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’

In A Time When POC Need Voices In Literature– Coronavirus Has Wrecked The Debut Of Promising Authors

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In A Time When POC Need Voices In Literature– Coronavirus Has Wrecked The Debut Of Promising Authors

As if marginalized authors didn’t already have their burdens within the publishing industry, the Coronavirus spread is threatening their debuts.

Those familiar with the world of publishing know that houses and agencies continue to struggle to improve diversity within its ranks. Unfortunately, the effects of the new coronavirus pandemic have already begun to take its toll on writers. For veteran authors who’ve been published before, the coronavirus pandemic has delivered real blows. But for emerging ones of color, the spread of the disease has been particularly devastating. Authors can spend years, even decades, pouring their all into writing a book. When it comes to convincing publishers that their stories are important enough to be in print and e-published it can just as long if not more.

With the spread of the virus keeping authors from going out to promote their books in stores and on tours, we wanted to wrangle up a list of POC authors to read while self-isolating. They’re particularly good stories we think you’ll love and they need your support!

The Gilded Ones by Namina Forna

Namina Forna is a Los Angeles-based screenwriter who paints a vivid story inspired by ancient West African-inspired fantasy. It currently has a 4.47 rating on Goodreads.

“Sixteen-year-old Deka lives in fear and anticipation of the blood ceremony that will determine whether she will become a member of her village. Already different from everyone else because of her unnatural intuition, Deka prays for red blood so she can finally feel like she belongs. But on the day of the ceremony, her blood runs gold, the color of impurity–and Deka knows she will face a consequence worse than death. Then a mysterious woman comes to her with a choice: stay in the village and submit to her fate, or leave to fight for the emperor in an army of girls just like her. They are called alaki–near-immortals with rare gifts. And they are the only ones who can stop the empire’s greatest threat. Knowing the dangers that lie ahead yet yearning for acceptance, Deka decides to leave the only life she’s ever known. But as she journeys to the capital to train for the biggest battle of her life, she will discover that the great walled city holds many surprises. Nothing and no one are quite what they seem to be–not even Deka herself.” Goodreads

The Mermaid, the Witch, and the Sea by Maggie Tokuda-Hall

Maggie Tokuda-Hall weaves a stunning swashbuckling adventure full of Asian folklore in this fantasy tale with a 4.05 rating. It debuts May 5, 2020.

“Aboard the pirate ship Dove, Flora the girl takes on the identity of Florian the man to earn the respect and protection of the crew. For Flora, former starving urchin, the brutal life of a pirate is about survival: don’t trust, don’t stick out, and don’t feel. But on this voyage, as the pirates prepare to sell their unsuspecting passengers into slavery, Flora is drawn to the Lady Evelyn Hasegawa, who is en route to a dreaded arranged marriage with her own casket in tow. Flora doesn’t expect to be taken under Evelyn’s wing, and Evelyn doesn’t expect to find such a deep bond with the pirate Florian.

Soon the unlikely pair set in motion a wild escape that will free a captured mermaid (coveted for her blood, which causes men to have visions and lose memories) and involve the mysterious Pirate Supreme, an opportunistic witch, and the all-encompassing Sea itself. ” – Goodreads

Cemetery Boys by Aiden Thomas

From queer, trans, and Latinx debut author Aiden Thomas comes a beautiful story about gender acceptance and family culture. It currently has a 4.58-star rating on Goodreads and is expected to be published on June 9, 2020

“When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free. However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.” – Goodreads

A Song Below Water by Bethany C. Morrow

Bethany C. Morrow’s YA debut isn’t her first book but for fans of POC YA, this one is a first to read. Her book Song of Water has a 4.04 rating on Goodreads and is set for release on June , 2020.

“Tavia is already at odds with the world, forced to keep her siren identity under wraps in a society that wants to keep her kind under lock and key. Never mind she’s also stuck in Portland, Oregon, a city with only a handful of black folk and even fewer of those with magical powers. At least she has her bestie Effie by her side as they tackle high school drama, family secrets, and unrequited crushes.

But everything changes in the aftermath of a siren murder trial that rocks the nation; the girls’ favorite Internet fashion icon reveals she’s also a siren, and the news rips through their community. Tensions escalate when Effie starts being haunted by demons from her past, and Tavia accidentally lets out her magical voice during a police stop. No secret seems safe anymore—soon Portland won’t be either. (less)” Goodreads.

This Is My Americaby Kim Johnson

Kim Johnson’s upcoming YA debut examines racial injustice against innocent black men who are criminally sentenced and its effects on their families. Its xpected publication is July 1st 2020.

Dear Martin meets Just Mercy in this unflinching yet uplifting YA novel that explores the racist injustices in the American justice system. Every week, seventeen-year-old Tracy Beaumont writes letters to Innocence X, asking the organization to help her father, an innocent Black man on death row. After seven years, Tracy is running out of time—her dad has only 267 days left. Then the unthinkable happens. The police arrive in the night, and Tracy’s older brother, Jamal, goes from being a bright, promising track star to a “thug” on the run, accused of killing a white girl. Determined to save her brother, Tracy investigates what really happened between Jamal and Angela down at the Pike. But will Tracy and her family survive the uncovering of the skeletons of their Texas town’s racist history that still haunt the present?” – Goodreads.

“The Hate U Give” Is Getting A Prequel Thanks To Author Angie Thomas About Maverick

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“The Hate U Give” Is Getting A Prequel Thanks To Author Angie Thomas About Maverick

The Hate U Give/ 20TH CENTURY FOX)

Back in 2017, author Angie Thomas released the YA novel, The Hate U Give. The Black Lives matter book quickly caught attention for its story related to the Black Lives Matter movement and quickly became a success debuting at number one on The New York Times young adult best-seller list where it remained for 50 weeks. Within a year of its publication the book was adapted into a film starring  Amandla Stenberg, Regina Hall, Russell Hornsby, K. J. Apa, Common, and Anthony Mackie.

This week, author Angie Thomas announced that she’s bringing the power of the original story back.

https://www.instagram.com/angiethomas/

In a post to her Instagram account, Thomas announced that she has written a prequel to the beloved novel. In a post featuring a photo of the new book cover, Thomas shared that her new novel called Concrete Rose that her book is due to be published. “After months of waiting (and trolling on my part), I can finally reveal my third novel, Concrete Rose. Set 17 years before The Hate U Give, it follows young Maverick Carter. A huge thank you to Alison Donalty, Jenna Stempel-Lobell, and artist Cathy Charles for this mind-blowing cover. It’s beyond my wildest dreams,” she wrote in her post.

Speaking to People about her upcoming novel, Thomas explained why she chose to center the book around the father of the protagonist from her first novel.

“Of all characters who really just stayed with me, Maverick was at the top of that list,” Angie explained to People. “And what was fascinating to me was once readers started reading The Hate U Give and then when the film came out, he was the character that I was asked about the most.”

Like Thomas’s last book, “Concrete Rose,” takes its title from a Tupac Shakur title.

The title comes from the Tupac Shakur song “The Rose That Grew From Concrete” and will follow Maverick’s when he is 17-years-old and a young father to Starr’s older brother, Seven.

“The big thing I’m excited for readers to learn about with Maverick, specifically, is that there are things that he has done in his life that his kids don’t even know about,” Angie told People interview. “I’m also excited to show this bonding between father and son… So many people assume that Black kids, especially Black kids in the hood, don’t have fathers. And that’s a lie. So many of them do.”