Oprah posted a statement to her book club Instagram this week in which she addressed the controversy surrounding her latest book club pick, American Dirt.
The controversy comes from the novel’s white author, Jeanine Cummins, and her portrayal of the Mexican community. The book raises important discussions about who gets to tell what stories and how the publishing industry overlooks Latinx authors. American Dirt also raised question regarding how to respectfully portray characters who are different from you.
In the statement, Oprah tells her followers:
“I’ve spent the last few days listening to members of the Latinx community to get a greater understanding of their concerns, and I hear them. I do. So what I want to do is bring people together from all sides to talk about this book, and who gets to publish what stories. And I’m hoping that is going to resonate with many of you and your concerns.”
Oprah will not replace the book as part of her esteemed book club. Although she does call for a more substantive discussion surrounding the novel and its author.
In the next post, despite all the calls for her to reconsider, Oprah posted a reading schedule for American Dirt.
Oprah explains that her decision to stick with the book for discussion will “allow us to open up the conversation in unexpected, and, I really hope, meaningful ways”.
How the Backlash Has Impacted American Dirt
Although Oprah is standing by American Dirt, the backlash has had other effects. The remainder of the promotional tour for the controversial novel is cancelled. The publisher, Flatiron Books, cited security concerns as a reason for the cancellations.
In a statement, Bob Miller, president of Flatiron Books said:
“Jeanine Cummins spent five years of her life writing this book with the intent to shine a spotlight on tragedies facing immigrants. We are saddened that a work of fiction that was well-intentioned has led to such vitriolic rancor. Unfortunately, our concerns about safety have led us to the difficult decision to cancel the book tour.”
Many suspected that there were other reasons the tour was cancelled. Many on Twitter speculated that the publisher did not want to face the significant backlash the book has received from the Latinx community and its allies.
As of January 29th, American Dirt is number 9 on the Amazon bestsellers list. Regardless of the controversy, or perhaps because of it, American Dirt is still selling.