MLA Platinum Award Press Release

If you're at all plugged into the literary discourse online, you've probably heard something about the controversy surrounding Jeanine Cummins' immensely successful and Oprah-endorsed immigration novel American Dirt. The book tells the story of an upper middle class Mexican woman who flees a drug cartel boss with a vendetta, embarking on an action-packed odyssey to cross the border into the U.S.

American Dirt has been very popular with our own subscribers, and we're glad that the discussion we hosted gave people the opportunity to share their love of the book. However, we're concerned about certain misunderstandings that have spread regarding the controversy. The greatest of these may be that critics of the book are claiming that a white woman should simply not be allowed to tell this kind of story. The truth is, few people are saying this. The larger problem has to do with a lack of diversity in the American publishing industry and misplaced priorities in terms of whose story gets told and who is regarded as a voice worth listening to. Would American Dirt have been such a smash hit if the author was a Mexican woman herself? Maybe, maybe not. (Though it is unlikely this exact book would have been written by a Mexican author, due to its factual inaccuracies.) Would a Mexican author have had a harder time selling a similar book? Almost certainly. Would the publisher have put the full weight of its publicity department behind American Dirt if the author was a Mexican woman? Unlikely.

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