As the storm surrounding Jeanine Cummins’ “American Dirt” continues to gather force, especially after a photo emerged on Twitter of a book party festooned with barbed-wire centerpieces, detractors have responded to the novel with humorous stories of their own.
Running parallel to “American Dirt,” which was published Tuesday, the “Writing my Latino novel” conceit consists of snarky, satirical reaction posts by Latinx Twitter users making fun of the stereotypes that many believe fill the pages of Cummins’ book.
“Writing my Latino novel: ‘Pero now, I had to choose,’ " wrote Yolanda Machado, a freelance film critic and L.A. Times contributor, on her Twitter. “Get jumped into the gang or join my mami cleaning rich white peoples houses. I couldn’t tell her I had a baby to think about, to protect. Then I heard the yelling, ‘LA MIGRA!!’ and I got my chanclas, and ran.”
“This is how non-Latinos write about our stories,” Machado said later in a phone interview. “This is how they frame us.”
Her post is one of numerous similar reactions on Twitter criticizing Cummins’ novel, which many have accused of being a harmful act of cultural appropriation, riddled with stereotypes about Mexico and the struggles of migrants.
The book has its high-profile supporters too: writers Sandra Cisneros, Julia Alvarez and Stephen King; “Jane the Virgin” star Gina Rodriguez; and Oscar-nominated “Roma” actress Yalitza Aparicio, among them. On Tuesday, Oprah Winfrey even named the novel the latest pick for her influential book club. The Los Angeles Times Book Club will host an event with Cummins and Times editor Steve Padilla on March 11.
“American Dirt” tells the story of Lydia and her 8-year-old son, Luca, who are fleeing from their home in Acapulco after a drug cartel kills more than a dozen of their family members during a quinceañera. They flee north on a treacherous, 2,645-mile journey, disguising themselves as migrants in an effort to cross the border.
The novel has drawn praise for humanizing the migrant tale, while others have slammed it for perpetuating poisonous and outdated stereotypes.
“Our community is making fun of you because you don’t understand who we are,” Machado said. “Look at how we can sum up the stereotypes you inflict on us with just one tweet.”
Here are some excerpts of imaginary “Latino novels” in progress from Latinx Twitter users:
Only it wasn’t really Yolanda Saldivar, but Lupe Ontiveros, who killed JLO in the movie Selena & who also played the maid in the Goonies. But why was SHE chasing us? As my papi would say, /sepa/ & we ran deeper, faster into /la noche/ by the light of /la luna/.— RPineda (@rachelpineda) January 22, 2020
Writing my Latino novel: “Pero now, I had to choose. Get jumped into the gang or join my mami cleaning rich white peoples houses. I couldn't tell her I had a baby to think about, to protect. Then I heard the yelling, "LA MIGRA!!" and I got my chanclas, and ran. ” https://t.co/7yTOmfmxl6— Yolanda Machado (@SassyMamainLA) January 22, 2020
Writing my Latino novel:— Cristela Alonzo (@cristela9) January 22, 2020
How Mexican am I? My dad was a taco; my mother a piñata. I was born on Cinco de Mayo, Mexico's most holy day. When I was 4, I was being trained to run drugs for the cartel but I knew I wanted to be a dancer. So, I started my trip to the US.
Yes, at 4. https://t.co/lABBnPYKqx
writing my latino novel: Hey ~mamacita~, my neighbor Jesus calls as I sway down the street with my Mexican hips, which, like Shakira's, tell no ~mentiras~, Latin passion in my blood burning with ~el fuego~ of desire like a spicy jalapeño.— baby yoda protection squad (@schweinsty) January 22, 2020
"'Sup, Papi," I answer, Mexicanly. https://t.co/FwIxHvjmBB
Writing my Latino novel: “Bullets ring through the air. Mi aBuELa making arroz con pollo. I always watch Home Alone: Lost in New York when I’m sick. ‘Mijo, the volume is too high,’ she says in Spanish. More bullets. Merry Christmas ya filthy animal, he says. Feliz Navidad indeed” https://t.co/oU6gzdPEho— Zoraida Córdova (@zlikeinzorro) January 21, 2020
writing my latino novel: "do you know how to swim? they ask me. in miami? claro que sí pero abuela grabs her chancla and we all yell azucar! Papi left only a cigar and this rum, but i'll never leave mami. soy 305 until I croqueta." https://t.co/XWHLwBMnqK— Nina Moreno (@Nina_Writes) January 21, 2020
writing my Latino novel: Mami looked at me with ojos that burned like a habanero or the sun in the tropics, where things are caliente. Our Goya can piggy bank was down to its last centavos.— aléxandros! (@bodega_gyro_ao) January 22, 2020
That night we prayed to Don Francisco that he would pay la renta. https://t.co/Gko2Rrz71k
Writing my Latino novel: "I let the gringo unwrap me like a banana leaf. He resembles the conquistador who asked my ancestors the way east then stole their land. I let him plunder, spread my piernas like mayonesa. "Dame tu leche," he demands. He milks me, my language, mi lengua. https://t.co/q466bV0cl0— 𝚑𝚒𝚜𝚙𝚊𝚗𝚒𝚌 𝚙𝚒𝚡𝚒𝚎 𝚍𝚛𝚎𝚊𝚖 𝚐𝚒𝚛𝚕 (@mathewrodriguez) January 22, 2020
Writing my Latino novel: “My Mami has prophetic dreams. On the eve of my birth, Mami said Walter Mercado came to her in un sueño. He laid a single peacock egg before her and chanted, ‘Sanababish.’ She ate the egg whole. Now the ducks in Kendall are not what they seem.” https://t.co/43sdHNMMW2— Suzy Exposito (@HexPositive) January 22, 2020
Writing my Latino novel: My mother rubs vix on every surface of the house. ¡Empanada! I am 16 & already have a full ride scholarship to Princeton because immigrants: We get the job done. My abuela was undocumented but then got citizenship THE RIGHT WAY. ¡She se puede! https://t.co/JX4VhFkODd— Melissa Lozada-Oliva (@ellomelissa) January 22, 2020
Writing my Latino novel:— Mexican Judge (@laloalcaraz) January 22, 2020
I joined The Los Locos gang when I was a fetus. Later that day I sold heroin Chiclets at the border. My mother Frida Kahlo was a hitman for the cartels. Our home was a pyramid. I've never seen the beach. The Virgin of Guadalupe stole my lowrider. Again.
Writing my latino novel: El doctor was nervous when I was born because he knew Mexican babies came out with machetes and pistolas, so I was delivered behind a bullet proof ventana in the rancho. My calves were the size of cantaloupes from the drug smuggling I did in the womb.— Jerónimo Saldaña 🐜 (@JeronimoSaldana) January 22, 2020