempted to resuscitate the family. The agents were able to revive the mother and her younger, 3-year-old child. The Border Patrol agents transferred the 9-year-old migrant girl to emergency medics in emergency medics in Eagle Pass, Texas, but she remained unresponsive.

In the end, the 9-year-old migrant girl died–the cause of death being drowning.

The mother of the two children was Guatemalan while the two children were born in Mexico.

The death of the 9-year-old migrant girl is notable because this is the first migrant child death recorded in this current migration surge. And experts worry that it won’t be the last.

And while this is the first child death, it is not the only migrant who has died trying to make it across the border. On Wednesday, a Cuban man drowned while trying to swim across the border between Tijuana and San Diego. He was the second migrant to drown in just a two-week period.

Why is this happening?

According to some reports, the reason so many migrants are heading towards the U.S. right now is “because President Trump is gone”. They believe they have a better chance of claiming asylum in the U.S.

Another factor to take into consideration is that a large number of these migrants are unaccompanied minors. According to migrant services volunteer Ruben Garcia, Title 42 is actually having the opposite effect of its intent. President Trump enacted Title 42 to prevent immigration during COVID-19 for “safety reasons”.

“Families that have been expelled multiple times that are traveling with children,” Garcia told PBS News Hour. “Some of them are making the decision to send their children in by themselves, because they have families someplace in the U.S., and they know their children will be released to them.”

Is there a “border crisis”?

That depends on who you ask. According to some experts, the numbers of migrants heading to the U.S./Mexico border aren’t out-of-the-ordinary considering the time of year and the fact that COVID-19 made traveling last year virtually impossible.

According to Tom Wong of the University of California at San Diego’s U.S. Immigration Policy Center, there is no “border crisis”. “This year looks like the usual seasonal increase, plus migrants who would have come last year but could not,” Wong says.

As the Washington Post explained: “What we’re seeing right now is a predictable seasonal shift. When the numbers drop again in June and July, policymakers may be tempted to claim that their deterrence policies succeeded.”

What is the Biden Administration planning on doing about it?

As of now, it is pretty evident that the Biden Administration has not been handling this migrant surge well, despite ample warning from experts. As of now, President Biden has put Vice President Harris in charge of handling the issues at the border.

As of now, the game plan is still very vague. But in the past, the Biden Administration has stated that they plan to fix the migrant surge at the source. That means providing more aid to Central America in order to prevent further corruption of elected officials.

They also want to put in place a plan that processes children and minors as refugees in their own countries before they travel to the U.S. The government had not tested these plans and they may take years to implement. Here’s to hoping that these changes will prevent a case like the death of the 9-year-old migrant girl.

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Biden Administration’s Handling Of The Border Criticized By Both Sides Of The Aisle

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Biden Administration’s Handling Of The Border Criticized By Both Sides Of The Aisle

Chip Somodevilla / Getty Images

The Biden administration inherited more than an out of control pandemic when they got to work in January. The former administration also left the Biden administration an orchestrated crisis at the border. For some, President Joe Biden is not acting fast enough to fix the problem.

President Biden announced that Vice President Kamala Harris will lead the response to immigration at the border.

The approach, according to Politico, is going to be a two-pronged approach to effectively curb irregular immigration. First, the vice president will focus on stopping the migration journey by addressing the issues in the countries that people are fleeing. Particularly, Vice President Harris will be focusing on the issues in the Northern Triangle countries, which are El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

At the same time, the vice president will be working with the countries directly to solve the root problems. Vice President Harris will be working to strengthen the nation’s relations with Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras.

“I can think of nobody who is better qualified to do this,” President Biden told reporters at the White House.

There is a lot of talk about the U.S.-Mexico border right now from both Democrats and Republicans.

Bruno Lozano, the Democratic mayor of Del Rio, Texas, is calling on the Biden administration to take steps to curb the issue. Mayor Lozano was a guest on Fox News recently and spoke about what he saw as an influx of migrants coming into his town. Mayor Lozano told Fox News that the number of people coming to the border has strained Customs and Border Patrol in his city.

“You have a breach on national security levels that have never before been seen in modern history and you’re not even batting an eye about it, you’re not even calling it a ‘crisis‘, you’re calling it a quote-unquote challenge,” Mayor Lozano, told the New York Post on Sunday. “It’s a slap in the face.”

Some residents of Del Rio are critical of their local leaders shifting blame for their own shortcomings.

The brutal winter storm that recently shut down Texas depleted many municipalities of their resources. Residents in Del Rio are putting the blame on their local leaders who have tried to pass the buck. Weeks after the winter storm crippled Texas, grocery store shelves remained empty and residents felt overlooked.

Mayor Lozano has been pleading with President Biden to step up and help them deal with the influx of migrants. Del Rio has one processing center for migrants and the increase has left the city and the processing facility strained.

The Biden administration has faced backlash after photos of detention centers show people sleeping on floors.

There have been several reports that the Biden administration is building new places to hold migrants that have come to the border seeking asylum. The administration is currently taking in unaccompanied minors who are arriving at the border while preventing other migrants from crossing the border.

The Biden administration promised to change the approach to the border, but Title 42 has been left intact. Title 42, which was enacted by the former administration at the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, keeps people from entering the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued an order that invoked Title 42, which closed the border indefinitely due to public health concerns.

At the root of the attention is the claim that there is a surge of migrants.

Some Republican politicians are claiming that news of more lenient immigration laws is prompting a “surge” of arrivals. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California claims that what is happening is a “crisis … created by the presidential policies of this new administration.”

Yet, a Washington Post report debunks the idea that there is a sudden surge. Rather, what is happening, according to the report, is a usual seasonal trend. CBP has reported a 28 percent increase in apprehensions at the southern border in January and February but data shows an annual spike in migrants from March to May every year.

The issues on the border are complex and will require a lot of time and energy to handle effectively and compassionately. The Biden administration promised to tackle the complex issue of immigration during the campaign.

READ: Biden Is Counting On Mexico’s President To Help With Immigration But That’s A Risky Move

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