Controversy has been very, very good for “American Dirt.”
“Dirt” follows a Mexican woman and her son fleeing a drug cartel’s wrath by heading north to the United States
The book has hung in the top 10 of various book sales lists since its Jan. 21 debut. The latest Tribune News Service list finds “Dirt” sliding to the fifth slot after last week’s no. 2 position.
The book’s author faced a much tougher reception. She’s lucky she lived long enough to experience it.
Jeanine Cummins’ novel ignited a woke storm like few other projects. Her publisher abruptly canceled Cummins’ publicity tour following threats of violence. Critics suggested only a Latina author could write such a story. Others decried it for employing stereotypes, as if it’s the first book in creation to lean on such tropes, assuming it’s true.
One scribe called the book “Trauma Porn,” saying “American Dirt” is “harmful” to minorities. Throw it on the pile of books to burn, eh?
Just imagine the reaction from any publisher to Cummins’ next book pitch.
The woke attacks against Cummins grew so fierce that Oprah Winfrey bent to the mob’s knee. Winfrey had originally chosen “Dirt’ for her celebrated “Book Club,” joining Stephen King in unbridled praise for the project.
Can’t agree more. I LOVED THIS BOOK. https://t.co/vaseB7vaBH
— Stephen King (@StephenKing) January 15, 2020
Following weeks of outrage, Winfrey held a “town hall” like conversation on the controversy.
Winfrey defended Cummins’ right to create art, but she gave the Woke Mob far too much respect.
Winfrey canceled her subsequent Book Club pick for fear of similar reprisals.
But after the backlash to her selection of “American Dirt,” Winfrey recently dropped her March pick, “My Dark Vanessa.” Winfrey, through a spokeswoman, declined to say why, but after the taping of the “Oprah’s Book Club” episode she told The Associated Press, “I’m not going to play it safer, but I’m not going to wade into water if I don’t have to.”
This is The Oprah Winfrey, arguably the most powerful, respected figure in popular culture, bowing to the PC Mob.
Anne Tyler lacks Winfrey’s wealth, prestige and cultural clout. She’s merely a Pulitzer Prize-winning author behind classics like “Dinner at the Homesick Restaurant,” “The Accidental Tourist” and “Breathing Lessons.”
The author spoke to The Irish Times this week about the current pandemic, her writing and, eventually, “American Dirt.” The conversation also veered into the path of “cultural appropriation,” a subject that even snagged the recent DreamWorks release “Trolls World Tour.”
The 78-year-old author has zero patience for the term or what it implies.
She writes because she wants to be able to live other lives, and has little time for those who accuse writers of cultural appropriation. “It drives me crazy,” she says. “I mean, what else is writing? You want to be someone else if you’re writing fiction, and the reader wants to be someone else, that’s why they’re reading.”
While journalists and woke scolds hammered Cummins for writing a story that didn’t apply directly to her own life, Tyler said that’s exactly what a great writer does.
She also shamed those who stood down when the woke mob rose in anger.
So she disagrees with the recent uproar over Jeanine Cummins’ immigration novel American Dirt? “They’re piling on her for no good reason. I think we [writers] should all be speaking up. I think American Dirt is very powerful writing and at the moment I’m being asked what books I’d recommend for summer, so I try to mention it whenever I can.”