Flatiron Books, the publisher of American Dirt, the hot-off-the-presses novel about a Mexican mother and her son trying to make their way to the U.S. to escape a drug cartel, issued a statement yesterday evening that it posted on social media responding to the controversy that erupted last week. Among other things, critics have charged that American Dirt presents an inaccurate and stereotypical depiction of Mexico and Mexicans, and of the immigrant experience.
Cummins has also come under attack for appropriation, as she is neither Mexican nor an immigrant. And Flatiron itself has come under fire for paying seven figures for the book, and for its aggressive marketing of it. The press has also been criticized for, as one WI15 bookseller put it, “its tone deafness” in its promotion of the novel, especially the table centerpieces at a booksellers dinner with Cummins that took place during BookExpo that featured barbed wire, photos of which are circulating on social media.
In its statement, Flatiron, which describes American Dirt as “a novel of enormous power,” declares that it is “carefully listening to the conversation around the novel, including the question of who gets to tell which stories.” But, Flatiron adds, while it welcomes such discussion, the press “ultimately goes back to the novel’s intention,” that it is a tale of parental love. “American Dirt asks the question, ‘how far will a mother go to protect her son?’ and thus allows readers to feel empathy for immigrants and others “who are struggling to find safety in our unsafe world," Flatiron's statement declares.
The statement concludes, “This is the lens through which we have viewed American Dirt as the publisher, and the way in which we hope it can be viewed by readers.”