Oprah's New Book Club Pick Proves Controversial

'American Dirt' criticized for inauthentic portrayal of Mexican migrants
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 24, 2020 1:20 PM CST
Updated Jan 26, 2020 6:33 AM CST

(Newser) – One of the most highly anticipated books of 2020 is out. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins, a selection of Oprah Winfrey's book club, follows a middle-class Mexican bookseller as she journeys to the US with her son after her journalist husband is killed by a drug cartel. "From the first page, the first sentence, I was in, I was open, I was shook up," Winfrey says, per CNN. "I feel that everybody who reads this book is actually going to be immersed in the experience of what it means to be a migrant on the run for freedom." Except that's not at all the reaction of many immigrants, particularly those of Mexican heritage. More:

  • "My family fled El Salvador with death pounding on our door," yet "I see no part of myself reflected in #AmericanDirt, a book white critics are hailing as the great immigrant novel," says Los Angeles Times staff writer Esmeralda Bermudez. She notes the publishing industry "so rarely supports immigrants to tell our own stories."
  • In a biting review, New York Times book critic Parul Sehgal writes that "the book feels conspicuously like the work of an outsider," as Cummins "has a strange, excited fascination in commenting on gradients of brown skin."

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