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Capitol Hill Just Congratulated YA Writer Elizabeth Acevedo For Her Accomplishments And Contributions To Latinidad

As the literary world becomes more inclusive, we are hearing from fresh voices who are sharing experiences that marginalized people have long endured but have never seen represented before. If this year’s Carnegie Medal winner is any indication, these voices are finally being celebrated by the literary world for the power they speak.

The 2019 Carnegie Medal has been awarded to Dominican-American slam poet Elizabeth Acevedo.

This is the first time in the prestigious award’s 83 years that a writer of color has been the honoree.

Twitter / @nationalbook

The UK’s Carnegie Medal is an esteemed award for works of children’s and young adult’s literature. It was founded in 1936 and named after Scottish-American businessman, Andrew Carnegie. Carnegie was responsible for founding over 2,800 libraries in the English-speaking world.

Acevedo was awarded the Carnegie Medal at the June 18, 2019 ceremony for her debut novel, “The Poet X.” The book utilizes Acevedo’s poetry skills as she tells the story of shy 15-year-old Xiomara. In the book, the young Dominicana joins a slam poetry club at her school. As a result, Xiomara gradually opens up to the world and shares her own powerful voice.

Chosen by a panel of a dozen of children’s librarians, Acevedo and her “Poet X” received high praise by judges.

Twitter / @midashahab

Judges of this year’s awards called “The Poet X” “a searing, unflinching exploration of culture, family, and faith within a truly innovative verse structure.” They add that the book’s protagonist “comes to life on every page and shows the reader how girls and women can learn to inhabit, and love, their own skin.”

This is a sentiment echoed by the other accolades “The Poet X” has been awarded since its publication. At the 2019 Youth Media Awards, the book won the Michael Printz Award for best young adult literature. Additionally, “The Poet X” won the Pura Belpré award. This prize honors the Latina writer who best portrayed the Latinx experience for children in their work each year.

It’s that concept in particular that encouraged Avecedo to write “The Poet X.”

Twitter / @Wardle_Academy

Before she was a writer, Avecedo was an 8th-grade school teacher in Maryland. It was while teaching that one of her students gave her the desire to write. The student kept rejecting the books Avecedo suggested she read. According to the writer, the girl said she couldn’t read any of them because “none of these books are about us.”

Consequently, this drove Avecedo to write a story that reflects the sights, sounds, and people of her neighborhood. In doing so, she succeeds in creating a book that gives a voice to “all the little sisters yearning to see themselves” — just as she hoped in the book’s dedication. Undoubtedly, it is this sort of literature — the kind that validates depreciated identities — that we need to see so much more of.

Once news of Avecedo’s win reached the Internet, Twitter came alive with congratulations for the Dominicana.

Twitter/ @lilaybean

This Twitter user pointed out that seeing Avecedo win inspires a huge sense of pride for the Dominican Republic and the Latinidad. Since we all win when one of us wins, it almost feels as if a prima or amiga is being honored.

Avecedo was even congratulated on Capital Hill for her history-making win.

Twitter / @RepEspaillat

New York Representative Adriano Espaillat applauded the writer for her win as well as for her role as a teacher. As Rep. Espaillat explained, Avecedo saw a need for diversity in her school’s English curriculum and she created the change herself. The world would be a more beautiful place if more of us also created the change we need.

Some well-wishers simply expressed how much they love Avecedo’s literary voice.

Twitter / @itsjustkate4

This Twitter user joked that Avecedo is such a good writer, that she’d even listen to her read appliance manuals. Between “The Poet X” and her second novel, “The Fire On High,” we’re total fans of Avecedo so we can relate.

This win will forever be a part of history and — as such — so will this Dominicana’s voice. Here’s to Avecedo’s victory, breaking barriers and making the world into what we need it to be.

The ‘American Dirt’ Book Tour Has Been Canceled Out Of Fear Of Violence Against The Author

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The ‘American Dirt’ Book Tour Has Been Canceled Out Of Fear Of Violence Against The Author

jeaninecummins / Instagram

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’

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

Entertainment

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

Amazon / @jpbrammer / twitter

“American Dirt” is one novel grabbing all of the headlines for all the wrong reasons. The book, written by a Puerto Rican woman, has been dragged for relying on stereotypes and tropes about Mexicans to tell a tale of migrating to the U.S. Several celebrities, including Oprah Winfrey, have praised the book sparking a more severe backlash from people. The novel has led to a Twitter trend of Latinos writing their own Latino novels using the same kinds of stereotypes found throughout the book.

Latinos on Twitter are dragging “American Dirt” author Jeanine Cummins.

Credit: @jpbrammer / Twitter

Social media has been calling out Jeanine Cummins and everyone who has endorsed “American Dirt.” The main complaint has been the insensitive and stereotypical writing trying to tell a Mexican story from a non-Mexican writer.

It wasn’t long until Latino Twitter users took to the micro-blogging site to show how ludicrous the book is.

Credit: @mathewrodriguez / Twitter

Several creatives have shared paragraphs playing up tired and offensive stereotypes to shine a light on what they see in “American Dirt.” Some stars, like Salma Hayek, have had to apologize for promoting the book without reading it.

Latinos from all walks, not just Mexican, have joined in on the social media trend.

Credit: @livesinpages / Twitter

There have long been discussions about the proper representation of Latinos in media. From books to movies to television to comics, the conversations have long revolved around the lack of the people telling the stories. “American Dirt” is another example of someone not from an experience writing about the experience and totally missing the mark.

Some of the tweets are short and sweet but pack a punch.

Credit: @bodega_gyro_ao / Twitter

The backlash against “American Dirt” has been so strong and sustained that even Oprah Winfrey has had to change her tune. The media megastar has announced a deeper panel discussion about the book to really bring to light the underlying frustrations with the books.

Latinos have long been underrepresented and ignored but it seems critics are on track to win this battle.

Credit: @alexarriaga_ / Twitter

What do you think about the controversy around “American Dirt” and the celebrities who praised and promoted it without reading it?

READ: Here’s Why The Oprah Winfrey-Promoted Book ‘American Dirt’ Is Getting So Much Heat