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‘American Dirt’ book signing in Pasadena canceled as backlash rages on

Jeanine Cummins, author of “American Dirt.”
Jeanine Cummins, author of “American Dirt.”
(Joe Kennedy)

Jeanine Cummins was scheduled to discuss and sign copies of her controversial migrant tale “American Dirt” at Vroman’s Bookstore in Pasadena on Tuesday night, but the event has been canceled by the publisher.

The cancellation was announced Monday on the bookstore’s website with the following statement:

“Months ago when booking the event, we believed we were booking a novel about an important issue of our time and hoped it would spark needed discussions about immigration. The controversy surrounding this book has ended up sparking another important conversation about own voices. In the end the publisher has cancelled the event but not before our staff and our community engaged in critical conversations about immigration, the horrible atrocity happening at the US border by the US government, freedom of speech, and own voices. For these conversations we are grateful and we hope they continue.”

Celebrities endorsed ‘American Dirt’ — then the reactions on Twitter turned negative. Cries of appropriation — and barb-wire dinner pieces — spark scorn for book
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Warwick’s, a bookstore in La Jolla, also canceled its Monday book signing and discussion with Cummins, quoting a message it received from publisher Flatiron Books: “Due to safety concerns, the publisher has cancelled this event. We apologize for any inconvenience.”

Myriam Gurba, a vocal critic who wrote a scathing review of the book on the site Tropics of Meta, wrote on Twitter last week that she’d be attending the Pasadena book signing and called on her followers to join her.

“I’m gonna be at Vromans bookstore on the 28th to greet Jeanine Cummins and welcome her to the great state of California. If any cholas would like to join me, that would be lovely,” she wrote.

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The local signings are the latest cancellations in a string of promotional events that have been canned across the country. The bookstore Left Bank Books in St. Louis called off its event with the author this weekend, explaining that “posts on social media, calls to our venue partners and others were made insisting we cancel the event.” Those criticisms, the statement said, “felt like a challenge to do better.”

Critics of “American Dirt” have accused the novel of being a harmful act of cultural appropriation, riddled with stereotypes about Mexico and the struggles of migrants.

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?

But the book has its high-profile supporters too: writers Sandra Cisneros, Julia Alvarez and Stephen King have all praised the book for its poignant and gripping tale of a migrant family fleeing cartel violence in Mexico and trekking to the United States. And Oprah Winfrey named “American Dirt” the latest pick for her book club.

On March 11, the Los Angeles Times Book Club will host Cummins and Reyna Grande, the author of two memoirs about crossing borders and cultures. Times Column One editor Steve Padilla will moderate the conversation.


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