Gina Rodriguez and Salma Hayek touted ‘American Dirt.’ Then they backtracked

Gina Rodriguez was among the celebrities who supported Jeanine Cummins' novel "American Dirt" this week.
Gina Rodriguez was among the celebrities who supported Jeanine Cummins’ novel “American Dirt” this week.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

As disputes over Jeanine Cummins’ polarizing migrant tale “American Dirt” persist, several A-list celebrities have shown their support for the novel — and at least two have backtracked.

Salma Hayek, Gina Rodriguez, Yalitza Aparicio and Mj Rodriguez took to social media this week to shower Cummins’ book with love and thank Oprah for sending them a copy. The TV tycoon enmeshed herself in the “American Dirt” controversy on Tuesday when she appeared on “CBS This Morning” to reveal the author’s novel as her next book club pick.

After author Jeanine Cummins ignited a firestorm with her portrayal of Mexican migrants, “American Dirt” publisher Flatiron Books defends the novel.

Jan. 23, 2020

Hayek, the Mexican American actress best known for “Desperado” and “Frida,” posted a photo on Twitter of herself on Thursday holding an “American Dirt” e-book with the caption: “Now more than ever we need stories of hope & encouragement, endurance & the beauty of the human spirit. I can’t thank @Oprah enough for sending me #AmericanDirt. I continue to be in awe of her commitment to giving a voice to the voiceless & for loving harder in response to hate.”


But by Friday morning, the Tweet had been deleted.

“Jane the Virgin” star Gina Rodriguez also came out in support of the book. Earlier this week, she posted an Instagram photo of herself appearing in a pose strikingly similar to Hayek’s. But Rodriguez, who came under fire last year for singing the N-word in a Fugees song, swiftly deleted the post as the storm surrounding the book continued to gather force.

“Pose” superstar Mj Rodriguez said on Instagram that she couldn’t put down the novel.

“Literally 20 pages pages [sic] away from finishing this book, suggested to me by The One and Only @oprah,” she wrote. “I was up all night trying to finish. It’s so good! So heartbreaking and heart wrenching at the same time. There are circumstances in this book, that I could never imagine how, I myself, would be able to cope.”


Aparicio, the Oscar-nominated “Roma” star, wrote on Twitter Tuesday: “Nothing like starting the year with a new book to read.”

“American Dirt” follows the story of Lydia and her 8-year-old son, Luca, who are fleeing from their home in Mexico after a drug cartel murders more than a dozen of their family members during a quinceañera. They flee north on a treacherous journey, disguising themselves as migrants in an effort to cross the border.

The novel, published on Tuesday, has garnered support from prominent authors like Sandra Cisneros, Stephen King and Ann Patchett, who’ve praised the book’s poignant, compelling tale about a family’s harrowing trek to the United States. Others have said the novel is inaccurate and an act of cultural appropriation and is riddled with stereotypes and clichés about Mexico and migrants.

“What touched me is, by the end of the story — not even by the end — I immediately was drawn into the story and their desire to get into the United States,” Oprah said on Tuesday. “Every night on the news ... you see the stories at the border. I thought this humanized that migration process in a way that nothing else I’d ever felt or seen had.”

The book’s controversy has ignited debates about the politics of fiction and who has the right to tell certain stories. In response, satirical reaction posts by Latinx Twitter users flooded social media this week, poking fun at the stereotypes many believe fill the pages of Cummins’ book.

The Los Angeles Times Book Club will host an event with Cummins and Times editor Steve Padilla on March 11.

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?

Jan. 17, 2020