Oprah and her book club are under fire this month after picking the book "American Dirt" as their latest read.
What's the problem? Well, "American Dirt" tells the story of a Mexican woman and her son fleeing to the US after a drug cartel massacre devastates their family. But Jeanine Cummins, the author, isn't Mexican or an immigrant. Matter facts she's not even a LATINA and for many would-be readers, that's something they can't get past. Simply put it's written by a white woman who has no right to tell this whitewashed story.
In a New York Times Op-Ed she plainly described herself as being white, stating, "I am white. The grandmother I shared with Julie and Robin was Puerto Rican, and their father is half Lebanese. But in every practical way, my family is mostly white.”
The novel, which is already being adapted into a movie, has become the latest topic in a growing debate about representation, cultural appropriation and whether artists can -- or should -- tell stories about identities, cultures and lifestyles they don't know firsthand.
The book which was sent out to a ton of celebrities to post on social media, has some stars questioning their commitment to supporting Oprah's pick. Mexican actress, Salma Hayek, has issued a public apology and deleted her Instagram post telling her fans to read the book after they flooded her comments calling her out for supporting the novel.
Salma: "I thank all of you. I confess, I have not read it and was not aware of any kind of controversy, I thank all of you who caught me in the act of not doing my research, and for setting me straight...I apologize for shouting out something without experiencing it or doing research on it."
“Jane the Virgin” star Gina Rodriguez also came out in support of the book. Earlier this week, she posted an Instagram photo of herself appearing in a pose strikingly similar to Salma’s, but later deleted the post as the controversy surrounding the book continues to gather force.
Chicana writer and artist Myriam Gurba says that "Dirt" is a Frankenstein of a book, a clumsy and distorted spectacle and while some white critics have compared Cummins to Steinbeck, I think a more apt comparison is to Vanilla Ice.”
Flatiron Books, the publisher behind Dirt released a statement on Twitter in regards to the surrounding controversy, reading in part: “The concerns that have been raised, including the question of who gets to tell which stories, are valid ones in relation to literature and we welcome the conversation.”
Please rest assure that no amount of social plugs from celebrities or promotion from publishers will make us ignore the blatant inauthentic picture of Mexican migrants, and exploiting trauma and pain for profit. Cummins reportedly got a seven-figure book deal for "American Dirt" after a bidding war between publishing houses.