With a movie deal and seven-figure advance, “American Dirt” seemed poised to become a hit. It was praised in book reviews and hailed by other authors, including several Latina writers. They called it a thrilling page-turner, “a ‘Grapes of Wrath’ for our time” and “the great novel of las Americas.”
Oprah Winfrey, who said she was “riveted from the very first sentence,” selected it for her book club, giving Cummins a literary seal of approval that is all but guaranteed to boost sales.
Last week, that momentum came to a screeching halt. A scathing review by the Chicana writer Myriam Gurba went viral, propelled by other Mexican Americans who seemed to agree with her take that “American Dirt” is “a literary licuado that tastes like its title.”
Not only did the book traffic in stereotypes and falsehoods about Mexican culture, many said, but it also packaged those tropes through the fetishizing lens of “trauma porn.”