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‘Writing my Latino novel’: Satirical reactions to ‘American Dirt’ flood Twitter

The cover of “American Dirt” by Jeanine Cummins, with designs of blue flowers and barbed wire.
The cover of “American Dirt,” by Jeanine Cummins.
(Flatiron Books )

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.”

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Jeanine Cummins’ novel about a migrant family, “American Dirt,” hasn’t been published yet but has already stirred a debate: Who should tell what stories?

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.

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Pam Houston reviews Jeanine Cummins’ ‘American Dirt.’ The novel digs into the Mexican border crisis and a mother’s dangerous journey to a better life.

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:

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