LOS ANGELES (Variety.com) – Flatiron Books, the publisher of Jeanine Cummins’ novel “American Dirt,” has decided to cancel the scheduled tour for the book’s launch citing safety concerns and “specific threats” made towards booksellers and the author.
The novel centers around a Mexican woman and her son who flee to the United States to escape from drug cartel violence. The book was officially released last week, and was selected by Oprah Winfrey for her new Apple TV Plus book club series.
However, it has inspired a vociferous backlash from members of the Latinx community, many of whom are accusing Cummins of misrepresenting the immigrant experience and using it for profit.
FYI: There’s a book out called American Dirt about a border crossing filled w/harmful Mexican stereotypes that hurt rather than help the community. Oprah picked it for her book club. You want to see how authentic it is? These barbed wire centerpieces were used at party for it. pic.twitter.com/21wj6h2VzJ
— Cristela Alonzo (@cristela9) January 22, 2020
The backlash has been so violent that Flatiron released a statement apologizing, and also revealing that the aforementioned threats are forcing it to cancel the book tour.
“Unfortunately, our concerns about safety have led us to the difficult decision to cancel the book tour,” read a statement from Flatiron president Bob Miller. “Based on specific threats to booksellers and the author, we believe there exists real peril to their safety.”
“We made serious mistakes in the way we rolled out the books. We should never have claimed that it was a novel that defined the immigrant experience; 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 a bookseller last May that replicated the book jacket so tastelessly. We can now see how insensitive those and other decisions were, and we regret them,” the statement continued.
Multiple celebrities, including Gina Rodrigues and Salma Hayek, rushed to promote the book given its subject matter when Winfrey announced her selection.
However, Hayek was among those who retracted their recommendations, saying in an Instagram statement that she had not actually read the book, apologizing for “shouting out something without experiencing it or doing research on it.”
(Reporting by Will Thorne)