“American Dirt” Publisher Cancels Remainder of Book Tour After Backlash

Critics have leveled threats against author and booksellers alike

American Dirt
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By Kayla Kibbe / January 30, 2020 10:23 am

Much like the author herself, the remainder of Jeanine Cummins’ American Dirt book tour has been canceled.

Flatiron Books, the publisher of the controversial new novel, has called off the rest of the tour following backlash and threats against Cummins and booksellers, NPR reported.

The highly anticipated release earned heavy promotional coverage and was even selected as an Oprah Winfrey book club pick, but has sparked controversy among critics who have argued that the book misrepresents immigrants and perpetuates harmful stereotypes.

In a statement, Flatiron Books president Bob Miller expressed surprise at the backlash, adding that the publishers did not expect “the anger that has emerged from members of the Latinx and publishing communities.”

However, Miller added, “the fact that we were surprised is indicative of a problem, which is that in positioning this novel, we failed to acknowledge our own limits. The discussion around this book has exposed deep inadequacies in how we at Flatiron Books address issues of representation, both in the books we publish and in the teams that work on them.”

Miller’s statement also addressed specific aspects of the book’s marketing that drew widespread criticism, including barbed-wire centerpieces that decorated tables at Cummins’ book release party in May. “We can now see how insensitive those and other decisions were, and we regret them,” wrote Miller.

Flatiron will reportedly replace the remainder of the canceled book tour with a series of town halls where Cummins will face her critics.

While Miller’s statement noted that Flatiron wishes “to listen, learn and do better,” he also spoke out against the threats of violence critics have leveled at Cummins and booksellers. “While there are valid criticisms around our promotion of this book that is no excuse for the fact that in some cases there have been threats of physical violence,” he wrote. “We join with those in the Latinx community and others who have spoken out against such violence.”

The New York Times‘ Michael Barbaro echoed Miller’s anti-violence sentiments on Twitter, writing,”An author in a democracy should not fear for her security.”

Not everyone agrees, though. “To equate critique with threat and protests with violence is what’s dangerous,” tweeted author Isaac Fitzgerald. “This is just the publisher not wanting to deal with fallout and backlash. But don’t say that people pushing back against a book is threatening to democracy.”

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